A 30% Home Rule Recommendation

Lord SmithWell, the Smith Commission has reported back. I suppose this is the White Paper or equivalent promised by Gordon Brown in his timetable. If Westminster agrees to this we’ll get to set Income Tax bands and levels, but not the personal allowance, and have control of the Disability Living Allowance but not the Universal Credit (which was supposed to replace all other allowances). They’ll give us back half of the VAT raised in Scotland but we won’t be able to decide who pays this (bad news for Police Scotland there). We’ll get oil and gas revenues but only if we frack – no North Sea oil money for the Scottish Government. At least we can give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in all Scottish elections.

Nicola Sturgeon“Fact is decisions about 70 per cent of Scottish taxes and 85 per cent of current UK welfare spending in Scotland will stay at Westminster. That’s not Home Rule – it’s Westminster rule!” – First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

I’m sure John Swinney will come up with some creative ways to make use of these powers but it will be difficult to really make a difference for the working poor. Westminster seem determined that the poor will be always with us.

Let’s see what actually gets delivered now. There are more stages for watering down ‘the vow’ before this is over. Here’s where to get your copy of the report.

Philae_touchdown

Rosetta Makes History

Well done to ESA’s Rosetta team. Their Philae lander has just become the first space probe to touch down on a comet.

(Read more on the Rosetta Blog)

It looks like all of the lander’s systems are functioning well and data is being received. At present, it does not seem to be attached by its harpoons. Let’s hope the little feet can hang on well enough to keep Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Next step is to deploy solar power so that Philae can give us a running commentary of comet conditions all the way into its closest approach to the Sun.

Philae leaves Rosetta on its way to the comet

Free Catalonia

Catalans Vote for Independence

Yesterday, the voters of Catalonia voted by an 80% majority to leave Spain and set up their own nation. The Spanish government has done its utmost to disenfranchise Catalonians and prevent this vote having any legal status. Now they are trying to decide who to put in jail for allowing the referendum to happen.

Spain, wake up. The moral authority is with the Catalans who have sought a peaceful political solution to their differences with the Spanish government. Prosecutions over this will only make Spain a laughing stock amongst the international community. It’s time to start talking to the Catalans about a constitutional convention.