Last week the First Minister had made a push for greater unity in the Chamber, extending her hand to the Opposition parties to work together for the benefit of the people of Scotland. Viewers wondered, after seven years, were Thursday lunchtimes about to get a lot more reasonable?
However, mere hours after the Smith Commission published its cross party recommendations this morning, FMQs had reverted back to type. Jackie Baillie, standing in once again for Scottish Labour, described the proposals as the most significant piece of devolution since the establishment of the Holyrood Parliament. The First Minister took a different view. She quoted the STUC that the proposals were underwhelming. She argued that the majority of spending was still controlled by Westminster.
Baillie accused the FM of unpicking the consensus. The FM claimed that Labour was now on the side of the Scottish Conservatives rather than the unions. She warned that the Scottish people would punish the Union parties for their failure to not deliver more radical change at the 2015 Election.
It was almost hard to believe that the SNP had agreed to the Smith proposals. The FM claimed that she welcomed the measures and spoke of a “spirit of consensus” but you could be mistaken for thinking the tone wasn’t quite there to back it up.
Ruth Davidson continued the line of questioning, and claimed that Scotland would in fact control 60% of the money that it raised and would be one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world. The FM asked if that was really the limit of ambition for the Scottish Conservatives. She wanted to see more welfare powers, and what were described as “job creating” powers.
The reactions to Smith had a sense of predictability about them. The Union parties sold the proposals as hugely powerful changes to the how Holyrood would operate. For the Nationalists, it was a half-way house that doesn’t honour the commitments made during the referendum.
While the idea of a consensus Parliament sounds good, the truth as seen by today, is that it remains an aspiration.