Monday 29th February 2016
POWERS FOR A PURPOSE
Last week was a good week for devolution.
After months of negotiations the Scottish and UK Governments finally hammered out a financial deal which will deliver a package of new powers to Holyrood.
As a result Scotland will have one of the most powerfully devolved Parliament’s in the world with substantial control over welfare, borrowing and taxation.
However, we shouldn’t get over excited just yet. Devolving powers is one thing, how we use those powers is the real challenge.
However, last Wednesday, the Scottish Government failed to meet this challenge. It was presented with a choice.
On the one hand it could choose to go ahead with its £500m cuts to local government funding and the education budget.
On the other, it could use the new powers coming to Holyrood to raise income tax by 1p in the pound, in order to raise enough money to stop these cuts from going ahead.
This plan would have come at no extra cost to those on low incomes and would have protected vital public services including our schools.
Unfortunately for Scotland and the prospects of our young people the Scottish Government chose the former.
The cuts will translate into fewer teachers, bigger class sizes and fewer opportunities for our young people.
As Union members campaigning outside Holyrood on Wednesday said, it will also result in thousands of job losses.
While this may have been a good week for Devolution, it was not necessarily a good week for the Scottish Parliament.
It’s not enough just to have powers for powers sake. Only when the Scottish Parliament uses its powers for a purpose will it reach its true potential.