Alex Massie Alex Massie

If Ed Miliband is the Union’s saviour then the Union is doomed

With apologies to John Rentoul, Can Ed Miliband save the Union? is a question to which the answer is God help us all.

I admit to a blind spot vis a vis the Labour leader: Looks like Gussie Fink-Nottle, thinks like a Marxist Madeline Bassett. Clever enough in a droopy kind of way but, ultimately, a gawd-help-us kind of fellow.

I wasn’t very impressed last time Mr Miliband came to Scotland and so I wasn’t inclined to be impressed by his most recent trip to Glasgow. Which is dandy because I wasn’t.

I dare say Miliband’s belief that Scottish independence would be a bad idea – for Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom – is sincere. That this belief is in his own narrow, strategic, sectarian interest is beside the point. And, sure, we all know that Labour-minded voters in western and central Scotland are a vital constituency in the referendum campaign.

But I rather approve of Miliband’s simpering thunderous warning that an independent Scotland might be the kind of rogue state in which taxes were cut. I’d like to believe in it a little more than I do. Time – and hard learning – might bring us to that point but not before an awful lot of expensive mistakes had been made.

Nevertheless, Miliband’s view of devolution, far less of independence, is revealing. The Labour party has proposed that the Scottish parliament should henceforth enjoy greater tax-raising powers. Not, please note, tax-varying powers but tax-raising opportunities. If Mr Miliband disagrees with the idea Scotland should be able to increase income taxes but not, by virtue of statute, be permitted the opportunity to reduce them he has not said so.

Which is telling, not just because of what it says about Miliband’s idea of devolution but also because of what it reveals about his likely approach should he ever become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

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