What devolution hasn’t done for Scotland…

There has been an ongoing monitoring of the devolution project, funded by the ESRC since about 2000. The Herald newspaper reports that Scotland’s local lawmakers have followed deeply (small ‘c’) conservative policies on key public services “compared with their more innovative counterparts in England”. Professor Charlie Jeffrey states that: “One of the key findings of the entire (research) project has been that we do not have a capacity to think UK-wide anymore and that signals trouble.” Stats are released in London today. Considering the obvious parallels with NI this is worth returning to when we get the hard figures!!

  • slug

    Scotland made the error of not signing in with the whole student loan student fees agenda that London has introduced elsewhere.

    That’s a big error. The introduction of student fees allows monies to be directed to important uses such as primary and secondary education and helthcare. It has while allowing those who benefit from higher education to pay for it. It has also allowed the universities to act in a less constrained way.

    I am very pleased that we got direct rule in time to allow NI to have student loans.

    Another thing the Scottish could do is privatise water. We should do that in NI (and at least our ministers are taking the necesary steps in that direction).

    Such a move would again allow tax money to be redirected to improving the key areas of primary and secondary school education and helthcare.

    Government has to do less and do what it does better. The Scots don’t get it.

  • Crataegus

    Should I sell my house and rent it back thus releasing lots of money to do all sorts of worthwhile things? Let’s not get too carried away with the whole privatisation agenda there are a lot of vested interests promoting it. It really does not mater who owns the water service provided it is efficient but delivering a monopoly to a private business may not be too clever.

  • It’s not surprising that Scotland follows a high-spending model, given that it has substantial power over spending, but little over taxation.

    Scottish politicians can make spending promises, but they can’t make tax-cutting promises, something which is a problem for the Conservatives in particular.

    They do have a limited power to vary the rate of income tax, but it’s probably not worth using it if it would mean pressure to cut their grant from Westminster.

  • slug

    Private monopolies are more efficient than public ones because they are in pressure from shareholders.

    Private monopolies can be regulated – the UK has been good at this with the RPI-X system of regulation. This has worked well with the English water companies that are vastly more efficient than the NI counterpart.

    Scotland’s government has the power to privatise and reprioritise spending. They have singularly failed to do this in the case of university fees which is a form of tax raising power.

  • Scotsman

    I think the report’s concern was not only the policies themselves, but also the fact that the political classes continue to be judged against what happens in England. After all, English water companies were privatised before devolution.

    This says more about concerns of the Scottish media and the lack of standing of Scottish Labour politicians in their own unionist party than it necessarily does about policy choices.

    One justification for top-up fees was that it allowed England to boost the proportion in HE to 50%- a figure already achieved in Scotland without top-up fees. What’s more, the switch from upfront fees to pay after graduation fees was copied from the Scottish system’s “Graduate Endowment” scheme.

    The long-term care policy is saving the UK government £20m annually in Attendance Allowance that the DWP refuse to pay to the Scottish Executive because they don’t approve of the policy.

    But the basic message is that the Scottish Labour Party is not beholden to Tony Blair and has to deal with its Liberal Democrat coalition partners (architects of the student and OAP policies.)

    So it doesn’t feel forced to follow the latest Whitehall fad. It knows that if it stands still long enough it will end up being part of the zeitgeist again.

  • slug

    There a danger the income of the Scottish universities is suffering. They will be unable to compete with the other UK universities in terms of paying good salaries. Some of the scottish universities are losing ground internationally, while the other UK universities are gaining ground.

  • kensei

    “There a danger the income of the Scottish universities is suffering. They will be unable to compete with the other UK universities in terms of paying good salaries. Some of the scottish universities are losing ground internationally, while the other UK universities are gaining ground.”

    Overegged. In fact, while having stronger research is clearly a bonus, as long as the teaching remains solid, I’m not sure it would trump the ability of having no fees to keep (or attract) young talent to Scotland.

  • topdeckomnibus


    Well after a brush with the Official Secrets Act in 1976 my career (navigated by a blacl list I suspect) progressed to the coal mine. From the mine I did adult college studies in electrical and electronics engineering by losing a day wages per week study leave.

    After a brush with Maggie Thatcher’s gang and being one of the quarter of a million families she made homeless in South East … I chanced to beat 19 graduates in three competitions to gain a job in Medical Physics. (Radiation cancer treatments). But NHS pay made us 140 quid a week worse off than being on social security. So malnutrition and a second mortgage foreclosure looming brought my short NHS career to an end.

    Why am I telling you this ?

    It is because having left medical physics I got a year contract working for an English Water Company. There was a very large management structure. This worked through various layers … common services … planned maintenance etc … until it reached me the only person doing electrical maintenance on half of Kent’s sewage disposal sites.

    On the first day of my contract I was sent out with two Water Company fitters. We did flexi tme so we started at 7 AM long before any of the myriads of managers shew face.

    At 7.10 AM the cheerful pair said “See yer tomorrow mate” and off they went.

    One was running a lawnmower repair business and studying OU whilst the other had a share of an HGV tractive unit and was off doing self employed haulage.

    This put me in a bit of a position as working alone on live plant I was supposed to ring in every half hour (some safety measure if you just had 415 volts of white mans magic swim round yer entrails 29 minutes 59 seconds before the check call is noted absent). Of course if you are doing accompanied work then they do not expect lone working safety calls.

    Like their direct employed workforce contractors had to fill in a “Weekly cost analysis sheet”.

    And the two enterprising fitters would oft times complete their works of “Cost analysis” fiction in advance as part of their ten minutes attendance on a Monday.

    One week I forgot to submit my cost analysis sheet and all hell broke loose. Apparently I had stopped the whole management analytical process.

    So I told the irate manager who had phoned me just to fill in a sheet allocating time at random to a number of their sites.

    “I can’t do that”, he said, “We have to analyse the facts”

    “Well it is what your workforce and I do every week mate … you are analysing fiction”

    And you reckon we have the efficient water companies ??

    I laughed like hell when one day the notice board info read like this “WE, as a management team, have noticed that this division works an unacceptable amount of overtime due to out of hours call outs”

    This was largely to do with a gent who revelled in the title foreman fitter. He had a motor yacht as well as a house to run. And so oft times he would get a call out on the Munchausen principle. He had put the fault in earlier so as to be an overtime hero rushing to the rescue.

    He was a cunning operator as for example he would replace shearing pins with high tensile bolts. And the result would be that he got the call out and overtime pay but was able to report the problem as electrical for the contractor to do. Nothing mechanical at fault as the pins had not sheared.

    That way he got the money but did not have to dirty his hands.

    One day this foreman was working on his project, never on Water Company work, which was an American car. He had a metal watch strap on and got his wrist jammed between battery live and chassis. Scream. What a fitter.

    “Now what you got there Barry is electrical burn out mate I squared R son and hence lots of energy concentrated as heat around your wrist. Luvvly blister by the way”

    Not for the first time Slugger contributors I wonder about you accepting university curriculum versions of events.

  • slug

    Teaching is hard to keep solid at the Scottish universities given their research activity is in decline.

  • kensei

    “Teaching is hard to keep solid at the Scottish universities given their research activity is in decline.”

    Not necessarily true. Nice how they was just stated as fact, there. There is a potential to get less good appointments, but the greatest researchers do not necessarily make the best teachers. It would be felt more at post graduuate level, but then it may open up more space for young talent.

    As I said, the case is inconclusive and overegged. The British unis have toiled away in less (remember, they are still boosting funds) for a lot longer.

  • I suppose it’s worth pointing out,that if it had been left up to English MPs, England wouldn’t have ‘innovative’ policies like top-up fees or foundation hospitals either.

  • slug

    That probably is worth pointing out.

    A new research vigour is being felt in Englands best universities – LSE, UCL, Warwick, Oxford, Imperial – who are attracting some of the top US PhDs to cross the atlantic. Fees are setting the UK universities free (outside Scotland).

    The best in Europe.

    We need this for the economy and the quality of the knowledge base.

  • kensei

    And at the same time saddling a whole generation with huge amounts of debt. the consequence sof this are yet to play out. The UK universities have always been the best in Europe, so really that’s no change.

    That is also a meaningless statement with nothing to back it up, by the by. I’d be interested in hard facts. just to see.


  • topdeckomnibus

    Was “Thinking UK wide” going on in 1984 then ? The Institute of Electrical Enegineers published some research that year … more students of drama studies than of electrical engineering, training a tenth of the engineers of France or Germany.

    93% of managers in UK electrical engineering being totally unqualified either by education or experience.

    Happily though when there is a massive power cut and more disasters like the three Dounreay incidents … we can all have our morale boosted by the ready availability of daylight street theatre ?