Scotland’s new powers are “not what was promised” and are “unlikely to be the end of the story” for devolution, academics have warned.
Professors throughout Scotland have described the new devolution settlement as a “minefield” which cannot be said to be the “settled will” of the Scottish people, in articles for the Future of UK and Scotland project.
The UK Government is preparing to impose fines on Scotland if it does not comply with Westminster benefit rules similar to the situation in Northern Ireland, according to Robert Gordon University professor Paul Spicker, who called the draft clauses “gobbledegook”.
“The Work Programme has done nothing to speed the process by which people return to work,” he said.
“In its relations with Northern Ireland, however, the Treasury has sought to impose fines on the Assembly for the presumed cost of non-compliance with Westminster rules. They are preparing the way here to do the same to Scotland.”
He added: “If you want to devolve benefits – and it looks increasingly as though the Government doesn’t want to, not really – you have to grasp the nettle and create the powers, not dole out exceptions clause by clause.
“It all falls some way short of even the rather restricted settlement in Smith. This is not what was promised.”
Malcolm Harvey, from the University of Aberdeen, said similar complex devolution procedures for the Welsh Assembly which required the agreement or veto of the Welsh Secretary and a Westminster vote were quickly scrapped.
“Evidence, perhaps, that a system which requires the agreement of both devolved and central governments on policy changes might prove detrimental to effective governance,” he said.
“The final details of legislation will still require substantial consideration – and with the likelihood of substantially greater numbers of SNP MPs taking seats in the House of Commons after May, this is unlikely to be the end of the story.”
Craig McAngus, at the University of Stirling, said: “Public opinion suggests that the Scottish public wish to go further than what has been outlined.
“Previous opinion polling has found a consistent majority of the Scottish public in favour of devolution that goes quite substantially beyond what has been outlined.
“More opinion polling and in-depth survey work needs to be carried out in order to explore this issue further, but, in short, the UK Government cannot justifiably claim that what is being offered is the ‘settled will’ of the Scottish people.”
Earlier, Paul Cairney, professor of politics and public policy at Stirling University, said the settlement was a “confusing system providing a complex interplay between reserved and devolved taxes”.
Nicola McEwen, professor of territorial politics at Edinburgh University, said it “increases the Scottish Parliament’s dependence on UK policy and decision-making”, insisting Prime Minister David Cameron’s desire to make “an enduring settlement” will turn out to be a forlorn hope.
Michael Keating, professor of Scottish politics at Aberdeen University, said the principle that devolution should cause “no detriment” to Scotland or the UK will be “politically contentious”.