Friday, 28 February 2014

Douglas - It's what you do with what you've got that matters.

Douglas Alexander has gotten a lot of publicity in advance of a speech tonight where he will advocate more powers for the Scottish Parliament. Mr Alexander urges Labour's devoiution commission to 'range widely and act boldly'. But he should remember, it's not devolving powers that is bold - it's using them.

The speech is of course part of the referendum campaign. But given that much of that has been at the level of Eddi Reader v Bowie ... and not so much perfect as a godawful small affair. It should probably be welcomed.

Not that UNISON is advocating for support for either side - UNISON has not as yet formed a view about what option is the best in the independence referendum. We are looking at both sides and challenging them to show how their priorities match up with our longstanding policies and priorities. These are outlined in A Fairer Scotland. But with the parties advocating a no vote developing plans for further devolution we've also put forward our proposals as to how we'd like to see that go; we've outlined those in A Fairer Scotland and Devolution. So when Mr A calls for expanding devo to mean "considering taxation, employment and skills policy or indeed the responsibilities of the Crown Estates, or the running of elections" we should be glad that he's catching up with us.

More powers are fine, good, even welcome. But if its a different Scotland we want, it's what is done with those powers that matters. As the STUC have pointed out at length and in detail in their second A Just Scotland report. There is plenty that could be done now. Never mind with the extra powers that will be coming under the Scotland Act, or the further powers that would come with independence. There are many areas where what's been missing hasn't been constitutional authority but political will.

Mr Alexander obviously wants to make an impact and build support for his side in the referendum. It's not our place to help him with that - but here is some advice (that applies every bit as much to his opponents). Perhaps he should say not what powers he wants the parliament to have - but what he wants to see done with them..

It's only a thought, but most UNISON members will probably be more interested in what he intends doing for people - rather than what he wants to see done to Parliament. His boss Ed Miliband has talked a lot recently (and accurately) about a 'cost of living crisis. If Mr Alexander gives us a bit of detail on how he would use more powers to tackle that - it might hold attention a wee bit more than proposals for institutional engineering.

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