The results of the 2019 General Election were that Scotland overwhelmingly voted SNP. Yet, we are now once again ruled by a Conservative UK government. When Scotland votes SNP, we get a Tory government.
Read that again. How is that fair or make any kind of sense?
I’m still on the fence about independence, but this proves: WE NEED MORE DEVOLUTION so we can direct our own future and protect ourselves from the Tories. And you don’t have to be pro-Independence to come to that conclusion.
Which issues are devolved?
The main issues which are affected by the Conservative Party’s policy are austerity and healthcare, as well as public services and education. The Tory cuts to bus services, education and the police affect all of the UK. According to the Scottish Parliament’s website, Health, Education, Housing and many aspects of Transport are devolved (legislated by the Scottish Government). However, it’s unclear of provision of public transport services is devolved. And Social security, Employment and Equal Opportunities are reserved to the UK Government (meaning Holyrood has no legislative powers about these issues). Welfare benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments are devolved. However, these are being replaced by Universal Credit. The Scottish Parliament’s guide to devolution states only that benefits outside Universal Credit and powers to vary payments and the housing award element of UC are devolved. This means that Universal Credit itself remains reserved. So, Scotland will have less control over welfare spending once Universal Credit is fully rolled out. However, the Scottish Government has the power to create new benefits. As Employment remains reserved, the minimum wage will always remain low under a Conservative government. (Scotland’s only powers are to create employment schemes). The devolution of Transport doesn’t seem to include service provision. That’s unfortunate, as the Tories have cut over 3,000 bus service routes.
How would increased devolution help protect Scotland from austerity?
Currently, the devolution of Health, Justice and the ability to create new welfare benefits means the Scottish Government has some leeway in protecting its people from Tory austerity. They shouldn’t be allowed to rely on the excuse that Westminster rule means Scotland will just have to bear the cuts. Judicious use of existing devolution would be enough to provide a buffer, such as creating a “Universal Credit top-up benefit”.
However, pushing for more devolution would improve the situation. Full devolution of Social Security would mean Universal Credit could be replaced or improved. This would prevent the miscalculations, inhumane ‘assessments’ and long waiting times which have resulted in claimants falling into debt and dying of starvation. Increased devolution of Transport would protect public transport services from the axe of austerity. If Employment was devolved, the minimum wage could be raised. So, while reserved powers aren’t a death sentence, Scotland would benefit enormously from enhanced devolution. We need Social Security, Employment and Transport to become completely, not just partially, devolved.
What should the SNP do?
Therefore, it would be best for the SNP to stop being a one-issue party and focus seriously on achieving increased devolution, not just independence. This General Election has given the SNP increased influence in Westminster, which makes enhanced devolution easily achievable.
This would likely increase their votes beyond those who want Scottish independence. As I’m a Labour supporter, it might surprise some that I’d be fine with the SNP making yet more gains from Scottish Labour. However, the political reality in many constituencies is that a vote for Labour is essentially a wasted vote, as the SNP and the Conservatives get most of the vote. Voting tactically in such constituencies- such as my hometown, Stirling- is actually a smart move. (Personally I do vote Labour). The reason why many Labour voters support Labour is because they’re anti Tory; indeed, as the parties’ policies are usually polar opposites, being Labour is basically being anti-Tory and vice-versa. If the SNP give Scotland more protection from the Tories, it’s all that’s needed to provide the security and fairness which Scottish Labour voters want. We might not get everything that we’d get under Labour, but at least some protection from austerity would be offered.
Full independence isn’t necessary to achieve this, but increased devolution is also means of increasing independence so is in line with the SNP’s goals. Enhanced devolution would also prepare the ground for full independence, as it would allow the public to get used to the feel of a separate system, making the idea of independence less intimidating. Enhanced devolution, as aforementioned, would also attract Unionist voters.
Therefore, the SNP should adopt enhanced devolution as one of their goals, alongside Scottish independence.