Smith Commission Submission – blogged for my smarter, more susscint partner

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Dear Lord Smith of Kelvin,

I appreciate that the commission has screeds of opinion to read through and will therefore be as brief as possible.

I believe the cobbled together last minute “vow” has left all participants in an invidious position, from which little robust
legislation can follow. I believe your own interests in the energy
sector leave you less than impartial. The leaderless Labour Party in
Scotland, already a lack lustre contributor, is now surely comprised to the point of non-participation. I am also disappointed that not one open public meeting has been held. Further I have no expectation of the next UK Government honouring any agreement.

Notwithstanding my profound reservations I wish to argue for federalism i.e. the UK Government keeps control of defence, foreign policy and currency regulation. Post- referendum two acts of the Scottish Government have illustrated the palpably ridiculous nature of the implementation of the currently devolved powers: the franchising of Scottish train services to a foreign public body when they could not be franchised to a Scottish public body and the plastic bag”tax” relying on a “gentlemen’s agreement” on charitable distribution of income from sales, and the VAT receipts going directly to Westminster from a solely Scottish initiative.

I believe all attempts to devolve chunks of this and bits of that
without scrutiny from constitutional and fiscal experts will inevitably
lead to more ridiculous outcomes. For every time any new devolved powers fail to deliver logical, fair and workable solutions the Union will be further weakened. If “the settled will of the Scottish People” is, currently, to remain within the the Union, then I believe only federalism can achieve this.

If, as mentioned previously, the next Westminster Government does fail to honour the “vow” I expect you Lord Smith to be a public, vocal defender of any agreement the Commission can reach. By accepting the Chair of the Commission I believe you have committed yourself to fighting for increased autonomy for the Scottish people for as long as this takes to achieve.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah K. Grant M.A. (Hons)

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My submission to the Smith Commission

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Scotland will stand as a nation once more. The devolution journey stands testament to a return from subjugation. Only as a nation can Scotland’s destiny be manifest. Only governance of Scotland by Scotland can define the settled will of the Scottish people.

I do not support the Commission’s remit to amend the terms of Union. Fundamentally, the Union of Parliament and Crowns should be broken.

I refute that the Commission can any longer aspire to meet the expectations of the Scottish People. The agreed set of principles agreed to underpin the Commission’s deliberations too tightly bind the scope for any re-organisation of the financial levers to determine the budget of the Scottish Parliament. Without free scope, then there can be no substantive or extensive new powers.

I do not uphold the view that the Commission process can be chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin independent of the influence of his vested interests. Lord Smith of Kelvin is Chair of Scottish and Southern Energy. Public statements from this Company claim prior to the referendum maintained a defined neutral stance and a promise to work constructively with the Scottish and UK governments whatever the result. This does not mean however, that the Company does not have vested interest in maintaining their position in the UK energy market. The 2014 annual report lists as one the principle risks in the Company’s risk management register that legislative and regulatory change resulting from a positive referendum outcome for ‘yes’ could potentially disrupt the status-quo of the UK single energy market and the Company undertook to “engage constructively with the Scottish and UK governments in that event. Its approach is to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of its networks and energy supply customers in particular, while safeguarding the interests of investors”. This surely is a vested interest. Any discussion of further extensive devolved powers for Scotland may surely include the control and regulation of the portion of the UK energy market located within Scottish territory and the independence of the Commission chair is therefore compromised.

On 19 September 2014, shares of Weir Group rose 1.86 percent to 2,680 pence per share. The Weir Group is a significant oil and gas services firm. Investors were influenced by the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum. The House of Lords register of members interests states that Lord Smith of Kelvin holds shares in Weir Group. The Weir Group Annual Report for 2014 shows that the share holdings by Lord Smith of Kelvin as at 1 Jan 2014 are at a significant level of 163,400 shares. These holdings are in part connected to Lord Smith of Kelvins tenure as chair of Weir Group up to 31 December 2013. Of significant public debate in the weeks following 19 September 2014 has been the award of major ‘fracking’ licences within Scottish territory by the Westminster government. On 14 December 2013, whilst Lord Smith of Kelvin was chair of the Weir Group, the Company’s chief executive announced that the Company was well placed to use its expertise to exploit new fracking operations in Scotland. This surely represents a vested interest. Any discussion of further extensive devolved powers for Scotland may surely include the control and regulation of licences for ‘fracking’ operations located within Scottish territory and the independence of the Commission chair is therefore compromised.

I challenge the legitimacy of the Labour Party as participants in the process as they can currently lay no coherent claim to representing the inclusive engagement of a proportion of the Scottish People. The Labour Party, as part of the Commission, has conspicuously undermined the legitimacy of its active participation. The Labour Party is a participant in the Commission based on their status as a party, on both the Scottish and UK stage, who have historically played a significant active role in the public sphere with respect to both the strength of the union and the devolution of the Scottish nation. As such they claim legitimacy to express views on behalf of the people of Scotland and the wider UK and as a representative of the UK establishment and it would be hoped that in this respect they can participate in attaining the facilitation of an inclusive engagement process across Scotland.

However, the party’s submission is not a considered document that engages with the will of the Scottish people who actively participated in the referendum debate in the months leading up to 18 Sept 2014.

The Labour Party submission is no more than the Scottish Labour’s Devolution Commission Report published in March 2014. Whilst this report is the summary of an involved and considered process, the pre-referendum period moved forward the relevant debate in many areas that cannot by default be reflected in the submission.

A brief example may suffice to illustrate: the protection of the NHS in Scotland was a significant point of campaigning for both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps, with information disseminated, frequently contradictory, on funding models. The prospect of a new international trade deal (TTIP) was cited as a major potential threat which would potentially undermine the current independence of the NHS in Scotland. The ‘vow’ made by the main Westminster party leaders, frequently cited as a major factor in the referendum outcome, devotes a paragraph to the funding model for the NHS in Scotland. The NHS is not mentioned in the Labour Party submission to the Smith Commission.

Almost as if Scottish Labour wished to reinforce their disdain for the Commission through the poverty of its submission, the lack of re-analysis of the post referendum devolution debate is trumped by the covering letter, which in large part is a cut and paste of the main paragraphs of the forward to the Devolution Commission Report.

The fundamental lack of respect shown to Commission by Scottish Labour as demonstrated by the submission only of a regurgitated out of date report and a self plagiarised introductory letter fatally flaws the credibility Scottish Labour’s participation.

To this should now be added the confusion of who speaks for the Labour Party in Scotland. The submission was sincerely submitted by the then Leader of Scottish Labour, Johann Lamont. Scottish Labour are now led only by appointed proxy and Johann Lamont’s resignation statement laid clear the domination and control of Scottish Labour by the UK National Labour Party based from Westminster. Who now do Iain Gray MSP and Gregg McClymont represent within the Commission, their party’s submission is clearly from a Scottish Labour leader no longer in post whose office was made untenable by UK office bearers. Do they speak for the people of Scotland as representatives of Scottish Labour, or for the national Labour Party who have now acted to weaken their mandate to speak for this devolved region with independent voice. A new leader of Scottish Labour will not be in post until later in the year and this will leave the Commission with key participants devoid of a clear participatory mandate until such time that the timelines for the Commission conclusions would render a credible and coherent involvement from Scottish Labour redundant.

Notwithstanding these qualifications, at this time, the Smith Commission defines our immediate horizon on the journey to defining the Scottish nation. It is with these caveats that I wish my submission to be considered. I do not regard myself qualified to comment on the broader range of devolution issues that may be considered with the Smith Commission remit, however I request that the submission below, as it answers to an area of expertise in which I can claim some knowledge and authority, is considered by the Commission.

I hold relevant qualifications and experience in the management of Human Resources within the Scottish Food Manufacturing Sector. It is my wish that the Commission consider in detail the devolution framework required to sustain a skilled and secure workforce to support the needs of the Scottish nation.

Scotland needs a fully devolved accountability to manage the nation’s labour market. Such levers include but are not limited to an integrated approach to; migration, primary, further and adult continuing education funding and structure; apprenticeships and vocational and professional training; minimum wage levels and wages boards; in-work social security benefits; child care, flexible working and parental care provisions; powers to nationalise industrial sectors or enter into state/private joint ownership arrangements to ensure employment protection; equality legislation and protection from discrimination in employment; health and safety at work provisions; legal protection for workers in employment and redundancy legislation; legislation and access information and consultation at work; open access for workers to conciliation processes and employment tribunals; and an employee relations framework including freedom of association and collective bargaining arrangements that balance the power relationships between employers and employees, and gives fair scope for collective bargaining processes and the positive contribution of organised labour to represent the interests of the nations workforce at company, sector and national levels.

I would propose that Scotland maintains full participation in and adherence to the EU employment directives and has devolved powers to remove Scotland from opt out provisions built into the UK’s adherence to the EU social chapter of the Maastricht Treaty, specifically, the opt out from the working time limits in the EU Working Time Directive. Scotland should have devolved power over the UK opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, specifically as this relates to UK labour law and the right to strike.

The Labour Party submission proposes devolution of the responsibility for the operation of employment tribunals and their procedural rules and also for enforcement of equalities legislation. Whilst these proposals are worthy in their own right they are limited in imagination and scope. I propose that all employment legislation (including that which relates to access to and functioning of employment tribunals) and equalities legislation should be matters fully devolved into the Scottish legal system.

The Scottish Socialist Party submission proposes devolution provisions in regards to the Scottish labour market under the sections titled ‘Power to Protect and Sustain Jobs and Services’ and ‘Power to Eradicate Poverty’. I support these suggestions without qualification.

The Scottish Green Party submission proposes devolution of authority with respects to the Human Rights Act. I support these proposals in so far as they provide continued protection in employment for Scottish workers. I also support the proposal to extend the Labour Party proposals such that trades union legislation becomes a devolved matter.

The Scottish Government proposals include the devolution of all employment and employability policy and for all equality policy. I support these proposals.

I respectively request that the Smith Commission take forward the individual party and government submissions insofar as they relate to provisions to devolve control and management of the Scottish labour market as a co-ordinated consideration which is extended and integrated as required to ensure that the people and government of Scotland can control the mechanics of securing and sustaining a skilled and secure workforce to support the needs of the Scottish nation.