Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Local decisions for local people?

"The Scottish Government believes that decisions affecting Scotland are best made here, by people with Scotland's vital interests at heart." - Introduction to the Scottish Government Draft Budget 2014-15.
There are a couple of problems with this often heard, yet facile, SNP warcry.

Firstly, quite a lot of decisions affecting Scotland are made here, and have been since 1999.

Secondly, this argument is rather susceptible to reductio ad absurdum. If the decisions affecting Scotland are best made in Scotland, then surely it also follows that the decisions affecting your town are best made in your town, the decisions affecting your neighbourhood are best made in your neighbourhood, the decisions affecting your street are best made in your street, and the decisions affecting your house are best made in your house? Why do we draw the line at a border created by long-dead medieval kings? Apart from the fact that the argument is being made by a political party who intrinsically and explicitly attach themselves to that border?

For instance, shouldn't the decisions affecting Glasgow be made there, and not in that parliament in Edinburgh? After all, Greater Glasgow has a population about the same as that of Estonia, and nobody would say Estonia is not a viable independent country, would they?

Of course, the reality is that there is a balance to be struck between letting everyone get their own way, and collectivism. In return for sharing some aspects of government with the other inhabitants of these islands, we get the manifold benefits of being part of the third biggest country in Europe, a member of the G8, the top-rated country in the world for soft power, and a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

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