Welfare, air duty, employment law, aspects of equality policy, the Civil Service… I wouldn’t imagine many people know what connects those areas of policy. They are in fact the most prominent things, along with some other minor areas, which are devolved to Northern Ireland but not to Scotland.
In areas such as employment and equality, there are obvious historical reasons for this; with air duty, there is an obvious geographical one; with welfare and the Civil Service, it is more a historical quirk.
Nevertheless, I see no reason whatsoever they should not be devolved to Scotland immediately after September’s referendum (and Scotland’s income tax variation rights also transferred to Northern Ireland).
I have long argued that the obvious distinction between federations/unions with no real separatist movements (United States, Germany) and those on the verge of break-up (UK, Spain) is that the former have symmetrical devolution of power whereas the latter are a-symmetrical. This may seem counter-intuitive, but for a union to work all parts of it have to feel they are being treated fairly – not just the (culturally/historically) distinct part!
Bavaria is a markedly distinct part of Germany, historically and culturally. Likewise Texas or Hawaii in the United States. Yet they have the same powers as everywhere else – and are content with that.
The UK (and actually also Spain) must swiftly learn the same lesson. The “No” campaign should make that straightforward offer, while adding the potential for the devolution of financial powers also exists; this would have the added benefit of removing part of Alex Salmond’s whole argument, as Scotland would then have the power not to implement the “Bedroom Tax” and such like even in the event of a “no” vote. Indeed, he would even be presented with the problem of running his own Civil Service pensions schemes…