Full transfer of powers to North will boost all-island economy - Declan Kearney
The British establishment’s promise of maximum devolution (DevoMax) towards the end of the Scottish referendum will have immediate and longer term consequences.
First, instead of closing down the debate on Scotland’s future, promising 'DevoMax' and the demand for its implementation will have a permanent political impact.
Second, the Tories’ bad faith on the timing of transferring powers to Scotland, has opened significant divisions between them and Labour on the nature of devolution and the British state.
Third, linking Scottish 'DevoMax' to proposed, increased devolution for Wales, England and the north opens a Pandora’s Box for the political and constitutional basis of the British state.
By conceding that previously reserved political, fiscal and economic powers can be transferred, a new factor has been injected into the case for Scottish independence. That also strengthens Sinn Fein’s analysis that partition has failed, and call for a democratic discussion on an agreed Ireland.
There should be 'DevoMax' of all fiscal, economic and other powers for the north. That means fiscal arrangements which protect, and do not reduce the block grant.
The DUP argument that our political institutions or politicians would not be fit for purpose is spurious. Ironically, more powers would actually challenge political unionism’s current unwillingness to embrace power sharing.
Full transfer of powers to the north will not resolve our huge economic challenges. However, control over economic sovereignty would become a strategic game changer, by boosting new all-island economic opportunities.
The under-utilised and enormous potential of the North South Ministerial Council could be maximised with regard to all Ireland economic cooperation and integration. Additional capacity would be brought to the existing all-island implementation bodies, and refocus the need for their expansion.
By bringing new emphasis to the all-island economy, through fiscal and economic policy harmonisation, opportunities will emerge to enhance competitiveness and growth of indigenous business and enterprise north and south. Foreign direct investment, tourism, the rural economy, education and health services would be other beneficiaries.
Full transfer of powers to our institutions makes sense.
It can happen in parallel, or dovetail with a new negotiations process. Those negotiations must deliver progress beyond the status quo. That means a 'Plan A, Plus' outcome. Securing a 'DevoMax' package for the north would be complementary.
Politicians, business people, workers, and families who live here should make the decisions about our future; not Tory millionaires. That’s why the demand for a Border Poll is relevant.
The Scottish referendum was popular democracy in action. Citizens here deserve a similar right to shape the economic and political future of an agreed Ireland.