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To The Lord Smith of Kelvin, Greetings

Dear Robert,

Any devolution settlement which is intended to endure must recognise the ancient and established Scottish principle of popular sovereignty as the context in which power is distributed between the Crown and Parliaments of the Union: that Westminster has authority in certain matters by consent of the Scottish people for the benefit of the whole UK, but that the repatriation of any such power is for the Scottish people to claim by mandate rather than for the UK government to dispense or withhold.

Such a recognition in principle might allow some compromise between the negotiating parties on the detail of powers to be devolved in the short term. However, there are areas of present and emerging conflict between HMG and the Scottish people which must be resolved as a matter of urgency.

The most salient of these is taxation and public spending. It is no longer politically or economically sustainable for all Scottish tax revenue to pass through Whitehall before being allocated, but devolution of income tax alone would be to assign responsibility without power. Scotland must be expected to make a fair contribution to the UK Exchequer to pay for shared services, but the interests of fairness and transparency are best served by collecting all personal and commercial taxes at source in Scotland before the Union subscription is paid.

An exception, or special arrangements, might have to be made for National Insurance payments in order to maintain a common pensions framework. Realistically, however, pensions policy is likely to be reviewed in the next few years anyway and it would be as well to head off that conflict in advance. There are already significant cross-border policy faultlines in the social security system more broadly, notably over housing benefit; wholesale devolution of welfare policy and administration would avoid making these worse.

Beyond purely fiscal issues, the regulation of land use, natural resources and infrastructure must be brought fully within the competence of the Scottish Government. There is no justification for the management of Scotland's very physical substance to be beyond the democratic control of Scotland's people or subject to overrule by English legislators, any more than vice versa. The contrapuntal anomaly that Scottish members of the House of Commons can vote on English matters must not be addressed in isolation.

There is a strong case for a federal UK, but debate on, for example, whether England should have one parliament or several, must not be allowed to delay the Scottish reform process already under way.

Aspects of all the above may touch on relations with the European Union, and arrangements should be made by which Scotland can be directly represented in all negotiations and committees. This does not challenge the UK's right as the member state to appoint a delegate to the European Commission, as that role is not one in which national interests are advanced.

Finally, to restore confidence in the quality and transparency of public debate, a separate Scottish regulatory body for the press and media must be established, independent of political control, and given authority over future broadcasting provision and licensing. Members would ideally be elected. This need not take effect before the currently pending renewal of the BBC Charter, but it should form part of the media environment going forward, and would allow Scotland to retain the option of public service broadcasting whatever happens in the rest of the UK.

Thank you for consulting the Scottish public about their future. I hope it will be bright.

Yours sincerely,

Will Pickering

You can make your own recommendations to the Smith Commission at https://www.smith-commission.scot until the 31st of October.

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