Brown fight backs with shock U turn on tax powers

You would have missed it. While the UK national media were preoccupied with Gordon Brown’s climb down on a winter fuel payment, the really memorable part of his speech addressed the future of Scottish devolution. In what the Times calls “ a seismic event” Gordon Brown has performed a U turn and flagged up his willingness to give the Scottish Parliament tax raising powers. He talked in code, but the message was clear: “while he would do nothing to put the economic union of the UK at risk, that should not be confused with “unthinking opposition to change and development in how our union governs itself. “The constitution of the Union has always evolved to meet the changing needs and rising hopes of our people as it did most notably when we created the Scottish Parliament 10 years ago.”
Changing the political habits of a life time, Brown is taking the fight unto Alex Salmond’s own ground in a stunning response to the SNP’s leader’s challenge of using the Parliament’s powers to levy local income tax to replace the hated council tax.The devil now is in the detail. Brown has to explain how if at all, he intends to give more than the tax varying powers the Parliament already possesses but has never used and how his scheme would change the UK’s unified tax structure. He cannot leave it all up to the Calman Commission. In doing this, Brown is sidelining his own stumbling Labour party in Holyrood and moving to regain the initiative in Scottish politics he has been losing so comprehensively to Alex Salmond since last year. His aim is “to strengthen Scotland’s place within the Union.” and in the meantime to rally support around himself. Whatever else, it is the first bold stroke of his premiership.

  • percy

    Brian,
    “His aim is “to strengthen Scotland’s place within the Union.”
    Its his only move left. It won’t work though.
    UK is doomed, Irish/Scottish full independence is on its way.

  • Dewi

    Interesting – could do with a fight in Glenrothes.

  • The Raven

    I think a fudge is coming. Limited tax raising powers to given over certain items? Beer and fags only? It’ll be something like that.

    And of course, when somebody eventually takes a politically unpopular decision, it will be expedient for Brown to say “well you got what you wanted, didn’t you?”. That’s how mealy-mouthed this government is.

    Of course, how long has Gordon got left? And how long would it take to introduce and see through such legislation?

    Because it’s 1:00am, and I can’t be arsed looking – can anyone post what the Tories stance on local tax-raising powers is?

  • Percy-I would not have your certitude on these matters.
    Certainly a more federal Britain seems to be evolving.
    Salmond has thought for a long time that once the MSPs (of any plitical colour) got some power they would want more.
    He also believes that the Scottish people will want more devolution of powers not less as time goes on.

    Scottish independence may well be a process rather than a traumatic event.

  • Gordon has all the appearance of a dead man walking so unless he does a lazarus it may be more important to hear what David Cameron(what an actual policy i hear you cry) has to say on the subject or Gordons successor?
    Mind you anyone that would actually be foolish enough to want to lead the labour party at this time would be showing seriously bad judgement and totally ansuitable to lead.

  • Blinding
    Salmond is ,to an extent, banking on a Cameron administration.
    The Tories will have very few MPs returned to Westminster.
    The mandate issue ( “The Doomsday Scenario”) will be in play again.
    There was a mild version of the legitimation crisis in Scottish politics when I was in the SNP in the mid 80s.
    It can return-though this time-the government in Edinburgh-SNP led-will be going head-to-head with Westminster.
    This is all very good from a Scottish separatist standpoint.

  • percy

    phil
    aye, its rare that people are swept into power, or countries rise and fall with such certainty.
    I just have a good feeling (stiffie) about it 😉

  • There was a division in the 1970s/80s in the SNP between gradualists and “fundies” (fundamentalists).
    Gradualists believed in devolution as a stepping stone, that national independence was a process not a heroic event.

    Fundies believed that devolution would kill the desire in scotland for statehood.
    In that the fundies shared the view of new labour.

    It was mentioned to me on a recent trip to the Scottish parliament by a sage political correspondent of the SNP “everyone is a gradualist now”.
    They can all see that it is working.
    Westminster is being focussed on less and less by ordinary Scots “their” government sits in Edinburgh.

  • too much info Percy………..

  • I couldnt live in America-I need irony in my life and for those around me to get that.

    Who would have thought,say, at the time of the Hunger Strikes that in 2008 the movement of Bobby Sands would be under-writing the Union and the greatest threat to the UK would be coming from some very reasonable law-abiding folk in Edinburgh?

  • percy

    Phil
    another way of looking at it is to say that since 1922 more and more powers have been transferred away from Westminster to Ireland.
    Look at the significant dates
    1922, 1949, 1985, 1998, 2007 and all these signed treaties and the like.
    It may seem like pulling teeth, but it is progress nonetheless.

  • Good point Percy although I do believe that St.Andrews is the definitive settlement and that Unionism has won (I didnt arrive at that view quickly or easily) on this island.

    However the Scottish issue is now, I believe, centre stage in terms of the future viability of the UK as a polity.
    The Provos are no longer the problem-they are neutered and no threat to the UK-they need Northern Ireland and it’s assembly.

    Scotland’s political will is quite another matter

  • Recalling all the objections to Salmond’s local income tax proposals in my previous post.
    eg Suilven “…let’s assume we have a rich couple, both earning shedloads, living in a Band H mansion. Each paying £1080 is less than half their current council tax, so that nice Alex Salmond’s just given them a tax cut. Swell. Meanwhile a working couple, neither paying higher rate tax, but close to the boundary, living modestly in a band C house, find that their property taxes have just doubled. Oops!…”

    Here’s what what Simon Jenkins, a fervent supporter of localism has to say in the Guardian.

    “Salmond should retain his council tax but roughly halve it. He should then let councils set their own income taxes up to his 3p cap. He should also adopt the admirable equity-release scheme devised by the Scottish economist David Bell for elderly home owners, excusing them local taxes for life in return for a death duty charge on their homes. This sort of imagination should be possible under devolution.”

  • percy

    quite right phil
    Its definitely an interesting time;
    Gordon Brown skewered by Salmond and Charles Clarke,
    who are more than happy to baste and roast him over the spit.
    I like people who can cook.

  • Percy the key relationship now is between the SNP in Edinburgh and the political class in Westminster.

    If ordinary Scots see Edinburgh advocating for them against what Westminster wants “for the country as a whole” then that is a key part of Salmond’s plan.

  • More irony.
    People born in Ireland who wanted to retain a political link to Westminster re-invented themselves as “Ulstur Scots” complete with a flatpack language to heighten their Britishness.

    The main threat to the Britain they are loyal to now comes from-real Scottish people.

    I definitely couldnt live among Americans….

  • Glencoppagagh

    Phil
    Since you’ve “returned home to Ireland”, I presume you’ve never considered yourself to be a “real Scottish person” although that doesn’t seem to have stopped you being involved in the SNP.
    Which leads me to ask who is Scottish for the SNP’s purposes. Anybody who just happens to reside in Scotland, even retired English people and those still prefer to think of themselves as Irish?

  • John East Belfast

    I would let them have their tax varying powers – give Salmond enough rope to hang himself.
    Because Tax Varying Powers to parochial, serial spending separatists like him are really Tax Raising Powers.
    If they try to reduce taxes then their subsidy should quite rightly be cut by the rest of the UK.

    As in the US everyone has to pay the Federal Income Tax so tax varying powers in the individual States is all about how high the State equivalent taxes are.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Brian
    I think this thread is a bit misleading. Brown hasn’t proposed any additional tax raising powers rather he’s suggesting that Scotland would retain the revenue raised within its borders through the unitary tax system.
    Is his idea to introduce Scots to the cold reality of independence my means which the SNP can only endorse?

  • Dewi

    “cold reality of independence”

    Cold reality as in the performance of the countries shown below. what have they got in common I wonder ?

    Richest countries in Europe

  • Glen-the SNP has always advocated a civic nationalism.
    Therefore a Scot, as far as the SNP, are concerned is anyone resident in Scotland.
    The Glasgow Irish were-historically-resistant to voting SNP.
    I recently blogged on my own site about the significance of the Glasgow East victory.

  • Good find Dewi.
    A standard argument against Scottish independence in the 1970s (as I recall) was that Scotland would be cut adrift, an impoverished Albania.
    Another argument was-quite frankly-was that the Scots may have been able to adminster the British empire, but not their own little country.
    The inability to govern argument is off the table-taken off the table in a pre-election interview with Jack McConell.

  • dub

    Phil,

    Could you please elaborate on what you mean when you say that the “Unionists have won on this island”? Also why do you say that SF are underwriting the Union, surely they can now be gradulists too rather than “fundies”? And therefore this does not mean that they are underwriting the Union, rather they are willing to work within structures that are a bridge into the Republic of Ireland. Dou you have to be a “fundie” in your view to achieve change in Ireland, whilst ok to be a gradualist in Scotland?
    Are you not falling into the trap that without the war we lose?

  • Glencoppagagh

    Dewi
    I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to prove with that link.
    You also make the common error of confusing GDP and GNP. On 2007 figures from Irish CSO GNP is 15% below GDP, the difference being in simple terms the profits of multinationals. GNP is what the Irish have for themselves.
    And how many years did it take the Irish to reach this level? I’m sure the Scots will be pleased to know they’ll be richer than anybody else in 80 years time.

  • A perceptive point Dub although I see the SF leadership now needing the Stormont assembly to be inside the tent-on an all island basis they would be a small party-they need partition (more irony).
    The Stormont gravy train and the cross border quangos have become the objective.
    How else to you explain Martin McGuiness tearfully begging Peter Mandelson to give him his job back?
    In Scotland there are not 55% of Scots who are ethnically/ideologically opposed to Scottish independence (although the Glasgow Irish used to
    play that role.)
    Moreover there isnt any possibility of a geographic partition of Scotland as happened in Ireland.

  • Glen-on a recent trip to Scotland I was struck by how little economics played in conversations about independence.
    It may come down to a more emotional need to be self-governing.
    That is , of course, a matter for the people of Scotland-that is people in Scotland who live tghere and want the place to work for them and their families.
    A few strong advocates of Scottish Independence I emt were English people who had moved north.
    The SNP’s civic nationalism easily embraces them to their ranks.
    I am merely an interested observer as an Irish citizen resident in the ROI.
    I dont get a vote on this nor should I.
    However the Scottish question-imo-now dominates the geopolitics of Ukania (Tom Nairn) rather than the feud in the North East of this island.

    Subsequently it is apposite on a blogsite about Northern Ireland.

    Perhaps the Ulstur Scotch will play a role in Scotland’s claim of Right similiar to that of the Irish in America?

    No?

  • Glencoppagagh

    Phil
    It’s worrying if economics don’t figure highly in independence discussions.
    Maybe it depends who you talk to. I suspect that independenc is more popular among the left-leaning who believe that Scotland’s high level of state dependency is sustainable indefinitely. If you talk to business people you might get a different view.
    “Perhaps the Ulstur Scotch will play a role in Scotland’s claim of Right similiar to that of the Irish in America?”
    I’m afraid this is a bit too opaque for me. Would you care to elucidate?

  • dub

    Phil,

    I believe there will be a united ireland but a federal one with govt at stormont preserved… also i believe that sf could easily become biggest party at stormont in nexc couple of years and therefore we will have an SF first minister.. then watch sf act in as clever a way as salmond at the moment.

  • Dub I cant see your anlysis (SF largest party etc).
    I believe, just my opinion of course, that the DUP top team have the measure of SF at Stormont.

  • Glen-there are many Scottish entrepreneurs who back independence.
    Moreover they see an independent Scotland as a good environment for buisiness.

    Salmond himself, of course, is from the world of business (an oil economist with a major bank)

  • Glen:
    Perhaps the Ulstur Scotch will play a role in Scotland’s claim of Right similiar to that of the Irish in America?”
    I’m afraid this is a bit too opaque for me. Would you care to elucidate?

    Nothing opaque about the following:

    If the Unionists of the North East of Ireland claim some sort of Scottish heritage then shouldnt they want their “old country” to regain it’s ancient freedom?

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Glencoppagagh

    Brian has also quoted Suilven from another thread, who was hoplesly confused and though the new local income tax proposals would be tied in with income tax.

    I’m not sure how this u-turn will play. Does it mean an end to the auld played out scare tactics? I hope not as they no longer work. Has labour finally stopped moaning about the rug being pulled from them and came to realise that they must now deal with it?

    We live in interesting times indeed.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Phil
    The fanciful idea of Edinburgh rule might once have held a sentimental attraction but no longer (I’ve reflected on it myself). Maybe if the Scottish Tories had reinvented themselves as a liberal nationalist party in competition with the statist SNP but that’s a complete fantasy, I know.
    It’s good to know that there still are entrepreneurs in Scotland even if they lean towards independence and I am sceptical that they do.
    I fail to see what advantage an independent Scotland can offer business other than the possibility of a lower corporation tax.
    I can’t see the SNP selling independence on the prospectus of Scotland as a free-market nirvana.
    And I don’t think working as an ‘economist’ with RBS for a few years counts as a business background. Even if the SNP hasn’t always been left leaning, Salmond has.

  • Glen-this is from The Scotsman newspaper March 2007.

    “SIR George Mathewson, one of Scotland’s most influential business leaders, today declares his support for the Scottish National Party and independence, handing Alex Salmond a huge political boost ahead of the Holyrood election.

    The endorsement by Sir George, who helped transform the Royal Bank of Scotland into the world’s fifth biggest bank, will play a crucial role in cementing the nationalists’ economic credibility.”

  • Glen if you remain sceptical that business leaders in Scotland support independence then you should-perhaps pay more attention to the debates in the business sections of the Scottish press.

    Your posting shows-to me-that you are not up to speed on this.

    The Scottish CBI isnt the unionist monolith that it once was.

    Increasingly the idea of Scottish independence is less and less “fanciful” to the people who matter in this-the Scots.

  • Glen-on a recent trip to the Scottish parliament I spoke with a veteran Scottish political correspondent who remarked that the scottish business elite were getting their ehad round the idea of scottish statehood and many saw it as a huge opportunity.
    In the 1980s this would have been crazy talk.

    People accomodate to the new realities.

    Surely Northen Ireland is a case in point.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>It’s good to know that there still are entrepreneurs in Scotland even if they lean towards independence and I am sceptical that they do.< >I fail to see what advantage an independent Scotland can offer business other than the possibility of a lower corporation tax.< >Your posting shows-to me-that you are not up to speed on this.<

  • PE. I was giving Glen the benefit of the doubt that he was genuinely not up to speed on these things as opposed to being an ostrich in a sash.

    Scottish independence is an appalling vista for the “Ulstur Scotch”.

    These ersatz Jocks ahve nothing in common with the vast majority of the common folk of Scotland-you and I both no that.
    The saltire poster in the Glasgow East by-election with the words “Scottish not British” really says it all.
    That statement of identity will be the dominant issue for the UK polity for the next twenty years at least.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Getting booed and ridiculed at Hampden whilst proclaiming their Britishness has hit home methinks.

    >>Scottish independence is an appalling vista for the “Ulstur Scotch”.

    These ersatz Jocks ahve nothing in common with the vast majority of the common folk of Scotland<

  • PE. Yeah the booing of God Save the Latrine did not go down well with the supporters of Club UVF.

    The Scots are abandoning “Britishness” in significant, strategic numbers.

    The recently concocted “Ulstur Scotch” have little idea what changes are taking place in their ancestral homeland (sic).

    I find it all rather amusing :0)

  • “Harsh, cutting and powerful truths there Phil. I hope some of them wake up at last to the fact that abandoning their heritage for temporary “Britishness” is an embarressing folly”

    I have to take issue with you there PE.

    I would prefer they stay exactly where they are in terms of their mindset.

    I also want them to stay exactly where they are geographically!

    If any of them started to act on the “Ulstur Scotch” fantasies and went back to Scotland then that would be an influx of unionist aliens that could damage Scotland’s claim of right.

  • Gie wee McConnell his due, he officially(wi a wee fore warning) began to house train the bigots. In a short space of time they have become an irrelevance not to be negotiated with. However I take your point that any numbers coming from the six counties may awaken the beast.however i want them to value their heritage minus the compulsory Taig hating pro-British/anti-Irish nonsense.

  • PE. Sadly Salmond has not continued McConnell’s work in this area.
    Note the total official silence on “The Famine Song.”

    Were such a ditty to be sung about any other group

    eg. “The holocaust is over why dont you go home?”

    then it would be front page news.

    That said the trailer trash who trashed Manchester are not central to Scottish society anymore than the feuding families of Limerick are to society here in Ireland.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Phil and PE
    “If the Unionists of the North East of Ireland claim some sort of Scottish heritage then shouldnt they want their “old country” to regain it’s ancient freedom?”
    In principle I’m not against Scottish independence but the prospect is depressing in reality because I can’t see a large part of the population being weaned off their state dependency and I’m not just thinking about the huge west of Scotland underclass but the sizeable middle class bureaucracy that services them. I think in the past the SNP has pointed to Scandinavian countries as a model for Scotland with a broad acceptance of high state intervention and high taxation. Unfortunately, I don’t think Scotland has the necessary social cohesion for it to work. Well paid fund managers in Edinburgh are not going to take kindly to keeping the Neds in the manner to which they have become accustomed. I’d be concerned if the SNP managed to hold a seat like Glasgow East and win more similar to it because they will become more beholden to that section of the electorate
    Now a nationalist party dedicated to overwthrowing the old Labour-sponsored dependency culture would be something else as I hinted at in an earlier post. A country Adam Smith would be proud of. But I doubt that this would appeal much to either of you.

    Phil
    “SIR George Mathewson, one of Scotland’s most influential business leaders, today declares his support for the Scottish National Party and independence, handing Alex Salmond a huge political boost ahead of the Holyrood election.
    The endorsement by Sir George, who helped transform the Royal Bank of Scotland into the world’s fifth biggest bank, will play a crucial role in cementing the nationalists’ economic credibility.”
    Matthewson’s is certainly an impressive endorsement but was he wasn’t chairman of RBS when he made it so it was in a personal capacity. If Fred Goodwin did the same, it really would be something.

    “Quite patronising there Glencoppagagh, Aye there are these people and the biggest and richest of them all is a financial supporter; Soutar”
    I didn’t mean to be patronising. Of course Scotland like every country has entrepreneurs but its not noted for exceptional levels of entrepreneurial activity. Soutar is an entrepreneur in much the same way that property developers are entrepreneurs. You can’t base a successful economy on running buses or building houses.

    “I was giving Glen the benefit of the doubt that he was genuinely not up to speed on these things as opposed to being an ostrich in a sash.”
    I don’t claim in touch with Scottish opinion than either of you but I’m not convinced that yours’ is anything like a comprehehensive view. How many Edinburgh fund managers do you know?

    “ersatz Jocks I hope some of them wake up at last to the fact that abandoning their heritage for temporary “Britishness” is an embarressing folly.”

    Which heritage are you referring to? Are you acknowledging that many people in NI are Scottish rather than Irish? Should they prefer to seek a union with an independent Scotland on that account (however far fetched the notion might be)?
    I can only speak for myself and I would welcome the right kind of independent Scotland but its not the one I think the SNP and its supporters are looking for. Oh and don’t worry it’s not one that NI unionists are likely to flock to in droves.

    Finally why do two people who at least affect Irishness care so much about Scottish independence? You haven’t shown much interest in the economic arguments. It’s hard to believe that it’s based on anything more than visceral anti-Englishness/Britishness and, very apparently, hatred of Ulster unionists.

    Apologies for the length of the post but I thought I’d try to clear it up in one go.

    By the way I’ve not heard the Famine Song but it does sound quite funny if you’re not so po-faced about these things as to make the absurd and shameful comparison with the Holocaust.

  • Glen.

    I can understand why the prospect of Scottish freedom is depressing for you -because it is the end of Britishness.
    Luckily it isn’t down to you-it is down to people like the voters of Glasgow east-where I was born & reared.
    Scotland does have an underclass problem.
    I was a social worker in the East End of the city for a decade. So I can attest to that.
    That underclass trashed Manchester last May. That “social poison” (Graham Spiers. London Times) will be a challenge for the new Scotland.

    John Mason is an excellent MP for Glasgow East and I am confident he will hold onto the seat.
    It will not be only “safe” labour seat that the SNP will win.
    John Mason said he came into politics to break up Britain. He is an active member of the Baptist church.
    However for your purposes you will, no doubt, consider him a taig;0)

    You dismiss Mathewson because he spoke in a personal capacity. That is very a very weak argument. Mathewson is an opinion former in Scottish business.
    As for fund managers. I have one very good friend (I reside with him and his good lady when I’m in Edinburgh) he was a child of Thatcherism. A paid up Tory. A St.Andrews trained economist. He now supports Salmond’s push for a separate Scotland.
    People in the North East of Ireland who want to affect a wholly invented cringeworthy Scottishness (an imagined 17th century variety) will find that there is no place for them in Scotland save for Ibrox park.
    The “Ulster Scots” are Scottish in the same way the Afrikanners are Dutch.

    I think when you have read the lyrics of the “famine song” we will have an apology from you-unless you consider starving people to be funny.
    I discussed the famine song with a friend of mine at the Irish Post.
    He is a Spurs supporter and of Jewish background. The Holocaust anology was offered by him.
    Maybe you consider him to be a Taig as well?

  • there you are Glen this Shankhill humor may be your taste.
    I know people in the scottish government who are taking a different view.

    I often wonder where they would have been
    If we hadn’t have taken them in
    Fed them and washed them
    Thousands in Glasgow alone
    From Ireland they came
    Brought us nothing but trouble and shame
    Well the famine is over
    Why don’t they go home?

    Now Athenry Mike was a thief
    And Large John he was fully briefed
    And that wee traitor from Castlemilk
    Turned his back on his own
    They’ve all their Papists in Rome
    They have U2 and Bono
    Well the famine is over
    Why don’t they go home?

    Now they raped and fondled their kids
    That’s what those perverts from the darkside did
    And they swept it under the carpet
    and Large John he hid
    Their evils seeds have been sown
    Cause they’re not of our own
    Well the famine is over
    Why don’t you go home?

    Now Timmy don’t take it from me
    Cause if you know your history
    You’ve persecuted thousands of people
    In Ireland alone
    You turned on the lights
    Fuelled U boats by night
    That’s how you repay us
    It’s time to go home.

  • Glencopagagh

    Phil
    Due to ‘connectivity issues’ I’ve not been able to reply sooner.
    First, tell me what I have written on this thread that leads you to conclude that I am a sectarian bigot. eg “John Mason …Baptist
    However for your purposes you will, no doubt, consider him a taig”
    Or it simply in your nature to presumptuously smear anyone who happens to disagree with you?

    Second, if you can’t address the economic arguments yourself, maybe you could ask the ‘St Andrew’s trained’, (is that meant to be a mark of great distinction?) economist to help you out. Let me remind you of the question: how can an independent Scotland sustain current high levels of public sector dependency?

    Finally, you’re right the Famine Song lyrics are not funny, not offensive not funny but just not funny. However, is doesn’t engage in ‘Famine denial’ nor does it poke fun at the event.
    Still, if the improbable figure of a Jewish journalist (and a Spurs-supporting one for authenticity)on the Irish Post thinks the Famine was just like the Holocaust who am I to disagree. Even more so if he worked on the Jewish Chronicle, though. He’s bound to know who it was in the British government of the time that planned the Famine or the Irish Holocaust as we must now refer to it obviously.