Yesterday Fraser asked:
Scotland has a tragically long list of problems (especially with inner-city poverty) and [the No campaign] can ask: which of these problem would independence solve?
This is a fair question, albeit one that offers the retort: and which of them are being solved by the Union the noo? Of course, this question was asked before devolution too. In broad terms, Alex Salmond has the same range of powers as those enjoyed by Secretaries of State for Scotland in the pre-devolution age.
Not all of those have been used. Devolution was essentially the democratisation of existing administrative devolution that, quite properly, already took account of Scotland’s distinct place within the United Kingdom. It was a shift that allowed for the possibility of great change but did not necessarily ensure there would be change.
Take education for instance. For much of the last decade Scotland’s educational establishment has argued about a new curriculum, now being introduced in secondary schools. The “Curriculum for Excellence” (I’m glad we agreed on that aim) doubtless has something to be said for it. Whether it can or will repair a great national scandal must, however, be a matter of some doubt. It may not be irrelevant but it does not seem likely to be enough.
And Scotland’s educational system is, these days, a scandal that ought to be considered a national disgrace. The facts tell us this but we – that is, public, civic, Scotland – prefer to ignore them. Devolution has failed Scotland’s children. Would independence change that?
A case in point: earlier this month the Guardian’s excellent Scotland correspondent Severin Carrell reported on the number of pupils from Scotland’s poorest districts who achieve 3 A-grades at Higher. The figures are quite appalling and would, I had thought, been the occasion for a renewed discussion about whether Scottish schools are actually quite as good as we like to think they are.