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Smith Commission: New plan to break up Britain

The Scottish parliament building in Holyrood, Edinburgh.

The Smith Commission was set up on 19 September, the day after the Scottish referendum. Despite the “no” result, the brief was to continue the break up of Britain by further devolution.

The Commission was a purely Scottish affair, developing proposals that were neither the subject of the referendum, nor included in any party manifesto. The predictable result announced on 26 November was that the Scottish parliament will become permanent and will be given many more powers to raise tax and to control welfare spending.

Crucially Smith also recommended that the block grant of funding from the UK government will be adjusted, but with no detriment to Scotland. The result was a string of “me-too” claims that English regions should also have more powers and greater funding. And in the Autumn Statement the following week Chancellor Osborne announced a reduced company tax rate for northern Ireland.

These fundamental changes to public finances will affect the whole of Britain. Yet the whole of Britain has not been given a say. It’s time to ask why not. Shamefully, the Scottish TUC called for even greater devolved powers than Smith announced. Grahame Smith, Scottish Trades Union Congress General Secretary said in response to the recommendations: “Whilst there are certainly positive elements in these proposals, we are underwhelmed by the package as a whole which does not meet our aspirations.”

The aspirations of workers across Britain will not be met by dividing our country into ever smaller localised fiefdoms. That would also weaken us in our fight against the EU and the destruction being wrought by the European Single Market, worsening the problems we face – loss of jobs, falling pay, threats to the NHS. To be successful, British workers have to stand together as a whole nation.