In my September 2007 consultation I asked:
Should more powers be devolved to the Scottish Parliament?
Over 250 people responded, and I can reveal that the results were as follows:
- 60% of those surveyed answered Yes
- 40% of those surveyed answered No
Common arguments in favour of more powers for the Scottish Parliament included:
- To develop the economy and self confidence of the country.
- To increase accountability, in particular with regards to tax raising and spending powers.
- To have more control over specific areas of policy, including taxation, immigration policy, broadcasting, climate change and knife and gun laws.
Responses also demonstrated support of debate and discussion of Scotland’s constitutional status, with an emphasis on the process of devolution, adding that it should not be rushed. A number of respondents also felt strongly that Defence and Foreign Policy should remain in the control of the UK Parliament, although some expressed concerns with regards to Trident.
Common arguments against more powers for the Scottish Parliament included:
- Devolution is still relatively new and there is still scope to work within the existing powers.
- Devolution of more powers would be simply too expensive/have economic ramifications.
- Scotland is sufficiently represented in Westminster.
- Devolution of more power would lead to the break-up of the UK.
A number of respondents stressed that they didn’t see the need for more powers at present, but would be willing to consider it in the future.
Overall, the consultation proved a highly valuable gauge of public opinion regarding this issue, with many thoughtful and considered arguments submitted in favour of both options.
With regards to my own personal opinion, I am broadly in favour of devolving more powers to the Scottish Parliament, although crucially this should only be negotiated by holding a second Constitutional Convention that would take into account the spectrum of opinion on the issue.
I feel that only through reasoned debate and dialogue, and by working within the provisions of the current devolution settlement that we should proceed on this matter.
Devolution has been described as a process, rather than an event, and I believe that it is through re-engaging with this process can we negotiate the best possible results for Scotland.