Jack McConnell: “I have no doubt that devolution has been good for Scotland and will be good for NI”

Northern Ireland was first to get devolution and has, arguably, done the least with it… Particularly in comparison with Scotland, but even the advisory Welsh Assembly seems to making more legislative headway than our lot… There’s now a new public policy forum called Evolve… it’s a play on idea devolution with the clear implication that they think things need to move on, if organically… Their first public event takes place at 12.15pm in the Ulster Hall on 8th September with Jack McConnell, Scotland’s longest serving First Minister as inaugural speaker. The Presser notes that:

Mr. McConnell, who was Scottish First Minister for six years, will give an address on the theme of ‘How can Devolution Deliver?’ Scotland’s experience of Holyrood is often cited as example of what devolution can deliver and close links already exist between the administrations in Belfast and Edinburgh.

And McConnell himself:

“I believe that Scotland’s young parliament has changed our country for the better, with an increased population, better schools, more jobs as well as improvements in services and our legal system. And we have forged a new, stronger relationship with the rest of Europe and elsewhere in the world.

“This is the real test of devolution and its institutions – not whether the process of government works for politicians and civil servants, but whether it delivers for the people. I have no doubt that devolution has been good for Scotland and will be good for Northern Ireland.”

As it happens, Slugger will be there on the day, and we’ll do what we can to grab a few words from the former Scottish First Minister…. If you’re on LinkedIn, see also our ‘nascent’ Politics and Public Affairs group…

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  • DC

    But Scotland doesn’t have a former estate agent as FM nor an ex-terrorist as a deputy.

    Not to mention the fact that our assembly has right-wingers everywhere, whereas in Scotland there is a nice strand of Labourism and Liberals.

  • jivaro

    The clamour for ‘legislative devolution’ in Northern Ireland never managed to address the obvious question: what laws does Northern Ireland need to enact that it does not already have?
    That is to say, what is the legislative programme our legislative assembly and its Executive were elected to carry out?
    Even to ask the question is to expose both the conceit and the vacuity of provincial political life.

  • Jivaro: World government then?

  • jivaro

    World Government? Don’t see where you’re going with that.

    What I’m getting at is that the whole point of a legislative assembly is to legislate for a society whose polity needs unique legal forms to express itself. Without that political purpose, the form of the assembly is without substance – as we see in Stormont, where traditional sectarian itch-scratching, coat-trailing and clientelism fill the void where politics ought to be.

    The Stormont political arrangements are a permanent sectarian coalition with no political dynamic. Friction, yes – and plenty of it: but no internal means of change or evolution.

  • DC

    No, hang on, hang on.

    I’ve thought of legislation, sort of built up from the post about PSNI.

    How about legislation that removes paramilitaries from doing bouncer door supervisor jobs at pubs and clubs.

    And all Bars, clubs etc having to record all physical assaults that take place and reported back to the police so as to identify hotspots and figure out where the violence is coming from. And for names to be taken after assaults by effective non-paramilitary door staff in order to assist in a successful conviction if sought.

    Rather than just throwing people out.

  • Mick Fealty


    “The Stormont political arrangements are a permanent sectarian coalition with no political dynamic.”

    I think there’s a legit question about whether the current situation has the capacity to evolve into something more substantial.

    Whilst there are number of structural encumbrances, the biggest factor is the political will to do something, anything to get the show on the road.

    If they can’t work together under the current arrangements, which of these two parties is likely to take a risk and look for a third iteration of the Belfast Agreement?

    If it is more to do with political will, then another way to shift the ground is for them to be superceded, in turn, by political parties who believe they can.

  • Sam Thompson

    I think devolution has been largely beneficial to Scotland, because it has had fairly strong governments working to a potent, coherent programme for government. Despite this, I seen a recent programme on BBC Parliament, and Scots generally fail to see the benefits according to the poll conducted. Selling the benefits, somethin our lot have had difficulties with too…

  • Whatabout

    The desire for a political structure that creates meaningful and beneficial legislation is a noble one. Unfortunately, until we break down the tribal voting tradition in Northern Ireland we will keep what we have.

    The people get the Government they vote for, and as long as the people vote for their tribe and not for the issues that affect them, local politicians will sell tribalism over solutions.

  • jivaro

    Mick, you approach the heart of the matter. The construction of the present devolutionary arrangements in all their arcane complexity was designed to freeze political activity in Northern Ireland into traditional forms by institutionalising their expression in the administration.
    That is to say, local leaders (perfectly understandably) bought into a system which recognises and entrenches the attitudes which brought those leaders to prominence in the first place, and guarantees them and their like a permanent place in that system.
    And that means that it is unlikely, to say the least, that among those who are beneficiaries of that devolutionary settlement will be found the disruptors of so comfortable and reassuring a clientelist arrangement.
    It is certainly arguable that the traditional divisions in Northern Ireland render it uniquely unsuitable for devolution, rather than being a place likely to flourish under it.

  • Willhelm

    Wee Jack was the biggest mistake Scotland made in a long time. His Labour party encouraged bigotry, it fostered anti Protestant/Unionist MP’s to attack all things which they object to and in doing so, created a much more divided society than we had before.

    Indeed Jack shared an office with Frank Roy MP, who played the flute in Republican bands. Henry McLeish said when he was forced to leave office.

    “I wasn’t part of the Lanarkshire Catholic mafia”

    Guess who took Henry’s job?

    Guess where Jack comes from?

    Jack’s wife Bridget was also up to her knees in sleaze, giving money to known gangsters from Glasgow, even after being warned what was going on.

    If Scotland can’t do better than wee Jack and plaid skirts, we are better going back to Westminster.

  • Gréagoir O Frainclín

    Well Scotland and it’s government came to the forefront recently with all the furore over the release of the (scapegoat)Lockerbie bomber. I bet not many people worldwide knew that Scotland had a Scottish government. Scotland demonstrated it’s independance and a defiance,(else of course, it was all a covert contrivance and part of another international shady deal so as the UK can get it’s hands on Libyan oil, etc…)

    Will the time come when the Home Rulers of the NI Assembly do the same and show some independant decision making and defiance of Big Brother Westminster?