After two decades of devolution, its promises are unfulfilled
This week has marked the 20th anniversary of the referendums which delivered (just barely, in Wales’ case) the devolved legislatures in Scotland and Wales.
Predictably the devocrats – the civic class who derive salaries, sinecures and status from the new institutions – have been out in force to celebrate the anniversary. Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, has gone so far as to say that the country “wouldn’t really exist” if one per cent of his countrymen had switched their votes in 1997.
Yet despite this uniform support, public attitudes towards devolution are mixed. Not only do the records of the devolved governments not stand up to the bright promises of the devolutionaries, but there persists a not-insubstantial minority who would still either vote to abolish the devolved institutions or at least not vote to establish them if they had their time again.
Obviously these are a minority – about one in five of those polled, in both nations – but this is despite a political environment where nobody has been making the case against devolution for two decades.
Just as Vote Leave would probably have done much better than they did in Scotland if the public debate had properly represented the four-in-ten Scots who ended up voting Leave, it’s not implausible to suppose that devo-scepticism might be more widespread if its baseline support were represented by about a fifth of ‘Civic Scotland’ (and ‘Civic Wales’).
Nonetheless, the EU referendum warns against complacency about devolution’s future. British EU membership once enjoyed a seemingly impregnable position as one of the orthodoxies of modern political life – before decades of disappointment, disconnection between rulers and ruled, and the labours of a fringe but dedicated core of sceptics did their work.
Brokenshire insists that Ulster watchdog protect national security information
The Northern Irish Secretary has warned the Independent Reporting Commission, a new watchdog set up to monitor activity by paramilitaries, must not reveal information which could damage British national security.
The News Letter reports him saying that some of the information passed to the IRC, which was set up following a string of “high-profile Republican killings”, could also place individuals at risk of injury or worse.
In other Ulster news, the Democratic Unionists are digging in their heels as the negotiations to re-establish the devolved legislature at Stormont go nowhere. Two MPs have intervened this week: Sammy Wilson to rule out a ‘culture act’ which would enshrine special protections for the Irish language, and Jeffrey Donaldson to warn the Irish Government in Dublin against trying to interfere.
Labour in Scotland faced ‘disaster’ without Corbyn, claims Scottish leadership candidate
One of the two men running to succeed Kezia Dugdale as the Labour leader in Scotland has heaped praise on Jeremy Corbyn for the party’s surprise gains in June’s election, according to the Scotsman.
Richard Leonard, a left-wing candidate who worked for 20 years for the GMB trades union, made his remarks in a column for the website Labour List.
His greater willingness to identify with the overall UK leader is perhaps not surprising – Leonard has come under attack from Labour’s small-n nationalists (who have yet to learn their lesson) for being an ‘English’ candidate.
Ulster UKIP fined for election records
The Belfast Telegraph reports that the Northern Irish branch of the UK Independence Party has been fined £3,500 by the Electoral Commission for inaccurate record-keeping.
After running just a single candidate in March’s snap elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, UKIP registered their party spending as £0 and claimed that everything was covered on their candidate’s return.
Now in the doldrums (much like the party on the mainland), UKIP have previously been represented in the Assembly after attracting a defector, David McNarry.