New powers for Scotland – but can they save Labour at the polls?
The SNP’s message all day was that there’s less to the devolution deal than meets the eye.
Yesterday afternoon, they got support for that proposition from the former Labour First Minister Lord (Jack) McConnell. In the Lords he expressed bafflement at the Commission’s claim that its plans gave Holyrood 50 per cent of taxation powers.
Lord McConnell said that the Commission was wrongly including the VAT funds being diverted to Scotland as a tax-raising power, when the tax level would still be decided in Westminster. He sounded like a man who thought that, though much of Labour might have felt it was at the outer levels of dangerous devolution, it was actually doing nothing like as much as it needed to on devolved powers.
From the other end of the argument inside the Labour Party, Alistair Darling tried his best to welcome to report with a gnomic question at the Commons statement.
But it’s only a couple of days since he tried to warn Labour off devolving income tax levels to Scotland and his tone wasn’t exactly celebratory.
Jim Murphy, with his eyes on the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party, had a script to deflect those challenging his inconsistency: I’ve changed my mind, Labour’s changed its mind, Scotland wants change.
The man who Ed Miliband tried to persuade to lead the Scottish Labour Party, Gordon Brown, was said to be planning a speech rowing in as best he can behind a plan he’d never wanted. Labour needed his endorsement for its attempt to turn round the SNP’s massive lead in Scottish polls.
In Holyrood, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said it was all a far cry from the “powerhouse parliament” she wanted. And she menaced Labour talking of how her supporters would have an early opportunity in May next year to show what they thought of the vow redeemed.