Comments on the Smith Commission & Our Submission

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by Ross, Kris and Amanda (crucially with some additional crowdsourcing) and intro by Alex

Compared to the staff William Hague has to look at EVEL, the Smith Commission has hardly any staff and the deadline for Lord Smith of Kelvin to report his conclusions is St Andrew’s Day, so I doubt that any of these non-political party submissions will receive any attention.  I’m not sure if that is the point though.  What I think has been more important has been the general galvanising of groups and individuals to formulate their position on more powers and the sharing of their submissions through social media as a reflection of the breath and vitality of the movement and as a way of comparing what we eventually get offered with the tenor of the different submissions that have been shared online. So I would hope that we will let others know of our submission and of the fact that we consulted those communities we worked in during the referendum.
– Alex


Our Submission (Reference #B00070, also here as a pdf: RIC_Aberdeen_Smith_Submission_Final)

Dear Lord Smith,

Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) Aberdeen advocates a fairer, greener, socially just, independent Scotland, internationalist, and nuclear free.

In the Scottish Independence referendum of 18th September 2014 45% of Scots voted ‘Yes’ for full autonomy; all the powers. According to the Lord Ashcroft polls 25% of No voters voted No on the promise of more powers. They voted No for the so-called ‘Vow’, printed by the Daily Record in collaboration with the three main Westminster Parties. This ‘Vow’ promised ‘Devo-Max’, which is widely understood to mean all decision making powers coming to the Scottish Government at Holyrood, with the exception of Defence and Foreign Policy. This is the absolute minimum we expect. The Scottish people should also have a written Constitution legally enshrining and protecting the existence of the Scottish Parliament, augmenting its powers and galvanising the rights of our citizens.

The unprecedented levels of engagement and activism across Scotland during the referendum period, reflected in the very high turnout, deserves and expects to be fully engaged in what happens next. We would also ask that you commit to a citizen-led process in addition to your discussions before any consideration of legislation. This is a real opportunity to genuinely innovate and engage; real participative democracy. The future of devolution cannot be decided behind closed doors by party politicians alone, or with limited reference to community leaders, however well intentioned. Please emphasise this in your report. Wider civic society must be consulted.

Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) Aberdeen were mostly active in the ‘regeneration’ areas of the city, where residents are under-represented, disenfranchised and generally an afterthought when policy is made at Westminster. Polling data, whilst not definitive, but certainly indicative, suggests that people in these areas overwhelmingly voted Yes. They expect change. We canvassed opinion in the ‘regeneration’ areas again during October; we wanted to crowdsource an element of our submission to you and encourage people to make their own personal submissions too.
Employment, specifically job creation; welfare, including repeal of the ‘bedroom tax’; and housing, that is the lack of social housing, were the most commonly highlighted in the ‘regeneration’ areas of Aberdeen. Indeed, housing is particularly problematic in Aberdeen, where house prices have risen over 100% in 10 years and are significantly above the national average.

Energy is also especially important throughout Aberdeen: we want to see the revenues derived from the oil and gas industry returned to Holyrood, not Westminster. We want to see a fairer redistribution of this wealth amongst all of Scotland’s people. We want to use our oil wealth to fund better public services, and longer term renewables diversification; to ensure Scotland enjoys sustainable power and energy security. We also want the power to oppose fracking in Scotland.

Overall, the most disadvantaged in Aberdeen want to see the Scottish Parliament empowered to tackle inequality and create sustainable, quality employment. More people living in poverty and/or claiming benefit (typically housing) are in work than out at the moment. Work has to pay more. Jobcentres have to be more supportive. Prevention is better than cure. We need to be able to address the issue of ‘working poor’ in Scotland and empower people to lift themselves out of poverty. We need to invest in people. We need the powers to eradicate the need for foodbanks. We need the powers to end fuel poverty. Anyone who works 40 hours a week should be able to feed themselves. Anyone who works 40 hours a week shouldn’t have to choose between heating and eating. Scotland wants a living wage; the minimum wage has not risen with inflation or the real cost of living. In most cases it’s become the maximum wage. Again, in Aberdeen especially, the cost of living is that much higher.

Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) Aberdeen believe that the following powers will allow Scots to govern ourselves according to our particular geographical and social needs and make the most cost effective use of the substantial tax generated in Scotland. We want ‘powers for a purpose’; to enable the Scottish Parliament to create jobs and tackle inequality. We need more than control over one or two taxes. We need control over the full range of taxes, both personal and business. We need control of key economic levers like employment policy. We need control of welfare policy and the minimum wage. We want a living wage. The raft of new powers offered needs to reflect that interactions between different powers matter as much as the individual powers themselves. Below is a list of all powers that could reasonably be devolved without adversely affecting the rest of the UK. We demand all of these powers:

 

Power to be devolved

Detail on why we think this should be included in a DevoMax settlement

x

Broadcasting

To promote Scottish content and innovation, and allow The Scottish Government to implement a program of Scottish involvement and increase basic tools required to grow our film, TV and media industry. A specific news and current affairs media to cover Scottish issues, politics and events as well as world news. A provider of jobs keeping broadcasting talent in Scotland. To promote diversity and offer an alternative to mainstream media owned and controlled elsewhere.

Representation in EU committees

We need Scottish representation at the table on all committees and commissions in the European Union. Many EU landlocked countries have higher representation on the Fisheries Commission for instance than Scotland does. Scotland has one of the largest fishing industries in Europe and lands 90% of the UK’s catch, but is not adequately represented in Brussels. Scotland should also be guaranteed consultation between Scottish Government & UK Government on future EU negotiations so that we have an equal say on developments; particularly with looming matters such as TTIP and the likely EU In/Out Referendum.

Control over welfare, benefits & pensions

The Scottish Government are best placed to decide on welfare and benefits policy in line with the specific needs of Scottish residents. They should also be managing Scots pensions which should be administrated in line with the age and circumstances of the Scottish population.

The Scottish Parliament should be responsible for all domestic expenditure.

The Scottish Government should be in control of all Scottish institutions and spend according to their particular needs in any particular time. The Scots government is best placed to know where money should be allocated and how budgets should be set for their already devolved health service and education sectors to name but two. It’s all very well controlling spending, but if you don’t control the budget your hands are tied.

Full control over the regulation, collection and spending of taxes.

The Scottish government must be in control of setting, collecting and spending the revenues from the following taxes: Income Tax, National Insurance, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Air Passenger Duty, Betting & Gambling, Fuel, Alcohol, & Tobacco Duties, Excise Duties, Vehicle Excise Duty, Climate Change Levy and Scottish Oil & Gas tax revenues. Personal taxation helps The Scottish Government address poverty via a better, progressive tax system. Full control of tax raising and spending allows The Scottish Government to tailor economic policy to suit the unique make up of the Scots economy, provide incentives to grow and reduce the burden on struggling businesses.

Borrowing powers

A Scottish government framework for public finances including the necessary borrowing powers. This will allow the Scottish government to manage any temporary deficit year on year so that there is minimal impact on public spending.

Representation at the Bank of England

Scotland should have representation (as should NI and Wales) in the setting of interest rates and monetary policy. It’s our pound too.

Scots Legal System must deal the following areas which are currently reserved

The Scots legal system is already in existence, so this would have no cost implications. Scots law should deal with corporate law and employment law too. There is no reason for this to be reserved. This would include: business associations, insolvency, competition, customer protection, regulation of architects, health professions and auditors, employment and industrial relations, employability policy, including responsibility for setting the minimum (hopefully soon living) wage, health and safety, and equal opportunities.

The ability to devolve power further to local councils

The Scottish Government should be able to decide which powers are devolved down to local council level; encouraging greater community involvement and governance; decentralisation, empowering people at the local level. Scotland is a diverse landscape with local councils each facing different challenges which require local differentiation.

Control over immigration and visas for residency in Scotland

The Scottish government should be able to issue visas to immigrants who can assist in growing Scotland’s economy. They should have control over who works and pays tax in Scotland. This could, for example, include allowing foreign students who have graduated from Scottish Universities to stay in Scotland in order to work and grow the economy, and allow targeted immigration to address any skills shortages. Scaremongering on immigration and the demonisation of migrants will not be tolerated in Scotland. Scotland is a just and welcoming country; immigrants in Scotland are net contributors. We are happy to offer asylum to those persecuted and endagnered in their homeland.

Research

Devolved research councils would allow the allocation of research funds to be distributed fairly amongst Scottish universities and institutions and take into account the specific research needs of the country (e.g. oil and gas, renewable energy).

National debt

The Scottish government should take its share of UK debt accrued up until the point at which it assumes fully devolved economic powers. After the implementation of Devo-Max Scotland should only be responsible for the debt that Scotland alone incurs.

Ability to determine the status of our essential services and suppliers

The status and regulation of postal services, Electricity, Oil and gas, Coal, Nuclear energy, Renewable/green energy, Road transport, Rail transport, Marine transport, and Air transport should be the responsibility of the Scottish Government, which can manage those institutions in accordance with the needs of the Scottish economy and people. We would pursue the re-nationalisation of industry, for people not profit. The rail franchise in Scotland has just been awarded to a Dutch state-owned operator, but current UK legislation precluded any such Scottish Government bid. We also want the powers to be able to oppose fracking; uneccesary prolonging of our dependency on fossil fuels, and very dangerous to our water supplies and public health.

Control and regulation of the Crown Estates

The Crown Estate has a fundamental misunderstanding of the needs and interests of local communities and indigenous industries on the Scottish coast. At worst, it behaves as an absentee landlord or tax collector which does not re-invest to any significant extent in the sectors and communities from which it derives income. Land reform is a most presssing issue in Scotland.

Elections and franchise

Administration of all elections and determination of franchise terms and electoral systems. Our recent referendum allowed 16/17 year olds to vote and this was very successful and allowed a key section of society to become politically engaged and have a say in their future. The UK does not look likely to follow this lead, but we would like to continue this enfranchisement of this age group. If you’re old enough to fight in a war, you’re old enough to vote for the Government that sends you there.

ALL OF THE ABOVE

I believe all of the powers outlined above should be included in an enhanced Devolution settlement for the Scottish Government and people. As a combination they will allow Scotland’s economy to grow and the people of Scotland to be best served by government whilst still remaining part of the United Kingdom.

X


We would also demand more than Devo-Max; Scotland needs a voice in the implementation of UK Defence and Foreign Policy:

Defence/Foreign Affairs

Scotland needs more say in defence spending; whilst 1 in 3 children in the regeneration areas of Aberdeen are living in poverty, we can still find £3bn to bomb Iraq. The Defence budget is too high; certainly Scotland pays too much. When the NHS is facing a funding ‘blackhole’, we are talking about spending £100bn to replace Trident. An abhorrent and antiquated threat. The vast majority of Scottish people don’t want nuclear weapons; especially not 20 miles from our most populous city. The vast majority of Scottish people and even Scottish Mps opposed the most recent foreign incursions. Bombing Iraq is as barbaric as the IS/ISIS/ISIL beheadings. This only perpetuates further Islamophobia and fundamentalism. Related to taxation, borrowing and the national debt, collaboration with organisations like the IMF only encourage the hegemony of the prevailing neoliberal consensus, to the detriment of the consideration of any alternative economic model.

Yours radically,
The Comrades at Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) Aberdeen

 


Our Crowdsourcing Questionnaire (also here as a pdf: RIC_Aberdeen_Smith_Crowdsourcing_Text_Final)

Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) Aberdeen will be making a submission to the Smith Commission on more powers for Scotland. We want to know what you think. Scotland needs more powers to address inequality and social injustice and do our bit to battle climate change. We need control over more of our budgets and more of our revenue streams. We’ve identified some areas we’d like to see devolved. How important do you rate the following and what else might you suggest?

5- Very Important
4- Important
3- Not Sure
2- Less Important
1- Not Important

Employment
1 2 3 4 5
– end zero hours contracts
– end Workfare programs, such as ATOS
– replace minimum wage with a living wage (minimum £10p/h)
– power to create good, sustainable jobs

Welfare
1 2 3 4 5
– full devolution of welfare policy, pensions and benefits
– pensions in the UK are the lowest in developed European nations
– policy options to address inequality

Housing
1 2 3 4 5
-power to better control the private sector, ‘rentier’ economy
– more social housing is required
– better regulation of housing market, to address rising prices

Environment
1 2 3 4 5
– power to address Fracking and protect the Scottish environment; the UK Government is pursuing this dirty extraction and will allow private companies to drill our homes without consent and no limitations on the chemicals they use!
– power over renewables targets and investment

Foreign Policy
1 2 3 4 5
– Scottish parliament should be allowed more input in foreign policy
– particularly in Europe

Defence
1 2 3 4 5
– Defence opt-outs or rebates; Scotland contributes significantly more to defence than is spent here
– we still have no surface navy vessels based in Scotland, despite our large coast and maritime economy

Taxation
1 2 3 4 5
– all oil and gas revenues should go back to Scotland directly, not via Westminster
– power over Corporation Tax; specifically to raise it
– make tax more progressive

Transport
1 2 3 4 5
– power to bring railways back into public ownership in 5 years

Broadcasting
1 2 3 4 5
– power to operate a Scottish Broadcaster, with Scottish content and a non-political bias

Sovereignty
1 2 3 4 5
– recognise the sovereignty of the Scottish Parliament in all devolved matters; currently the UK Government could abolish the Scottish Parliament at the drop of a hat!

Comments, other ideas, what’s really important to YOU…?

Smith_Byron


Our Crowdsourcing Results (also here as a pdf with more detail: RIC_Aberdeen_Smith_Crowdsourcing_Numbers_Final)

RIC_Aberdeen_Smith_Crowdsourcing_Numbers


Links/Sources/Further Reading:

You can also read our Smith Commission submission here: RIC_Aberdeen_Smith_Submission_Final
view our Crowdsourcing Questionnaire here: RIC_Aberdeen_Smith_Crowdsourcing_Text_Final
and the detailed Results of our Crowdsourcing here: RIC_Aberdeen_Smith_Crowdsourcing_Numbers_Final

Hat tip to the Indy Quines, Aberdeen’s local Women For Independence group, and Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Scotland; we took some inspiration from their guidance:

Here are some other interesting Smith Commission proposals and related links (not necessarily an endorsement by RIC Aberdeen!):
Smith Commission
‘14,000 give their views on Holyrood powers’
Scottish Police Federation
Andy Wightman
STUC
Scottish CND
Children 1st
SFHA
Engender
SCVO
Campaign For Scottish Home Rule
Common Weal
Business For Scotland (national, and some local ones)
Scottish Government/Scottish National Party (SNP)
Scottish Green Party
Scottish Socialist Party

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About RIC Aberdeen

The Radical Independence Campaign sees Scottish independence as the first step towards creating a fairer, greener, more democratic place. RIC Aberdeen are a local campaigning group, ordinary people who want to make a difference. We do canvassing every Wednesday night, along with other events. Please get in touch for more info.

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