IS it fear that causes Unionists to spurn full powers, thus retaining subservience to the English-dominated Westminster, or is it cowardice?

In the real world, the equivalent to present-day Scottish politics would be “fearing to cut nurse’s apron strings”. Over recent decades we have come through, in succession, the need for self-determination, home rule, a Scottish Parliament and devolution. Driven by the Labour party, questioning why we were governed from Westminster by a party we had not voted for, devolution was duly delivered. George (now Lord) Robertson decreed that “Devolution would kill national stone dead”, while the then Prime Minister Tony Blair described it as similar to a parish council. So, top marks to Tony.

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Soon, “dev-delusion” became an apt slogan. Its description moved from an administration to an executive and to a government. The powers were considered inadequate. The so-called beneficial Barnett formula was exposed as a method for clawing back our historic 20% per capita funding advantage over England, as year-on-year enhancement was population-based.

The recent IFS report claims that Scotland’s per capita advantage had risen to 30%. If we were funded on a per capita basis, that is unlikely, unless England’s population had risen for which they received no extra Whitehall funding, but the higher number had been used to calculate England’s per capita figure – which would reflect a lowering of it – and not because Scotland’s figure had risen.

Unionist voters contributing to letters pages are identified as such only by their castigating the SNP and its leader Nicola Sturgeon in the most vitriolic terms. But they seldom declare their versions of what are the advantages of the Union.

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Conservative candidates portray the Barnett formula as the panacea. But the reality of Barnett is best illustrated by the experience we had in the 20-noughties (or naughties as it is better described) when then Chancellor Gordon Brown, having declared he would not borrow except for growth (infrastructure etc), in 2004 embarked upon a profligate policy of borrowing around £30 billion on current account to enable the employment of one million more in the public sector, thus committing the practice to an annual event over six years. The result was an inevitable accumulation of an identified £160bn deficit, which would have to be repaid eventually.

With Labour trying to associate the deficit with the financial crash of 2008, fortunately for us Labour were defeated in the 2010 election and it fell to the incoming coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to sort out. That meant reversing the profligacy with the inevitability of cuts in public spending, which were not discernible as “austerity”, with blame being attributed wrongly to SNP and the Conservatives. All of these Unionist machinations are not what we would wish to have repeated.

If the SNP do not hold their ground, we could be faced with a Unionist coalition after the election. We can only imagine the nature of the resulting manifesto from parties who detest one another as much as they detest the SNP.

Far from these parties voting strategically to defeat the SNP, the actuality is that it is Unionist party voters who have been lending their votes to the SNP to enable them to form the coalition that they are right now.

Why apparently mature and ambitious politicians would not seek to have all the powers necessary to operate proper governance escapes me.

Douglas R Mayer
Currie, Midlothian