Monday, 10 November 2008

No 10 response to Calman Commission

Here are some of the key paragraphs from the early pages of the Westminster government's response to the Calman Commission on Scottish devolution.

I've given bullet headlines for each of the subject areas and then lifted the key quotes from the document.

The Devolution Settlement - No 10 believes that the settlement is maxiimalist

pars 12-13
" In terms of the range of functions devolved under the Scotland Act and subsequent Orders under that Act, Scottish devolution has been called a ‘maximalist’ settlement. The Government regards this as the right approach, because that was and continues to be the best way of ensuring that those domestic policies which most immediately affect the daily lives of people in Scotland are delivered in a way that meets their needs and wants; with direct accountability to the Scottish Parliament.

13. Nevertheless, there are areas of policy where the inevitable overlap between devolved and
reserved matters has the potential to cause difficulty. Some of these relate to the devolution of
land use planning powers, and analogous powers under the Electricity Acts which are the subject
of executive devolution (i.e. they are exercised by Scottish Ministers even though the Scottish
Parliament does not have legislative competence over them). It was clearly not the intention of
Parliament in passing the Scotland Act that the use or threatened use of devolved powers should
undermine the delivery of reserved policies. The Government suggests that the Commission may wish to consider how such problems might be avoided.”

Broadcasting - no ground to devolving Broadcasting powers to Scotland

“18. The evidence provided by DCMS highlights the strength of the BBC as one of our most widely respected and authoritative institutions, providing a diversity of programming appealing to a wide range of tastes and interests across the UK, reflecting our shared traditions of freedom of speech and a vigorous media. As the report of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, set up by Scottish Ministers, recognises, Scottish interests are represented within this structure and Scotland has ‘undoubtedly benefitted from being part of the overall broadcasting ecology of the UK’.

Shared interests - No 10 wants the UK to speak with one voice

“24. Similarly it is in the interests of all the nations of the UK to speak with a single voice at an
international level. Our shared interests on the international stage extend beyond security. We all gain benefits from the international reputation of the UK, built up by the whole of the UK, including Scotland. Increased international influence is of particular importance in a world where the major challenges are increasingly global – climate change, terrorism, economic challenges.”

Financial Accountability - they duck reform of the Barnett formula

“32. The devolved funding arrangements provide the Scottish Parliament with not only a rising budget but also continuity and a stable, transparent and predictable way of funding public services in Scotland. The Government are keen to consider with the Commission, in accordance with its terms of reference, how the financial accountability of the Parliament may be improved. As the Prime Minister said at CBI Scotland on 4th September:

“Devolution has worked, but I do see one problem: while there have been good reasons why
this is so, the Scottish Parliament is wholly accountable for the budget it spends but not for the
size of its budget. And that budget is not linked to the success of the Scottish economy. That is
why we asked the Calman Commission to look carefully at the financial accountability of the
Scottish Parliament and this is a critical part of Calman’s remit.”

33. We do not seek here to provide detailed evidence on the options that might be available. The Government stands ready to engage with the Commission, on improving the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament.”

Their conclusion - steady as she goes?

“The wide range of competence already enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament forms a sound basis for continuing success, and clearly remains in line with the wishes of the Scottish people
The government remains open to proposals, in accordance with these principles, to adjust the settlement further to strengthen devolution.”

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