Belfast Telegraph

DevoMax for north essential

By Declan Kearney

The British Establishment's promise of maximum devolution (DevoMax) towards the end of the Scottish referendum has immediate and long-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 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 for the north. That means fiscal arrangements which protect and do not reduce the block grant.

Full transfer of powers will not resolve our huge economic challenges. However, control over economic sovereignty would become a strategic game-changer.

The potential of the North South Ministerial Council could be maximised with regard to all-Ireland economic co-operation and integration. By bringing new emphasis to the all-island economy through fiscal and economic policy harmonisation, opportunities will emerge to enhance competitiveness and growth of business north and south.

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.

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.

Declan Kearney is Sinn Fein's national chairman

Belfast Telegraph


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