Well, not the last chance ever, but certainly the last chance to make a submission to the Smith Commission, which is looking into delivering more powers for Scotland in the wake of the independence referendum.
My view is that it was very clear that people wanted significantly more powers. I don’t think that was predominantly why they voted No, but it was clearly indicated during the debate.
The difficulty that the Commission has now is that the Labour Party, which has been dragging its feet on more powers anyway, now has no leader and no direction. Like the other parties, it has submitted its own recommendations, which are by far the most timid, but how is it going to get its act together enough to agree anything more substantial. It will have to, because the most basic instincts of self preservation tell you that “The Vow” made must be kept.
I am hopeful that the SNP will participate in the Commission constructively. Sending the usually pragmatic and sensible John Swinney and Linda Fabiani is a positive statement of intent. If they’d sent a couple of their more awkward backbenchers, we’d know they weren’t taking it seriously.
I am more than slightly annoyed that these important decisions about the future of Scotland will be made by mostly men – and I include my own leader, Willie Rennie in this criticism. Labour and the Liberal Democrats both appointed all-male teams to Smith meaning that the Commission comprises 8 men and just 3 women. I therefore think that it’s even more important that women have their say now. My submission will argue pretty much for the adoption of the Liberal Democrat plans as set out in the Campbell Commission Report Federalism: The best future for Scotland. In addition to that, I want to see greater freedom for Scotland to make decisions on equalities matters. We have a Parliament elected by PR therefore there’s more that we can do to ensure that it reflects Scottish society. We’ve been going backwards on gender balance and it’s high time that got ambitions and supported a 50:50 Parliament. I’m going to the launch of the new Women 50:50 campaign tomorrow and I think it’s essential that those choices are Scotland’s to make.
I will also be talking about the importance of ensuring that Holyrood doesn’t just keep new powers for itself – there must be more powers given to local communities to make decisions. The SNP will centralise anything that sits still for more than two minutes and Labour has those controlling instincts too, but it’s important that councils and communities can tailor things to suit the needs of their areas.
And, finally, I will be making the point that decisions made at a Westminster level on reserved matters must have a decent consultation process with the devolved administrations. That means a proper dialogue. Nicola Sturgeon hasn’t done herself any favours this week by suggesting that Scotland should have a veto on a decision about EU membership. Would she be saying the same for the 28 council areas that rejected independence? I think not. There must, though, be a decent attempt to take everyone’s circumstances into consideration.
MSP Alison McInnes urged everyone to have their say before the deadline at 5pm tonight:
The referendum campaign invigorated our democracy. Millions of people cast their vote and countless Scots chose to get involved in politics for the first time. We need to build on this progress. I hope that as many people as possible, Yes and No voters alike, will remain involved in the positive discussion on the future of our country.
Scotland’s five main political parties have set out their views on the powers that we think Holyrood needs to help build a stronger Scotland within the UK. But it is vital that everyone has the chance to have their say.
You can make your views known here.