An Analysis of the 2014 Smith Commission Report Provides Irrefutable Confirmation That Scots Are Sold Short By the Incorrectly Titled Scottish Unionist MSP’s

 

 

 

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Devolution powers shelved at the last minute from Smith Commission report

New powers were formally committed to in the heavily promoted Unionist “Vow” made in the last few days before the 2014 independence referendum.

The Smith Commission Panel subsequently agreed to a full devolution of abortion law, the creation of a separate Scottish Health & Safety Executive, lotteries, asylum and a much greater say in the governance of the BBC.

Devolution of income tax personal allowances, bands and rates, employers’ National Insurance contributions, inheritance tax, the power to create new taxes without Treasury approval and a raft of other taxes were also agreed.

But all of the foregoing changes were axed, in the final day, at the instigation of Unionist parties, without explanation.

 

 

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So what happened?

There were nine cross-party meetings over seven weeks prior to the publication of a agreed draft of “Heads of Agreement” proposals on 21 November 2014.

It was later confirmed that Commission panel members of Unionist persuasion, MSP members of political parties incorporated in Scotland and allegedly independent of Westminster were frequently on the phone taking instructions from their UK party leaders in London, with the LibDems and Tories particularly exercised about welfare proposals and Labour more focused on tax.

The Commission chairman, Lord Smith of Kelvin, also gave impression he added weight to the views of the three main Westminster parties over panel members.

A source said: “The position that Lord Smith took was that if the parties who were either in the current UK government or might be in the next refused to budge on something, he went with it. The Unionist votes counted for more.”

The BBC inadvertently revealed that the draft version of the agreement included late proposals submitted by the Scottish lib/Dem leader, to devolve power to vary Universal Credit a key plank of the Westminster Coalition government welfare reform. But the commitment to permit the Scottish government to vary its components were dropped after the UK Cabinet was informed.

Universal Credit is supposed to merge Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Employment and Support Allowance. Only a power to vary the housing cost element remained.

The decision to devolve abortion policy had been agreed on a 4-1 basis, with only Labour opposed to it. In the draft version of the report dated 11.15am on November 26 – the final day of negotiations – stated: “Powers over abortion will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.” But throughout that same day, Labour kept pushing its opposition in one-to-one meetings with Lord Smith, who then raised it again with the other parties. The Tory members then sided with Labour and the commitment to devolve abortion was removed.

Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, who sat on the Commission, said: “The reaction against devolving abortion in the final few days surprised and disappointed me. Concerns that Scotland would do the wrong thing and undermine women’s rights are misplaced. The real threat to women’s reproductive rights comes from the voice we hear at Westminster.”

The draft also stated: “Power to establish a separate Scottish Health & Safety Executive to set enforcement priorities, goals and objectives in Scotland will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The body would be required to operate within the reserved UK health & safety framework but would assess, set and achieve the health and safety objectives of most relevance and importance to Scotland.”

The policy, long supported by Labour and the trade union movement in Scotland was struck out and relegated to the “additional issues” annex of the final report, which said the Scottish and UK governments should merely “consider” changes.

Also included was an agreement that: “The power to permit the creation and regulation of new lotteries in Scotland will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”

But the final report devolved only the power to “prevent the proliferation” of highly addictive gaming machines known as fixed-odds betting terminals.

Also missing from the final draft was a statement that had said: “There will be greater Scottish involvement in BBC governance beyond the current right to have one Trust member and the current Audience Council Scotland.”

 

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And a year later

SNP’s leader in the Commons, Angus Robertson, asked David Cameron about “The Vow”, stating:

“One year ago today, to the day, the Prime Minister made a “Vow” to the people of Scotland. Promises were made to deliver Home Rule and as-near-to-federalism-as-possible.

However, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown now says that the UK Government is, and I quote, “falling short on the delivery of the recommendations of the Smith Commission on Scottish devolution”. When will the Prime Minister deliver on the promises that he made to the people of Scotland?

 

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Scottish Politicical Handling of Sexual Harassment Charges – Tory Party Closes Ranks and Supports Miles Briggs – But Another Politician Is Hung Out to Dry

 

 

 

Miles

 

 

Miles Briggs answers sexual harassment charge

Miles Briggs, Tory (list) MSP says he has been through a “living hell” after being cleared of sexual harassment following a party disciplinary hearing into the claims. He insisted that the accusations made by a female worker with another party were “completely false.”

But the woman behind the claims says she was “sad and angry” at the way the Tories handled the claims and suggested the outcome of the hearing had been decided beforehand.

Sandy Brindley, from Rape Crisis Scotland, who has been representing the woman, slammed the Tories’ handling of the complaint. She said:

“This is why women are reluctant to come forward with sexual harassment complaints. In our view the Scottish Conservatives need to urgently change their approach to investigating sexual harassment complaints. This is not about party politics, it’s about ensuring that anyone experiencing sexual harassment feels able to come forward and expect fair treatment if they do.”

Campaign groups warned that the Conservatives’ procedure was “inappropriate” and will deter women coming forward with harassment claims.

The four-person panel who heard the complaints comprised two men and two women and was chaired by advocate Leonard Wallace. Mary Bain, Gavin Scott and Councillor Shona Haslam also sat on the panel.

It had initially been proposed that Briggs would be able to “cross examine” the complainants version of events, although the Tories agreed to drop this.

But although this line of questioning had been dropped, the complainant still faced the prospect of cross-examination from the chair of the committee who would put Briggs’ questions to her.

A written statement was instead provided by the complainant along with written statement from two persons backing her version of events. Briggs gave oral evidence together with a supporter.

The “adversarial” approach of the panel came under fire from Rape Crisis Scotland who said it was “not appropriate” for a case of this nature.

 

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Setting the Scene

Briggs admitted that at a flat party in Edinburgh he had got embroiled in a heated argument with the complainant (in the course of which he called her a “crazy bitch,”) about the Tory so-called “rape clause” policy of cutting off benefits to mothers unless they proved conception of a third child occurred through rape.

Admitting he had been drinking but was not intoxicated he said he  had left the party 20 minutes after arrival since he was catching a flight to London the next morning at 6:30am

He insisted his behaviour on the night did not “fall short” of that expected of an MSP.

In written submissions, two witnesses backed the complainant and said Briggs had, “wrapped himself around her” and was “playing with her hair” and that she she had looked extremely uncomfortable.

Briggs supplied written statements from individuals rebutting the claims.

 

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His Twitter apology to the complainant.  But he told the panel he was fully “compos mentis”

 

 

Miles Briggs complainant sad and angry at process and outcome

In an interview shortly after the complainant said she was appalled that Mr Briggs could be exonerated without evidence from her and two witnesses to the alleged harassment being heard.

The three had refused to appear before the committee on the advice of Rape Crisis Scotland on the grounds that the process was “flawed”.

In particular, she objected to the “adversarial” approach under which herself and her witnesses were to undergo “cross-examination”.

Rape Crisis Scotland had called for the process to be more of a fact-finding exercise similar to that now adopted by the Scottish Parliament, but says the Scottish Conservatives refused to back down.

The complainant said she agonized over whether or not to report the incident, but had been losing sleep.

When she first wrote to Ruth Davidson, she says her main priority was to avoid publicity.

She claims before she sent the letter, she met party director Lord Mark McInnes to seek reassurance, and was told she would be protected and Mr Briggs would be suspended pending a hearing. This never happened.

Later she says it became clear the disciplinary committee was not treating the complaint with sufficient rigour. It took more than a month to get a response from Briggs.

“No-one asked us to provide witness statements – Rape Crisis Scotland had to say to them, don’t you want them? And no-one kept in touch about the progress of the case – we heard very little until a week and a half ago when Rape Crisis Scotland was told I would have to submit to direct questioning by Miles.”

After chief executive Sandy Brindley intervened, the party agreed to ask Briggs if he would be willing to leave the room and allow the complainant to be questioned by the chairman. He agreed, but all other witnesses were expected to give their evidence in his presence.

The Complainant said she was not comfortable being questioned on the basis of Briggs’ statement which she had not seen.

Rape Crisis Scotland sought clarification on the gender composition of the committee and reassurance that its members had undergone sexual harassment training. It says it got neither and advised the complainant and her witnesses not to attend.

Summarizing the complainant said:

“I am gutted that Miles has been found to have done nothing wrong. I am sad and angry that the process was so terrible that it felt as though this end result was written from very early on. My question is how is anyone on that committee is qualified to judge my credibility, it’s not a court. These last few days have been terrible. If this had been dealt with well, I would not have gone to the press.” (extracts from The Scotsman)

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