How best to respond to Boris Johnson’s latest faux pas that “devolution has been a disaster north of the border” (Report, 16 November)? Since last year’s election, I’ve developed the tactic of seeing if the exact opposite of what he and his ministers say is closer to the truth. It works in this case as in so many others.
So, for example, “Centralisation has been a disaster not just for Scotland but for the whole of the UK” is a much more accurate statement. Centralisation has been responsible for the growing economic gulf between the south and the north; it has crippled local government by savage austerity cuts, and it has stopped local health teams from working on an effective test, trace and isolate strategy.
Other ministerial statements follow the same pattern: “We took the right decisions at the right time”, “we threw a protective ring round our care homes” and “we always follow the science”.
Our democracy is in danger if government ministers routinely lie to us and pay no penalty for doing so.
Emeritus professor of education, UCL Institute of Education
• Boris Johnson suggested that devolution is a “disaster” and Tony Blair’s “biggest mistake”. How long, I wonder, until everyone realises that Brexit is a disaster and Johnson‘s biggest mistake?
• Scottish devolution was not “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”, nor is it a privilege to be granted or denied, like a crony’s peerage, at the whim of an English prime minister. Devolution was the explicit choice of 74% of the Scottish electorate, a considerably larger majority than the narrow (and rapidly disappearing) margin for Mr Johnson’s own truly disastrous Brexit. Time for Johnson to stop throwing stones now that he lives in the glass house.
• Considering the moribund state of the Conservative party in Scotland and the burgeoning popularity of the SNP, it is no surprise that Boris Johnson regards devolution north of the border as a disaster. However, I am intrigued why Johnson referred only to devolution in Scotland. Does his silence about Wales indicate ignorance, forgetfulness, or tacit acceptance that devolution has not been a disaster west of the border?
• So, devolution north of the border has been a “disaster”. Looking at the state of play in England and indeed the UK as a whole after 10 years of Conservative rule, all I can say is: “Physician heal thyself.” But then again, with his government’s track record on health of late, that’s possibly hoping for a little too much.
• If the SNP wins a majority in next year’s election, which Boris Johnson has just made more likely, a lesson should be learned from the turmoil of the last five years by holding any referendum at the end, not the start, of the process. Negotiating independence would almost certainly take a year or two, with arguments over such questions as the division of shared assets and the small matter of Trident. Once this is done, the referendum could be held in the full knowledge of what it entailed, and the result could be implemented immediately. While I am against independence, I would hope that, if it happened, Scotland could rejoin the single market by linking up in some way to Norway and perhaps Ireland.