Sir: James Fenton unwittingly puts his finger on the precise explanation for the cynicism which he is so reluctant to believe of the Labour Party's position on devolution ("The time is right for a velvet divorce", 15 May). Trial separations, as he notes, usually lead to divorce. Scottish devolution can take one of two forms. Either a Scottish assembly does very little - in which case, what is the point? - or it can do quite a lot - in which case, if decision-making power is to mean anything, what would be the point of referring to Westminster for approval?
The latter would conceivably lead to considerable conflict between Edinburgh and London. Again, alternative scenarios present themselves; either the Westminster government insists on overruling the democratically elected representatives of the Scottish people (pace the Metropolitan Councils), or Scots realise that a whole loaf is better than a few crumbs thrown from the Westminster table and insist on full independence.
The Labour Party's preference is clearly for a tightly constrained talking shop with very limited powers. The proposals for a Welsh assembly have made that abundantly clear. The cynicism lies in trying to sell a glorified county council to the Scottish people as a means of exercising control over their own affairs. Devolution, for the Labour Party, is not a question of strengthening Scottish democracy. It is about strengthening its own chances of taking power in Westminster. It is to be hoped that the Scottish electorate recognise this cynicism, reject it wholesale and insist on installing a Scottish parliament on its own terms - not those of a London- obsessed Labour Party.
DUNCAN M. ROSS
Englefield Green, Surrey
- More about:
- London Metropolitan University
- Metropolitan Police Authority
- Scottish Parliament
- Trade Unions