Don’t be feart! Scotland won’t be sued!

The SNP and its supporters seem to be getting increasingly contorted trying to explain why the party won’t clearly come out in favour of banning unconventional gas extraction. Over the last year the party and its faithful supporters have ducked and dived trying to give reasons why Scotland is going to have to put up with being fracked. This is very odd from a party whose supporters were fired up to campaign against fracking and TTIP (of which more later) after the Independence Referendum in 2014.

Firstly there was the argument that this was something we couldn’t do anything about. The SNP would love to stop fracking, but simply couldn’t. That argument was starting to get some traction until it was pointed out by this blog amongst others that actually Scottish Government could ban fracking through the planning system using the same approach as it used to ban new nuclear power stations.

So the Scottish Government wriggled and squirmed and was pushed into introducing a temporary moratorium firstly on fracking, then on unconventional gas extraction onshore. However initially this ban didn’t include the most risky technology, underground coal gasification which was proposed for coal seams under the Forth and Solway estuaries. Apparently this was “offshore” and so not within Scottish jurisdiction, but something controlled by Westminster. And while of course the SNP would love to ban it they couldn’t. Then it was pointed out that estuaries do not qualify as being “offshore” and were regulated by Marine Scotland, and that anyway Scotland could use the planning system to prevent the onshore infracture needed to bring the gas ashore. Another awkward silence followed by a retreat, and underground coal gasification was included in the moratorium.

So we were at the stage where we have gone from being unable to do anything to having a temporary moratorium on all forms of unconventional gas extraction (although test drilling was still allowed). Quite a change! But how long was this moratorium to last? Until research was done. How long would that be? Around the end of May 2016 (conveniently after the Holyrood elections). But as the Inquiry progressed it was decided that it would need until the end of May 2017 (conveniently after the council elections and into a two year period with no elections). The Inquiry trundles on worthly accumulating journal papers, case studies, and focus group output which mirrors that already collected elsewhere e.g by New York State to support its fracking ban.

Grass roots SNP activists tried to get conventional gas on the debated at the SNP’s 2015 annual conference, but for reasons best known to themselves the leadership choose not to include it in the agenda despite the huge interest in the issue.

Yesterday the newly elected Holyrood Parliament debated fracking in one of its first debates. An amended motion was passed in which the Parliament voted to ban fracking. What a great opportunity for the SNP to show it’s commitment to protect Scotland from this damaging technology! Only unfortunately they didn’t. They abstained en masse and the motion was passed by a concerted effort from Labour, the Scottish Greens and the Lib Dems to vote down the Tory opposition.

So why did the SNP abstain from voting on something which they say that they support? Ah, well, it’s not easy being a government! Why, you’re so powerless that you might get sued by a nasty big company (or even a nasty small company!). This is a problem which has beset Scottish Government in the past. Er… Not! There has only been one attempt to sue Scottish Government for passing laws on areas which are with its remit, when Axa Insurance got unhappy at the thought that it might be forced to pay out to people whose lungs have been affected by asbestos. That action was soundly thrown about by the UK Supreme Court when the judges ruled that it was not “irrational” for the Scottish Parliament to pass laws designed to ensure the well being of its citizens.

Aha though! Those trying to defend the SNP were quick to cite various other cases where governments have been sued by (mostly American) corporations for passing laws they didn’t like. Ecuador, Argentina, El Salvador, Ghana, Phillippines, Ukraine, Germany, Canada. But hang on! All of these countries were sued by organisations based outside their borders which were able to take action as a result of free trade agreements which included a mechanism called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). In ISDS agreements governments sign away some of the rights of their parliament in return for access to markets. Although small countries might see these sort of deals as being good for business by allowing them to trade free with countries like the US they generally end up with the small countries’ interests getting squashed by the larger ones.

Fortunately neither the UK nor Scotland (as foreign trade agreements are not devolved) is party to such deals, although the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being negotiated by the EU could allow this in future. So actually, no government of a country or federal state in a similar situation to Scotland has ever been sued by a company for passing laws. Philip Morris and BAT have not sued Scotland for being the first part of the UK to ban smoking in public places, the nuclear industry has not sued Scotland for banning new nuclear power stations, Scotland has been able to legislate to protect workers and the environment without being sued, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that it would be sued if it banned unconventional gas extraction. No one has sued New York State or France for banning fracking. Why would Scotland be any different?

The one game changer would be if the UK signed up to a TTIP agreement which included ISDS before Scotland enacted a ban on unconventional gas extraction. In that case we’d be in the same position as Ecudor, Argentina, El Salvador, Ghana, the Phillippines, Ukraine, Germany and Canada. This is why we need a ban now, not at some unspecified point in the future when we might have lost the power we do it because of an ill-advised trade treaty.

That leaves the only line left to those trying to defend the SNP’s abstention to be claiming a bizarre and complex conspiracy theory in which Labour put a motion banning fracking because actually they wanted to make it easier to frack. This 2 + 2 = 5 logic claims that any motion to ban fracking which wasn’t put by the only true defenders of Scotland must be bad and dangerous, and could only have been proposed specifically to let Scotland be sued (which we know is very unlikely to happen) or possibly transported to the planet Zarg by Zargons clad in the union jack.

So, kicking and screaming, the SNP Government have moved from claiming to be powerless to stop fracking, to having a moratorium in place backed by a parliamentary vote to ban fracking. The legislation putting this ban into “legalese” will be developed over the next few months, and will then be voted on by the Parliament. Will the SNP show themselves to be keen to protect Scotland’s people, its environment and its world leading emissions reduction targets or will it abstain or vote it down the bill enacting yesterday’s motion? Here’s hoping sense prevails over profit!

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Why I wore two poppies today


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I wore two poppies to today. Let me explain why.

Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on the devastation caused by war. I think the scale of this first became clear to me as a teenager driving through northern France. It was night, and there was a thunder storm. As we drove through the area around Arras, the lightening echoed the bombardments of the first World War. We passed field after field of neatly ranked crosses, the graves of those who died in the first world war campaigns around the Somme.

My grandfather was conscripted into the army during the first World War took a role as a stretcher bearer. I have a chocolate tin which was sent to him by “the Lord Mayor and Citizens of Bristol [where he grew up]” to wish him “Good Luck in the New Year and a safe return home”. Inside the tin are various mementos: his badges from the Gloster regiment, great coat buttons, and a Red Cross medal. But the thing which chokes me up every time is the bell. A wee brass bell like you might get on a ribbon round a teddy bear’s neck. A wee brass bell that stretcher bearers carried so that those who had been blinded by mustard gas could hear them coming and move towards them. This is the futility of war. There are also other things in the tin. A medal with an Italian ribbon, and an epaulette that doesn’t come from a British Army uniform. What are they doing there? I don’t really know, but my guess is that they might be things entrusted to the stretcher bearer to by casualties, perhaps as a thank you or perhaps in the hope that they could be sent on to their families. This is the humanity and the tragedy of war.

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The traditional red poppy became part of our remembrance in 1921 to raise funds for those harmed by the first world war. Yes, the fund is named after the odious General Haig, but the work it does for disabled ex-service personnel is valuable and necessary. Particularly when we have a government which is quick send forces into conflicts of dubious legality, and reluctant to properly care for those who are harmed physically and mentally as a result. I am happy to to buy my red poppy to support this cause, although it galls to see the hypocracy of Cameron, Blair et al as they lay poppy wreaths at the cenotaph in expensive coats. Full of faux remorse for the results of their decisions, they try to conflate the futility of war with some concept of patriotism and national glory.

Those who sign up for the military don’t get to say which wars they fight. In most cases they don’t sign up because they’re spoiling to fight. A relative’s only son was killed in Afghanistan a couple of years ago. He was 18. He came from Stoke on Trent. The job prospects for young people in Stoke are pretty much zero, so he joined the army to get out and get a trade. He paid the price for living a country which doesn’t value our people enough to give them decent prospects. Hundreds of others who sign up see the army as a way to escape no-hope towns and get a trade. With a bit of luck they’ll get an HGV licence or an HNC in catering without running up huge student debts. Surely we can do better for our young people than this?

The white poppy then? The peace poppy. What does that say? It says no more. Never again. We can do better. It is not disrespecting those harmed by war to say this. It what many of those who have fought would say. They know that they have seen things that they would not wish anyone else to see. They know that while there can be bravery in war there is no glory. My grandfather made it back from the first world war in one piece and was then an active fund-raiser for the Red Cross because it was an organisation which worked to end suffering regardless nationality. I think he would have approved of both poppies.

Good moon rising.

Back in September I had a dramatic drive back from Dumfries after the last Indy Ref meeting I spoke at. With a big full moon I drove down the Dalveen Pass with the lights off and the moonlight glinting off the Elvanwater.

On Friday morning I drove back from the general election count after Scotland said No to Tory austerity and a Labour party which has become riddled by Blairism and self-interest into a spectacular sunrise on the new order of the UK. Here’s the blog post I wrote for RIC D&G back in Sept.

Radical Independence Dumfries & Galloway

So today we reached the last RIC D&G meeting before Indy Ref. Lochside Social club on the edge of Dumfries, with myself, Willie MacDonald, Cat Boyd and Robin McAlpine on the panel. It’s been a long, rollercoast of a campaign the last 18 months or so since the first meeting I spoke at (also with Robin) and the first meeting to set up RIC D&G (also with Cat) which was almost a joke back then given the generally un-radical nature of Dumfriesshire.

Over those 18 months we’ve variously laughed, hugged, shoved leaflets through letterboxes, got jobs, got rained on, become unemployed, run stalls, moved house, held meetings, thrown water at each other (you wait till next year’s Biggar Gala Mr McAlpine!), canvassed, fished cars out of ditches (thanks Gannit!), and above all discovered that we were capable of more than we ever imagined! We’ve had long serious discussions about justice…

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Rejuvenating the South of Scotland

The South of Scotland is big, beautiful and it’s dying, or at least it’s age profile suggests that it’s heading that way.

Borderlands – Our Future a report on issues facing the South of Scotland (defined as the UK parliamentary constituencies of Dumfries and Galloway; Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale and Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) published this week by the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee highlights some of the issues: an ageing population, poorly paid jobs and poor infrastructure. It examines the problems facing the region, and comes up with some solutions which go in the right direction, but don’t seem to provide the step changes to which are really needed to revitalise the region.

Compared to the Scotland overall the population in the South of Scotland is older, and in particular there is a dearth of people aged 16 – 44 while over a quarter of the population are over 60.  This is the opposite of cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow where proportions of the population are in their twenties and thirties. Sustainable communities need to have reasonably balanced populations, and the demographics of the South of Scotland, and rural Scotland in general are becoming unsustainable. In Galloway and West Dumfries just over half of the population is of working age compared to 60 % in Scotland as a whole and 65 % in Glasgow. The problem isn’t that there are too many older people in rural areas, its that there are too few young ones.

Age profiles

Policies to address this tend to focus on creating more jobs and training in rural areas, without looking at why young people are leaving. Jobs are only part of the problem – for people in their teens and twenties social life is also important. Perhaps the nick-name for the region “Boredomlands” gives a clue – many young people there’s not much going on for them – sports and social facilities are limited; public transport is poor and more of less non-existent in the evenings –  a night out means having a car and not driving. As friends move into cities to work or study those remaining become increasingly isolated.

In many cases young people leave the area to study before they start to look for jobs permanent jobs Once they’ve gone they don’t come back quickly. One of the things which could be game-changing in keeping young people in the South would be to create a University of the South of Scotland. This is idea was supported by the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce in their evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee. We do have some higher education in the South of Scotland with an outpost of Heriot Watt University at Galashiels, a mixed bag of courses from the University of the West of Scotland, the Open University and an outpost of Glasgow University at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries, plus bits of Scotland’s Rural College around Dumfries, but in all cases these are minor outposts not full blown universities based in the region and focussed on it. They’re all pretty small, teaching a limited range of subjects and not attracting the critical mass of students needed to be able to offering the wider social and cultural life associated with city universities. What the South of Scotland needs is a proper university offering a full range of subjects, beyond the current offering of “things to do with sheep and farming”. Young people in the South have as much right to learn about culture, languages, science and engineering as anyone else! A good university in the South of Scotland could not only enable young people to stay in the region, but could attract students from elsewhere in Scotland, the UK and Europe.

Not only would a university for the South of Scotland help young people to stay in the area, it would bring high skilled, well paid work in teaching and research as well as a range of supporting jobs and potentially also spin off companies. Students who have studied in the area would be more likely to settle there and start businesses of their own.

Of course if young people are to attend a local university they need to be able to get to it! It is almost impossible to reach Dumfries or Gala by public transport in time for a normal working day from areas which might be expected to be in their catchment, although it is possible to get to Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Scottish Affairs Committee report recognises that public transport needs to be improved, but focusses it attention on extending the new Borders railway from Tweedbank on to Hawick and Carlisle. This is the sort of big, expensive infrastructure project which governments like, but while the proposal is welcome, it neglects the more fundamental need for local public transport. Without connecting bus services most residents can’t reach Gala, Tweedbank or Hawick without driving! The need for public transport brings us back to the ageing population. Pensioners are disproportionate users of public transport, perhaps because they have free access to it, perhaps because they can no longer drive for themselves of perhaps simply because they have more time. However for them to use public transport there must be frequent and accessible services for them to use.

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Some of the other recommendations in the report are pretty obvious: employers everywhere should be paying a living wage and high speed broadband and mobile phone coverage are becoming increasing essential for individuals and business and should be rolled out in the South of Scotland as soon as possible. The need for better cross-border working with the north of England is highlighted, but there is no discussion of potential opportunities from improved links with Northern Ireland and the Republic which could benefit the southwest Scotland. Although the report is welcome as far as it goes, it is disappointing that rural housing, access to land and diversifying the economy are not touched on.

Housing is a particular problem, as high house prices couples with low wages price many people out of the communities which they grew up in. Planning rules to do not favour house building in rural areas, while the housing stock is increasingly bought up for use as second homes, holiday houses and by people retiring to the area. There is an urgent need for affordable and social housing to be built in rural areas and planning rules need to be rethought to allow this. Improving the right of communities to buy or control the land around them could help with this.

Agricultural, forestry and fishing activities inextricably linked with rural areas, but actually only employ about 4% of the workforce. The largest employers in the South of Scotland are the retail sector and healthcare and social services. Manufacturing supports a surprisingly high proportion of the population – at nearly 9 % this is more than in Glasgow. It is not clear from Scottish Government data what this includes, but traditional industries such as textiles and food process will fall into this as well as some agricultural engineering. A better understanding of what this manufacturing involves could enable it to be supported better.

The South of Scotland and its people have enormous potential, but our young people are our future – we cannot afford to lose them!

References

Data on age distribution and industry profiles taken from the 2011 census http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/ods-web/area.html

An Out of Touch Budget from an Out of Touch Government

If the UK Government thought that they would be able to buy votes with their new budget for the rich and middle England it doesn’t seem to be working with their proposals being criticised by everyone from the Telegraph to the Greens. The Tories’ coalition partners the Lib Dems don’t seem to know whether they are criticising the budget or supporting it. This morning it was all over their website that the budget was a great thing and full of Lib Dem ideas (unfortunately I didn’t take a screen shot). This evening as it became apparent that just about everyone was unimpressed, Danny Alexander their Chief Secretary to the Treasury appeared with a yellow box and announced an alternative Lib Dem budget.

Fundamentally the problem is that the budget is built on a fixation with reducing public borrowing, but right now the cost of borrowing is lower than it’s ever been and any borrowing would lock in these low interest rates in fixed rate bonds for decades. If ever there was a time to invest in publicly funded infrastructure it is now! Not only would borrowing to invest mean that we got the infrastructure upgrades we need at rock bottom prices it would also create jobs taking people out of unemployment and back into the tax base as well as giving them dignity and self-respect and keeping their families fed.

We need to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, upgrading the railways, rural broadband, the NHS, educating people and in our community assets. Apart from investment to improve rail services to SW England there’s nothing, and I suspect the money for the SW is only coming because the line washed into the sea a last winter leaving Cornwall with no direct public tranport links to the capital (and possibly also because the SW is one of the last bastions of the Lib Dems and something they will be desparately trying to hang on to!) Instead the budget continues asset strip the country and cut already over stretched budgets. This is so short sighted! Does the UK Government really think that in 10 or 20 years time companies will be rushing to invest here when our roads are full or potholes, our trains overcrowded and broadband plods through the cables like a tortoise? Probably they don’t care as sitting in their off shore tax havens in the sun so it will be irrelevant.

Is there anything good in the budget? Well, there are some steps to close down some tax loop holes, evasion and avoidance, and some increased taxation on bank profits, although more probably could be done.

Increased funding for mental health services, particularly services for young people is welcome, but we also need to look at why people are suffering for mental ill health in the first place. If people are suffering because the services they need are being cut; they don’t have a job or they have having to cover the workload of colleagues whose posts have been increasing mental health services is treating the symptom not the cause.

Income tax thresholds have increased, but this doesn’t help the least well off who don’t pay income tax anyway. If you’re using a foodbank or an apprentice working for £2.73 an hour this won’t help you! There has been no reduction in VAT rates which would have helped these people. And it’s hard to understand why the top tax band has been raised faster than inflation (except of course, that those at the top have not been restricting themselves to below inflation wage increases).

There’s some investment in new technology: £500 million for science and technology, a paultry £8 million to support the video games industry, £60m to support a “National Energy Catapault” in Birmingham; £100m for driverless cars (its unclear whether these would still use fossil fuels, and if I was a truck driver I’d be starting to worry about my job!) but all this pales into insignificance compared to £1.3 BILLION in tax cuts for the oil and gas industry. Yes, those highly profitable oil and gas companies! The days of fossil fuels are numbered. North Sea oil is running out, and if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change we cannot afford to continue to burn fossil fuels. Instead of giving away more money to oil companies who are increasingly indulging in “rent seeking” behaviour – threatening to leave the country if they don’t get a pay off – we should be investing in renewables and in upgrading the electricity supply network.

Yet again the fuel duty escalator has been frozen. This tax was supposed to increase annually to incentivise people to switch away from fossil fuels. Instead its been frozen for years. “Rural motorists” are always cited as people who benefit from this, but in fact the main beneficiaries are likely to be haulage companies. Rural fuel prices are high, but they could be tackled in other ways – investing in public transport would be a start! Other measures could include mandatory limits on fuel prices to ensure that rural prices are not hiked above the prices in areas where there is more competition or some sort of fuel voucher system for people in areas with poor public transport and high fuel prices. Blanket freezing of the fuel duty escalator benefits people in urban areas as much as rural ones, and given that there are more people in urban areas they benefit most.

The budget continues to sell off assets which the public have bailed out and made profitable, so instead of keeping the profits now being made by Lloyds we’re selling it along with the government share of Northern Rock’s and Bradford and Bingley’s mortgages. We pick up the tab in the bad times but don’t keep a share of the profits in good times. Where’s the sense in that?

Of course we can lift our glass to cuts in excise duty for the Scotch whisky industry! Is this a major employer in Scotland? It’s difficult to find the figures, but compared to the NHS or councils probably not. But it sounds so tartan and iconically Scottish. How could any Government which so enthusiastically supports the Scotch whisky industry be accused of being focussed in SE England?

There are many areas of taxation which don’t get a mention: inheritance tax, capital gains tax and corporation tax are conspicuously absent. But hey, what would “ordinary people” know about these – they’re only paid by the rich so we mustn’t raise them!

So what about public spending? Nothing is said about key areas of spending: benefits and the NHS don’t get a mention, but given the spending targets and tax give aways these will have to suffer swinging cuts. But never mind we can cheer ourselves with the thought that £1 million will be spent to celebrate the battle of Agincourt (that’s bound to bring in lots of tourists from France!) and an additional £40 million will be added to the fund to replace church roofs.

In summary an out of touch budget from an out of touch government!

Infrastructure Bill: What’s really happened?

This is going to be bit of a dry post, but I’m concerned that there’s a lot of political posturing going on in Scotland about yesterday’s debate on the UK Infrastructure Bill which I think is really unhelpful to understanding where we are with this in Scotland. Some clarity is needed on what’s actually be said and not point scoring which detracts from the whole issue. Things aren’t good, but they are not perhaps as bad as they are being made out to be in some quarters. I think it’s important that those of us who oppose unconventional gas extraction don’t decide that everything is lost before it is, and that the main goal is not lost in political name calling between Labour and the SNP (neither of whom have come out as being clearly against unconventional gas extraction).

Being a bit sad, I have had a trawl through the Hansard record on yesterday’s debate on the Infrastructure Bill. This has clarified a few points about what was and was not said about devolving onshore gas licencing in Scotland.

There were several key amendments proposed to the part of the Bill related to gas extraction (Part 5, Sections 37 – 44) :

1) An amendment to the Bill which aimed to bring forward devolution of gas licencing.
2) An amendment calling for a GB wide moratorium on unconventional gas
3) An amendment proposing various additional restrictions on unconventional gas extraction.
4) An amendment to require Defra to publish a report on the effect of unconventional gas on rural communities.
5) Amendments to exempt Scotland from provisions to allow drilling under people’s property without their permission (because actually, Westminster can’t change trepass law in Scotland and they know it!)

The amendment to bring forward devolution of gas licencing was defeated, but the UK Government were still maintaining that they intend to do this as recommended by the Smith Commission along with other Smith recommendations. It is not ideal that this is delayed, but it is not the end of the road for this, and we need to keep on the pressure to ensure that this is devolved, not start fighting each other! For the record Labour voted for this amendment.

The amendment calling for the GB wide moratorium was defeated. Labour abstained, but it would not have passed even if they hadn’t. However Scottish Government could still use the Scottish planning system to set up a moratorium until such time as the Smith commission legislation devolves licencing and the use its powers over licencing to set a full moratorium.

The amendment proposing additional restrictions was passed.

The amendments exempting Scotland from provisions to allow drilling under people’s property without their permission were passed.

The amendment calling for Defra to publish the report on the effects of unconventional gas on rural communities was rejected. The Government’s response on this was pure flannel and stinks of a cover up.

So where from here?

  • Keep up the pressure in Westminster to fully implement Smith and kick up merry hell if they don’t.
  • Keep up pressure on Holyrood to use they powers which Scotland already has to stop unconventional gas extraction.
  • Ask what the hell are Defra trying to cover up in the report on effects on rural communities.
  • And have a small celebration that there can be no drilling under property without consent in Scotland (which will actually make it very difficult to extraction unconventional gas under much of Scotland), and also that the UK wide regulation has got slightly tighter. We’ve a long way to go, but every little helps!

Thoughts on the Smith Commission proposals

Looked through the Smith Commission report. Better than expected on some things, but as expected inadequate on taxation and it was never going to offer the power to scrap Trident.

It’s all very well to devolve new powers, but without the revenue to fund new activities Scottish Government will be fighting with one hand behind its back and will be forever having to rob one sector to pay for improvements in another.

Also there are a lot of sections which talk about UK government having greater rights to be consulted, or represented in decision making. How much difference this makes depends on how seriously the views which Scottish Government put forward are taken. We’ve all seen “consultations” which do little more than go through the motions and rubber stamp decisions which have already been made, but some consultations can be good and bring about real changes.

Anyway I’ll start with the things I like first:

Good things:
1) Enshrining the Scottish Parliament as a permanent institution.
2) Looking at mechanisms to oversee the power of the Parliament. However good the initial intentions of a party, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, so we need to have a mechanism for scrutinising majority governments. I don’t have the solution to what this must be, and certainly not anything like the House of Lords or groups of undemocratically selected “worthies”, but we need something to make sure that rules are being followed.
3) Giving the Parliament the power to give votes to 16 and 17 year olds.
4) More powers over election spending limits which could help to stop the rich buying themselves into power through greater advertising etc.
5) Requirement for formal processes to improve communication and consultation between UK and Scottish Governments.
6) Requirement for Scottish Ministers to be involved in EU negotiations on devolved matters and be allowed to speak at EU meetings where Scotland has the predominant interest in the matter being discussed.
7) Transferring responsibility for and income from the Crown Estate in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament.
8) Scottish Government and Parliament to be formally consulted about a new BBC charter
9) Scottish Government and Parliament to be formally consulted on priorities for OFCOM relating to telecommunications e.g rural broadband, wifi etc and postal services. This could improve rural broadband and wifi as well as protecting rural communities from high costs for postal and courier services.
10) A greater role for Scotland in designing incentives for renewables – this is an important industry for Scotland and we need to be able to assist it, although it would have also helped for regulation of the electricity grid to be devolved.
11) Devolution of some benefits, power to create new benefits and the power to vary “bedroom tax” (including persumably the power to vary it to nothing).
12) Power for public sector organisations to bid for rail franchises.
13) Power to design energy efficiency schemes, although it would have been better if the power to raise funding for them was also devolved.
14) Devolution of onshore gas exploration licences (although I’m not sure how this will work as licences for the most likely parts of Scotland have already been offered by DECC).
15) Borrowing powers for Scotland to allow investment and financial stability.

Bad things:
1) No taxes other than income tax will be devolved nor will National Insurance. The richest people in society earn money in ways which is not taxable via income tax, and income tax is a difficult tax for governments to raise, which may limit the funds which Scottish Government can raise to support action with new devolved powers.I can see no reason why capital gains and inheritance tax could not be devolved.
2) The fact that income raised through increases in income tax will be clawed back from block grant, so what’s the point?
3) The fact that income tax on the savings of Scottish residents is not devolved.
4) Not all benefits will be devolved.
5) We’re not going to be able to get rid of Trident or have a say in whether or not the UK takes military action.
6) The regulation of the electricity grid in Scotland will not be devolved.
7) The fact that Scottish MPs still have the right to comment on things such as Bills to control filming on Highways in Northamptonshire is ridiculous.
8) While we retain the Barnett Formula public spending trends in Scotland will be tied to those in rUK.

Although outwith the scope of the commission I also think it is welcome that they have recognised that devolution should not stop at Holyrood and there is need to increase the devolution of power within Scotland.