As I See It

Mundell’s appeal for consensus is deeply flawed

Terry portrait with tieDavid Mundell’s call for a closer working relationship between Westminster and Holyrood will appeal to those who really believe it possible for the squabbling to stop. It is a laudable, though deeply flawed concept.

Politics, particularly on the big issues, is rarely consensual. Political debate is built around different ways of achieving the same ends, or widely differing ends. Like it or not, squabbling is part of the process.

As we have seen in recent weeks, parties themselves cannot agree on a whole range of core issues, whether it is Trident nuclear weapons (Labour), or Britain’s membership of the European Union (Conservative).

Mr Mundell’s speech today is clearly a move designed to bury the hatchet over a range of issues ahead of the transfer of powers to Holyrood.

The drawing up of these new powers, now incorporated in the Scotland Act, and Lord Smith’s Commission which played a major part in defining them, was a deeply troubled and, at times, nasty period in Scottish politics.

However, there is an important place for heated exchanges on something as fundamental as establishing how a parliament is to be managed. One man’s hostility, is another man’s passion. And there is nothing wrong with passion in politics where it conveys conviction on deeply held views.

At least legislation – however imperfect – is now in place and provides a new set of rules by which to run the country.

The Secretary of State’s desire for the two parliaments to “move on” from the arguments that led us to this point in the devolution settlement is understandable. But it is also unrealistic.

Tax raising, a fundamental new power, will continue to hang over Holyrood-Westminster relations because the parties disagree on how to use it. The weight of the SNP’s argument is toward higher levies on higher earners, while the newly-empowered Tories favour tax cutting.

The most fundamental cause of division is the constitution and Mr Mundell surely cannot believe the nationalists will roll over on this most treasured of ambitions.






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