What a strange demand from Ruth Davidson.* In one breath she boasts that her bosses in London are graciously giving the Scottish Parliament sweeping new tax powers, in the next she demands that the SNP make a solemn undertaking never to use those powers.
It all seems a bit crazy and contradictory, until you realise that the whole devolution process has undergone a significant shift in emphasis and purpose. It used to be that the endless constitutional tinkering was intended to fend off the electoral threat of the SNP by putting on a token show of addressing the aspirations of Scotland’s people. Now, devolution is all about laying fiscal and political traps for what is presumed will be, for the foreseeable future, an SNP Scottish Government. The whole process has become an exercise in anti-SNP manipulation.
The aim is to force the administration to do things that will make it unpopular with the electorate. Essentially, the UK Government is set upon waging a campaign to undermine the Scottish Parliament in the hope of eroding popular support for the SNP and getting Holyrood back under the control of the British parties.
Of course, this campaign is all but certain to be be damaging to Scotland’s economy. In order to be effective, such a campaign must impact negatively on large numbers of people in Scotland so as to provoke widespread dissatisfaction. It is, in essence, an anti-Scottish campaign.
Ruth Davidson’s odd demand that the SNP promise never to use the new tax powers is just a foretaste of what is to come. The so-called “powers” being handed to the Scottish Parliament are a poisoned chalice. The Scottish Government will be attacked if it uses these “powers”, and however it uses them. It will be attacked even more viciously if it rejects the “powers”, or doesn’t use them. Devolution is now entirely about contriving opportunities to attack the Scottish Government.
All of which creates some complex problems for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. Which is hardly surprising given that this was the intention. With his Commons majority and less than token resistance from British Labour, David Cameron has moved from regarding Scotland as a nuisance to be placated to treating Scotland as an enemy to be subdued. But it may not be politic for Sturgeon to respond in similar vein. She and her team have an increasingly complex political maze to negotiate.
Personally, I have no doubt that they are up to the task. But, in the face of the nefarious machinations of the UK Government, those of us who recognise what is going on must all be resolute in our support for the First Minister and our democratically elected representatives at both Holyrood and Westminster. They are there for us. We must be there for them.