YOUR correspondents (Letters, April 11 & 12) cannot be allowed to get away with rewriting history.
It is simply not the case that “once in a generation” was a throw-away comment by Alex Salmond. It was stated in the Scottish Government’s White Paper and in the information booklet issued to every household by the Electoral Commission.
Likewise, the Vow of 2014 comprised the following pledges: more powers for Holyrood, protection of Barnett, and the permanent status in statute of the Scottish Parliament. All of these have been delivered.
However, in the latter case, I agree the best way of achieving greater safeguarding of Holyrood would be a formal written constitution. As an ancient Charter 88 signatory, I would welcome this, especially as the necessary counterweight to permanent legal protection to devolution would be permanent legal protection for the Union.
Peter A Russell
THE acreage of replies (Letters, April 7 & 9) to my simple request for pragmatic compromise (Letters, April 6) makes further comment on the subject of devolution feel a bit like intruding on the private grief of the SNP. However, it must be pointed out that the timing of any further independence referendum is not – as your headline (April 9) says – solely in hands of the Scottish Parliament, as it would be subject to the agreement of Scotland’s UK Parliament, into whose hands the task of defending the democratic decision voted for by two million Scots has fallen.
Moreover, the SNP Scottish Government, when it concluded the Edinburgh Agreement, agreed that the 2014 referendum would be decisive (and subsequently defined that as meaning “once in a generation” on several occasions), but has continued to agitate for a further referendum since the day after the last one. Likewise, the same Agreement included a commitment “to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome, whatever it is, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom”. How the divisive and destructive antics of the SNP are designed to meet this commitment is anyone’s guess.
In short, the SNP has shown in breaking the Edinburgh Agreement on multiple occasions that its word is worthless. It is hard to see why Scotland’s UK government should ever trust it again. And if there is no agreement, there will be no referendum.
Peter A Russell
YOUR correspondent Peter Curran (Letters, April 5) rightly points out that the Tory Party opposed devolution for many years, but curiously omits to mention that the SNP held the exactly the same view until an 11th-hour conversion between the 1997 General Election and the 1998 referendum. Maybe this is because he wishes to disguise the fact that many of those who were present at the demonstration he describes are Scottish Nationalists who get up every day with the intention of destroying devolution by replacing it with independence.
In contrast, some of us see devolution not as a second-best, or as a stepping-stone to independence (and ruin) but as a practical way of keeping the best of the both worlds – Scottish governance of Scottish issues, backed by the shared resources of the UK. In doing so, there is considerable merit in taking time to determine the allocation of powers repatriated from Brussels and to take decisions on what is likely to work best.
For example, no-one would want a situation where Welsh hill farmers could undercut Scottish sheepmeat prices, or where Northern Irish chicken farmers could undercut Scottish eggs due to unfair subsidies from their own Assemblies. The question is whether a mechanism of devolved administrations plus the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs can be devised, or whether regulation should be retained at Westminster, where it would be accountable to MPs of all parts of the UK.
The current devolution settlement is a monument to pragmatism and compromise: it would be wholly within that spirit to take time and to bring a bit of give and take to the current argument. Instead of “Holyrood Good (although we opposed it most of our lives), Westminster Bad,” it would be reasonable to come to a rational compromise for the mutual benefit of all.
Peter A Russell