Frank Gilfeather: Two decades later … was devolution right move?

Had not Donald Dewar pestered the life out of Tony Blair, a devolved Scottish Parliament might never have materialised.

Today, 20 years on from this new deal for Scotland being rubber-stamped through a referendum, I wonder if we did the right thing.

It is a question that ran through my mind even as I stood in the Court of Session in Edinburgh on May 17, 1999, and watched Dewar being sworn in by the Lord President and receive the Great Seal of Scotland as First Minister.

We had listened to Blair’s big Scottish hitters – Gordon Brown, John Reid, Robin Cook, Alistair Darling, George Robertson and a raft of others – blow the devolution bugle for years and at last it had been delivered.

Yet, those Cabinet ministers with Scottish constituencies were posted missing when candidates for the initial Holyrood elections were sought.

But why worry?

After all, this new way of doing politics would tackle inequality and unfairness, ensure our standards of education were maintained and put and keep Scotland on a sound economic footing.

Instead, we were given a smoking ban, free bus travel for our senior citizens and personal care for the elderly which wouldn’t cost them a bean; all worthy and laudable pieces of legislation.

But have they been enough to have us waving the devolution flag and shouting: “See, we told you it would be a good move.”

The Scottish Parliament has cost us billions of pounds since the costly debacle of building its £400 million home, as we were presented with another layer of government we didn’t need.

Have we received value for money?

Are our lives significantly better because of devolution?

I think not.