New ideas for a new time: Scotland’s place in a new union 1

Policy Scotland, the University’s hub for policy research, has launched a working paper alongside plans for a programme of events that seek to make a major and novel contribution into the present debate centred around the Smith Commission.

The paper written by Duncan Maclennan, Des McNulty and Ken Gibb, has been submitted to the Smith Commission, arguing that decisions about powers for the Scottish Parliament have to take account of a wider set of fiscal and governance arrangements that need to be reshaped if a new union is to function effectively:

1. What choices about powers for the Scottish Parliament will deliver real autonomy and provide significant enhancements in Scotland’s capability to move towards objectives of increased prosperity and social justice.

2. How do additional powers for Scotland fit with moves towards a more federal set of arrangements, involving both devolving and sharing finances and decentralising local accountability and decision-making, across the UK?

3. What degree of decentralisation should operate at regional, metropolitan and local authority levels in the UK and in Scotland?

4. How can we learn from other established and emerging federal and decentralising systems in other parts of the world?

5. How do we translate these ideas into practical proposals that can be debated with a range of civic stakeholders and political participants so that the consequences and responsibilities of devolving financial powers can be fully understood and the new mechanisms fleshed out?

The working paper recognises that the Smith Commission’s timetable makes it unlikely that these complex and multi-level issues could be fully explored and assessed during the legislative timetable. However, it is vital that space is created to debate these important questions. To this end our work programme, covering the period till early February 2015, conceives of an ‘Ideasnet’: a series of linked seminars, colloquiums and related workshops where these ideas will be fully explored by a range of national and international experts. This will be published in a series of working papers with a final report in February 2015.

The lead author of the working paper, Professor Duncan Maclennan, said:

“Our starting focus is the benefits that can be derived from empowering the devolved administrations, regions and metropolitan regions to drive forward the economic prosperity and social cohesion of their areas while contributing more effectively to economic success and social justice. This allows us to look upwards to national and global concerns as well as more locally towards neighbourhoods and communities.”

The Director of Policy Scotland, Professor Kenneth Gibb said:

“Policy Scotland is committed to innovative processes in both catalysing and delivering knowledge production and mobilisation for sub-national public policies. We also seek to change the current UK debate in two ways. First, drawing on our own expertise and through alliances with key research groups in other cities and regions, we seek to shape the UK governance debate from ‘below’. Second, we propose to develop not a centrally based think tank but a regionally distributed policy ‘Ideasnet’, a network of points of debate on the future governance of the union.

To view the paper in full please Click Commission Working paper 

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