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Weekend Review

November 20, 2010

In the first of our Weekend Reviews, we’ll be taking a look at some of the developments in the world of devolved politics. We won’t cover everything, but we will flag up, in no particular order, some of  the most interesting.

1) Gerry Adams stands down

The president of Sinn Fein decided to call it a day as an MP at Westminster and Assembly Member at Stormont. Adams will be standing for election in the Irish Republic in the constituency of Louth, near the border.

The reasons he has given for his decision to seek election as a TD (member of the Irish lower house) is his “determination to provide a real alternative to the consensus for cuts being pushed by the other parties.”

Pat Sheehan, a former hunger-striker, was chosen to succeed him.

If elected, Adams would succeed Sinn Fein’s sitting TD, Arthur Morgan.

2) Bumper Budget week

This week gave us plenty of budget chat.

In Wales, the draft budget ushered in the hardest era since devolution. Economy, transport and the environment were the hardest hit departments, with health also being cut.

Scotland, meanwhile, opted for a freeze in public sector pay and an increase in business rates for large retailers, though housing, tourism and education spending were cut.

In Northern Ireland, however, the two parties in the executive – Sinn Fein and the DUP – could not agree on a budget. Failure to agree a budget means that Stormont will only be able to use 75% of available funds. The results of this could be worse than any potential cuts.

3) No more SVR

At least for the next few years, Holyrood has lost the Scottish Variable Rate (SVR) – the power to vary tax in Scotland by up to 3%.

The powers lapsed in 2007, and there has been considerable debate as to who was responsible for letting this happen.

Finance minister John Swinney, as well as Alan Trench, of Devolution Matters, believes that the tax power was “unusable and expensive” and that the blame does not lie with the Scottish National Party – who took office in 2007.

Others think that even though the SNP could not use the powers, they should have kept them.

4) BBC “committed to success of S4C”

Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC has expressed his intention to secure a successful future for an independent S4C.

The BBC, Thompson has said, is “passionately committed” to Welsh language broadcasting, denying fears that S4C will lose its identity.

The BBC will begin part-funding of S4C in 2013.

5) Henry named best Scottish politician

Hugh Henry has been named the best Scottish politician of the year – becoming the first backbencher to win the award.

The Labour MSP is also the convenor of the Public Audit Committee, which won the Committee Award for the way it held civil servants and ministers to account for their spending.

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