Legislative Devolution Has Completely Failed

February 5, 2018


Legislative devolution has been an abject failure everywhere it has been introduced in the UK.


It's a clean sweep. Across the entire UK legislative devolution has proved itself to be a virtually complete failure. It's manifestly failed to provide any kind of substantial, or even real, improvement in the living and working conditions of ordinary people, with huge drops in the standard and even the actual provision of services to the general public of the devolved regions. Twenty years ago, the introduction of legislative devolution was trumpeted by its proponents as the beginning of a bright new era of strong, competent and vigorous government. The reality has been markedly different. In all three parts of the UK that legislative devolution has been introduced, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, two decades of rule by devolved executive has resulted in considerable failure and stagnation across most areas of concern-the economy, health, education Et Al and it has simply been utilized by modern aggressive nationalism, personified by the SNP In Scotland, but also by the increasingly bellicosely pro-independence nationalist parties in Wales and Northern Ireland, as a vehicle to pursue independence, something which they are expressly forbidden from doing as the constitution is a matter reserved for the Commons and which legislative devolution's originators vehemently insisted could not happen precisely because constitutional matters were reserved for the House of Commons.


Whilst it is true that all three devolved regions of the UK have manifestly failed in several important areas, by far the foremost example of this is the SNP controlled Scottish executive. Holyrood, the Scottish parliament, was opened in 2004, but devolved governance had been operating since1 July 1999 (it had used other buildings to hold meetings in). There were two terms of Labour led coalition administrations with the Liberal democrats up until 2007, when the SNP won the elections of that year to form a minority administration, later forming a majority one four years later in 2011, losing it again in the 2016 Holyrood elections.


In an ominous portent of future events, the first thing the SNP did after assuming power in 2007 was to re-brand Holyrood as the 'Scottish Government', which replaced the old logo with a crown (up to then, the Scottish parliament had been known as the Scottish executive). This was the first salvo in the nationalists' attempts to ignore the original purpose of devolution as a local executive that dealt with purely Scottish matters and transform Holyrood into a proto-national government. Far from simply being purely a local executive dealing with purely Scottish matters, the SNP have transformed Holyrood into a proto-national government. Infact, the SNP's obsession with forcing independence on a largely unwilling Scotland (according to ninety-nine per cent of opinion polls) was to become a recurring monomaniacal obsession of the SNP over the following years. They have pursued independence to the detriment of nearly everything else and have largely ignored their duty to look after their devolved responsibilities. The result has been disastrous for the ordinary Scot. Over the last ten years ofSNP-dominated Holyrood, during which the nationalists have been in sole charge of policy in many areas and the Commons has had zero influence over these matters, they have brought the Scottish economy to the brink of recession, provoked a crisis in the Scottish NHS and destroyed Scotland's deservedly once much vaunted education system.       


It is patently obvious to any reasonable observer of the last twenty years of the real-world effects of legislative devolution that Holyrood has completely failed to deliver better living and working conditions for the masses of ordinaryScots. Over half of Scots now think this is the case as a recent Panelbase survey showed. It is one hundred per cent clear that legislative devolution is nothing but a nationalist project that has been transformed by them into a vehicle for abolishing the UK. This was always going to be the end result of legislative devolution in my and some other people's book, but this must be obvious to most people now. It's no use pretending we can contain the devolved executives to just deal with local matters as many people still assert because the experience of the last twenty years, especially in Scotland, has thoroughly disproved this assertion with the nationalists simply ignoring their devolved remit and turning their devolved executives into proto-national governments and vehicles for pushing independence.


Independence is just a minority interest. Its popularity is falling almost monthly. The SNP has signally failed to make any kind of case for independence and the public know it, hence their low ratings in the opinion polls on independence. Even their own people have admitted that they’ve failed. Jim Sillars, a prominent SNP politicianadmitted thatthey had ‘one hundred per cent failed’ to make an economic case for independence during the debate on independence in the referendum campaign of2014. Even Nicola Sturgeon has admittedthat they’d failed to persuade people of the merits of independence.Added to this an SNP MSP recently admitted that people didn’t give ‘two hoots’ about independence (I’m paraphrasing but the meaning is identical) and that they worried more about matters that affecttheir everyday lives. The SNP secretly realize that independence is a busted flush that is not practically viable and most people now realize this.


The SNP have been an abject failure at governing whilst in power at Holyrood with the economy flirting with recession and the NHS and education in crisis,to name just three areas they’ve failed in.


Recent polls have shown that they are heading for electoral disaster at the next Holyrood elections.

The outlook for the SNP is extremely bleak.


With all this in mind, I ask the question: Are the SNP trying to force Scots into independence by wearing them down year after year until they eventually give in and vote for independence out of sheer exhaustion and of being tired of the issue and a desire to make it g0 away? It would appear to be the only way they can win. People certainly don’t appear to want to vote for independence, according to the polls.


There is a highly similar picture in Wales. The Welsh assembly was opened in 1998 and in the intervening nineteen years devolution has achieved little of real or durable value that has improved the life of ordinary citizens. The AM's have taken massive salaries, the assembly building has absorbed millions of pounds in maintenance but the mandarins of Cardiff Bay have done nothing nut provoke one crisis in Wales after another, just as their counterparts in Scotland have. They've reduced the NHS toa dangerous shambles as Welsh patient have been forced to cross the border into England to receive lifesaving medical treatment that assembly mismanagement of health policy has meantthey can no longer get in Wales. They've destroyed the Welsh education system with ill-conceived exam reforms that have led to plummeting GCSE passes. Wales now performs worse than Latvia in exam performance. The crowning failure is that Wales has, since the advent of legislativedevolution, consistently come at the bottom of the economic performance tables. Overall, devolution has signally failed to improve the lot of Wales' citizens and, as in Scotland, has simply been utilized as a vehicle for pursuing independence by an increasingly bellicosely vociferous Plaid Cymru.


The whole saga of Stormont in Northern Ireland has now become an irretrievably embarrassing and unsolvable comedic/tragic farce.


It goes on and on interminably with ineffectual and short-lived coalition governments achieving very little, collapsing and the Province returning to long periods of direct rule from London. Did you know that in the twenty years that Stormont has been operational, the executive has collapsed and direct rule has been reverted to for a total of five years if you add together all the periods it has broken down. Hardly inspires confidence in the process of devolution does it?


The IRA/Sinn Fein are a constant irritant in the situation. They have held power and drawn money from the British taxpayer whilst doing little to make Northern Ireland a better place. Their presence is odious to the many victims of the Troubles. I say they have no place in Northern Ireland's democracy.


Stormont has done nothing to normalize life in the Province. It has made the UK look like an unstable joke. It has let terrorists into government with no tangible benefits for the stabilization and normalization of political life in the Province. Frankly it is an embarrassing mess that is not worth saving. The way forward for Northern Ireland, lays in stable secure direct rule from London that provides a viable bright future for everybody who lives there


Legislative devolution has done very little to improve the living and working conditions of the vast majority of ordinary citizens in all of the parts of the UK it has been introduced. It is simply a nationalist project to pursue independence that modern aggressive nationalism is trying to force on a largely unwilling public and it's time that it was abolished and replaced with something that serves the UK's citizens better.


© Stephen Bailey 2018.

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