Labour’s Alistair Darling and Jack McConnell attack Smith Commission devolution proposals


Prime minister indicated he plans to push ahead with Smith Commission plans

LABOUR stalwarts Alistair Darling and Jack McConnell have criticised the Smith Commission devolution proposals, amid a renewed debate about more powers for Scotland after the SNP’s Scottish landslide in the General Election.

Jack McConnell, former Labour first minister who now sits in the House of Lords, told Sunday Politics Scotland that the proposals agreed last October by all parties in the Scottish Parliament were “a shambles”, and should be scrapped and replaced with a constitutional convention.

McConnell said: “The Smith Commission proposals are a shambles. The idea that the response to what happened last Thursday is to plough ahead with what will become a shambles cannot be the solution.

“The prime minister needs to take a pause rather than ploughing ahead and appointing a Scottish secretary, going ahead with Smith Commission proposals that will fall apart in due course and stop talking about ‘one nation’ as if everybody is the same.”

Alistair Darling, ex-chancellor and leader of the cross-party Better Together campaign for a No vote in the referendum, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday the Smith Commission is “lopsided” and “won’t do the business for Scotland”.

The remarks come as debate intensifies at Westminster about finding a new devolution solution for Scotland, as parties recognise the scale of the SNP’s success north of the border.

Former Scottish secretary Malcolm Rifkind, who is under investigation in a ‘cash for access’ scandal, told CommonSpace on Friday that only radical constitutional reform, beyond the Smith Commission, can save the union.

He said: “We need to look at the overall relationship of the four countries of the United Kingdom. A move towards a federal system is something that may need to be looked at, including full fiscal autonomy.

“People have to think very hard about what is going to produce the best stable outcome for the United Kingdom for years to come. They can go ahead with the current devolution proposals already being discussed. But if people want to think for the longer term, it must be by looking for a new political relationship for the UK as a whole, one that is fair for England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as Scotland.

“We need to think if there’s a more radical form of reform to make everyone feel they’re being treated fairly and can continue to live together in a United Kingdom because I think it would be an absolute disaster for Scots, English and Welsh if that (the UK) was to be disrupted on a permanent basis.” (Click here to read more).

Rifkind has since proposed a new “royal commission” to look at the constitution, which was also backed by McConnell.

Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated that he plans to push ahead with the current Smith Commission plans in the Queen’s Speech on 27 May.

Nicola Sturgeon, speaking on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, said Cameron had not indicated to her that he was willing to countenance full fiscal autonomy for Scotland, adding: “Our manifesto set out very clearly that we would want to move to full fiscal responsibility. Clearly that will take a number of years to implement.

“What we will argue for is priority devolution of powers over business taxes, employment, the minimum wage, welfare – because these are the levers we need to grow our economy faster, to get more people into work paying taxes and lifting people out of poverty.”

The SNP won 56 out of 59 seats in the General Election on 7 May, winning 50 per cent of the popular vote in the biggest landslide victory in Scottish General Election history.

Picture courtesy of Chris Boland