05 September 2008

That old slippery slope

Perhaps it was inevitable. Maybe Gordon Brown had no choice but to bow to overwhelming pressure. But, by indicating that he will not stand in the way of increased fiscal powers for Holyrood, it is certainly the case that a rubicon has been crossed. Increasingly, it looks as if - all those years ago - Tam Dalyell was right to describe devolution as a motorway with no exits.

And is there a ledge on the slippery slope where one can stand firm and say 'this far and no further'? Can a parliament be partly responsible for raising the financial resources for whose spending it is wholly accountable? (I appreciate that this is the situation in which local authorities find themselves - but their obvious subservience to their paymaster would be intolerable for a body with the pretensions of Holyrood.)

So, if the status quo is no longer an option, we end up with a choice between a big bang independence heralded by the proposed 2010 referendum and a creeping, evolutionary, de facto independence, with the latter shorn (at least for the foreseeable future) of some of the external trappings of a nation state (such as a place at the Brussels table, and without guns and aircraft carriers).

Is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? I don't know. I will need to think on it.

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