Robin Wilson in the BelTel today:
It is not practicable for Northern Ireland, Scotland and/or Wales to elaborate distinctive welfare systems, though the Executive should at least have taken a passing interest in the profound debates which have taken place in Scotland and Wales about enhanced fiscal autonomy.
And it is utterly pointless to tilt at political windmills by thinking the juggernaut of welfare “reform” can be stopped at the Irish Sea.
This especially so as Sinn Fein has supported the other conservative parties at Stormont in demanding a reduction in corporation tax, which would deprive the finance minister of hundreds of millions a year, and so – alongside the Executive’s persistent failure to put the unpaid fraction of water bills onto the rates, costing hundreds of millions more – deprive him of the wriggle room needed for the welfare cuts to be blunted.
There is some hope that that juggernaut will stall. Duncan Smith’s flagship “universal credit” scheme has proved a hugely costly technological nightmare and may never be rolled out across the UK. And Labour, looking increasingly likely to be re-elected next year after the floods have exposed the insanity of austerity-driven cuts in flood defences, has pledged to repeal the bedroom tax.
But, as usual, the sound and fury involving the two main protagonists at Stormont will be neither here nor there.
All of which begs the question just precisely what sort of agency does this power-sharing executive provide us with?
Last week Quintin Oliver asked a whole bunch of questions as to how the devolved institutions in Cardiff and Belfast will react to either outcome in Scotland’s IndyRef:
“Who has got a set of demands that can build a head of steam? Who is working to avoid divide and rule? Who will be quick to have at least back-channel discussions with the Scots who will of course remain the most powerful voice numerically in that coalition of three the day after?”
Three devolved institutions, four political parties versus a two party coalition in Westminster.