Category Archives: Publications and projects

The Strathclyde Commission report

The Scottish Conservatives have today published the report of the Strathclyde Commission, their review of how Scottish devolution should change if there is a No vote in the September referendum. I’ve been an adviser to the commission since it was set up, and it has been a great pleasure to advise Lord Strathclyde and his fellow commissioners, and the party more generally, and to help them consider what can (and what cannot, or cannot sensibly) be done by way of enhancing devolution.

The report recommends the devolution of income tax, including the power to set the rates and thresholds between bands, as well as some smaller taxes, and to look at assigning a proportion of the proceeds of VAT.  It also proposes devolution of attendance allowance, housing benefit if that is possible given the Universal Credit, and a general devolved power to supplement UK-level welfare.

The report is available from the Scottish Conservatives’ website here. Their press statement about the report is here, and Ruth Davidson’s article for Scotland on Sunday on the plans is here.  Sunday’s Telegraph trail for it (pretty well informed) is here.

The impact of the work I’ve been doing with Guy Lodge in the IPPR’s Devo More project is palpable in the Strathclyde proposals. This is clearly a model for enhanced devolution and – as I argued in my chapter for the IPPR’s book Democracy in Britain – works from the point of view of all three major political traditions, with some variations.

Those interested in the effect of the Strathclyde proposals may find it useful to look at two tables I’ve prepared.  These can be downloaded HERE. Table 1 shows how much of the Scottish Government’s budget would come from devolving the various taxes considered in the report, without any change to its current functions. Table 2 shows the proportion of its budget it would generate from tax revenues if the measures of welfare devolution that it contemplates also took place. In the case of tax revenues, it assumes that Scottish tax levels of devolved taxes would remain the same as those set by the UK Government, so in that sense it should be regarded as an assessment of fiscal capacity rather than a straightforward amount of money. The assumption that 10 points of VAT (rather than some other figure) is mine, and made mainly as that is the figure used in Funding Devo More which involved some complicated arithmetic given changing rates of VAT between 2007 and 2010.

UPDATE: There’s news coverage from BBC News here, and a Guardian liveblog (quoting this post!) here.  The Guardian news story is here, a blog post by Severin Carrell here, the FT‘s are here and here (note: registration/paywall), and the Telegraph’s (emphasising David Cameron’s support) here.

 

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Filed under Conservatives, Publications and projects, Scotland

‘Devo More’ seminar in Cardiff, 11 June 2013

I’m giving a seminar on Devo More and what it would mean for Wales in Cardiff on the morning of Wednesday 11 June. The full title is ‘Devo More: How fiscal and welfare devolution can benefit Wales and strengthen the Union’, and it is part of the UK Changing Union programme based by the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, under the aegis of the National Assembly’s Cross Party Group on the Changing Union. (Those who haven’t seen them can find the Devo More and Welfare paper here, and Funding Devo More here.)
The seminar will take place at 8.30 am in conference room 24 in Tŷ Hywel, with tea, coffee and pastries provided. To book a place, please email info@ukchangingunion.org.uk.

UPDATE, 12 June: The slides from Tuesday’s talk are now available HERE.

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Filed under Devolution finance, Events, Publications and projects, Wales

Guardian ‘Comment is Free’ piece on ‘What happens after a Scottish independence Yes vote?’

Drawing on my Belfast lecture, I’ve a piece in the Guardian‘s ‘Comment is Free’ section on what would happen following a Yes vote in September’s Scottish independence referendum.  I argue that the difficulties with a long transition are very great indeed, and that there are compelling reasons to ensure Scotland becomes independent by the time of the May 2015 UK general election if there is a Yes vote.  That  would be formidably difficult – not only are there are tough and complicated issues to be negotiated and resolved  between the governments, but also legislation needs to be passed by both Scottish and UK Parliaments (and the UK Government would need to pass a paving bill too).  But the problems caused by a longer transition are even more formidable, in my view.

The CiF piece can be found here.

 

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Filed under Implications of Scottish independence, Publications and projects, Referendums, Scotland, Scottish independence, Westminster, Whitehall

Devo More and Welfare

Our paper on devolving welfare, snappily entitled Devo More and Welfare, is now available on the IPPR website here.

Our concern in making these proposals has been to formulate workable proposals which preserve important parts of the UK and its ‘social union’ as it presently is. There’s a lot of material in the paper discussing this, and why risk-sharing at a UK level is in the interests of all parts of the UK.  Constraints also arise from the existing pattern of welfare spending and the structures that support that – the role of the National Insurance fund when it comes to contributory benefits, for example.  However, we think it would be wrong to treat that social union as rigid; sharing risks for big things like old age or unemployment doesn’t mean other things can’t and shouldn’t be changed.  We argue for recognition of the role of devolved governments when it comes to providing welfare benefits, bearing in mind the large role they already play in providing public services that are part of the welfare state – an approach we call ‘welfare pluralism’.

We endorse, broadly, changes in three areas.  First, housing benefit should be devolved, given how closely it is linked to the devolved function of social housing. This would enable devolved governments to improve housing policy, by joining up housing benefit with already-devolved functions, and giving them more flexibility in how they invest in providing social housing.

Second, we support devolution of functions where this will improve social investment.  This applies to two areas in particular: the Work Programme and welfare-to-work, and childcare.  Devolving the Work Programme would involve a form of executive devolution, with Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance remaining paid on a UK-wide basis. Childcare powers are already in devolved hands; the question is how that should be funded, and here fiscal devolution (as we recommended in Funding Devo More) addresses the problem.  Devolving the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit would support this.

Third, we support a power for devolved governments to supplement UK level welfare, and removing existing legal restrictions on devolved governments providing cash benefits, provided they do so within devolved resources.  This would certainly simplify action like that taken by the Scottish Parliament to redress the ‘bedroom tax’/spare room subsidy, and would enable a much wider range of possibilities for devolved governments that wished to undertake them.

Welfare devolution should not simply be about handing over more powers to devolved governments.  It is about improving how devolution works, but even more importantly about improving social outcomes across the UK.  This can produce benefits for all; it is about a win-win game not ‘making concessions’.  It is also for all devolved governments; what we propose would be as applicable in Wales and Northern Ireland as in Scotland.  It is also, importantly, about responsibility; in particular, we argue that fiscal devolution is a necessary prerequisite before devolution of welfare functions can take place.

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‘Devo More and Welfare’ in ‘Scotland on Sunday’

The paper Guy Lodge and I have written on Devo More and Welfare as part of the wider Devo More project is published on Tuesday.   There’s extensive coverage of it in today’s Scotland on Sunday to whom we’ve given a preview of the paper, including a news article here and a comment piece by Guy and me here.

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Filed under Northern Ireland, Policy issues, Publications and projects, Scotland, Wales

Devo More as a plan for a revivified Union

Monday’s Herald had a story based on an interview with me (here), based on something I’ve written as part of the IPPR’s Devo More project.  In this paper, I set out the Devo More strategy as a whole, and explain how it fits with the political traditions of each of the major UK-wide parties.  There are two key arguments: much the same package of devolution serves the interests of all three traditions and the parties that currently embody them pretty well, and that this approach to further devolution will reinforce the Union not weaken it.

I’ve written a comment piece for the Herald which summarises the chapter and its overall argument.  That can be found here, and its text is also below.  The chapter on which all this is based can be found on the IPPR’s website here.

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Filed under Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Publications and projects, Scotland

Scotland and Europe: A tale of two referendums

 This article appears in the latest issue of the British Politics Review, published by Norway’s British Politics Society, in a special issue on Euroscepticism in the UK.  

BPR 3-13You wait for ages, and then suddenly two come along at once.  What’s true of London buses also applies to constitutional referendums in the UK.  Despite its apparent enthusiasm, the Labour UK government in office between 1997 and 2010 made only limited use of the referendum – in Scotland and Wales for devolution in 1997, in the North East of England for regional government in 2004, and in various localities for having elected mayors.  Since 2010, there has been a mad flurry of referendum activity.  The first was in Wales in March 2011, which approved increased law-making powers for the National Assembly for Wales by nearly two to one.  That was followed by one on the Alternative Vote (AV) system for UK Parliamentary elections in May 2011, rejected by more than two to one.  Two more are looming – that on Scottish independence in September 2014, and another about the European Union proposed by Conservatives and under consideration in Parliament for 2017.  There are some odd parallels between the two, and some important interactions between them too.

The Welsh powers and AV referendums were both slightly awkward exercises in constitutional deliberation.  The Welsh referendum was legislated for by Labour, in the Government of Wales Act 2006, which created two systems for defining the law-making powers of the National Assembly.  The differences between them were real and significant, but not easy to explain to the general public – one was a system of conferring legislative power on the Assembly incrementally, the other a grant of wide legislative powers affecting the same 20 subject areas.  The real reason for holding the referendum was the impact of the Westminster Coalition, and the poll was held at the first practicable date.  While advocates of a Yes vote include politicians from all parties, the biggest problem was the lack of an official No campaign – and with that, the lack of access to referendum broadcasts on radio and TV.

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Filed under EU issues, Publications and projects, Referendums, Scotland, Scottish independence

Evidence to Part 2 of the Silk Commission’s inquiry

A little while ago I submitted a formal memorandum of evidence to the Silk Commission, for part 2 of their inquiry into constitutional matters relating to Welsh devolution.  It is concerned with constitutional issues – not what might be devolved, but how, in structural terms.  In particular, I discuss the relationship between a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction and the ‘reserved powers’ model of legislative power for the National Assembly, and what such a legal jurisdiction needs to involve (rather than what it might involve).

My memorandum is now available on the Commission’s website here, and can also be found HERE.

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Filed under Comparisons from abroad, Courts and legal issues, Publications and projects, Wales

The Scottish Conservatives’ working group on devolution

Those listening to Ruth Davidson’s speech on further devolution (available here) will note that (along with Adam Tomkins) I shall be advising the Scottish Conservatives’ working group reviewing devolution, chaired by Lord Strathclyde.  The other members of the group include Annabel Goldie MSP and Alex Fergusson MSP.  As the unionist parties all seek to establish how they think devolution should work if there is a vote against independence in 2014, the Conservatives’ initiative in setting up this commission is to be welcomed and I’m pleased to help it as best I can.  The establishment of the working group, and Davidson’s speech, show clearly that the Conservatives have embraced the logic of delivering a constitutional settlement that provides greater self-government within the Union, and accords with the clear preferences of the Scottish people.

There’s coverage of Davidson’s speech from BBC News here, Holyrood magazine here, the Guardian here, the Telegraph here, the Scotsman here, the Herald here, and a thoughtful analysis by Alex Massie in a Spectator blog here.

I have accepted the party’s invitation on a non-party basis, and remain politically impartial.  I’ve already given evidence to the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ Commission on Home Rule and Community Rule and Labour’s Devolution Commission.  I will continue work with IPPR on the ‘Devo More’ project, and to help any other parties or bodies that want devolution advice so long as that doesn’t create impossible time pressures or conflicts of interest.

 

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My involvement in the IPPR’s Devo More project

On  Friday, IPPR published my paper Funding Devo More, the fruit of a long period of reflection about devolution finance and how the UK might do it differently and better (that’s available here).  It also marks the start of my involvement in IPPR’s ‘Devo More’ project.

The aim of this project is to consider how devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland might be enhanced; how to make a devolved UK work better.  That means increasing the scope of devolved powers and responsibilities, but also looking at the Union as a whole and how to improve that.  Effective devolution means more self-government, but it also means ‘more Union’; a more effective tier of government that delivers certain functions that devolved governments are unable to, in a way that makes it clear what the Union does for citizens as well as what devolved governments do.  That is a far cry from the vestigial sort of entity it has often become in many of the Scottish debates.  It’s also a step beyond the current thinking that suggests ‘more powers for Scotland (or Wales) means less for Westminster'; this need not be zero-sum game, if the thinking about what is involved is careful enough.  If we are to continue to live in one decentralised country, we will all need to be clearer about which government does what and why.

I’ve explained separately some of the ideas underpinning my financing paper, which will be carried through into the project as a whole.

The ‘Devo More’ project will necessarily be a wide-ranging one, and our next big piece of work is to look at how devolution of aspects of welfare and social security might be accomplished, and what the implications of that will be.  Another strand will be the sort of changes needed at the centre of government for is rather different sort of union to work.  There is a good deal involved in the project, and those interested should keep an eye on the project’s webpage, which is here.

I’m very glad to be working with the Institute for Public Policy Research, and particularly Guy Lodge, on this project.  IPPR have long taken a serious interest in debates about devolution and its implications, including the work they have done recently on developing public attitudes about national identity in England, their ‘Borderland’ project on the implications of change for Scotland for northern England, and how ‘English votes for English laws’ at Westminster might work.  (The same can’t be said for most of the other London think-tanks.)  For my part, working with IPPR isn’t a reflection of any political views; as well as formal committees, I’ve advised parties and politicians from across the political spectrum in the past (including Conservatives, Lib Dems, Labour, the SNP and Plaid Cymru), and hope to continue to do so.  It is simply a pragmatic judgment about who has the willingness and the resources to do serious, policy-oriented thinking about the future of the UK.  In this respect, IPPR have stolen a march on their rivals.

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Filed under Devolution finance, Intergovernmental relations, Northern Ireland, Publications and projects, Referendums, Scotland, Wales