NI likely to follow cautious Scottish approach to the future

The interim report by Sir Kenneth Calman’s commission on the future of Scottish Home Rule slaps down right away the idea of full financial autonomy – i.e. a new ability of Scotland Wales and NI to raise and spend their own taxes. The analysis undermines any faint notion that the devolved bodies -like ours – can present themselves as the rulers of a virtually sovereign state. Economic and much social policy will continue to be shaped at Westminster though almost certainly with more formal links with the devolved institutions. Although the Calman report is the pro-Union version of the future and the final report will present more detailed options next year, not everyone on that side of the argument is happy with its cautious approach to local taxation. And predictably the SNP First Minister dismissed Calman as “ a constitutional mouse”. The NI Executive harbour no great ambitions for new local taxation, to put it mildly. They face the prospect of swingeing cuts from 2011. In the meantime, they know all too well on which side their bread is buttered, as you can see in the table in the Calman document of public spending per head per region. £/head 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007-08

England 5,522 6,026 6,442 6,802 7,076 7,535
Scotland 6,696 7,213 7,458 8,077 8,544 9,179
Wales 6,515 6,945 7,315 7,796 8,172 8,577

Northern Ire 7,437 7,868 8,294 8,672 8,990 9,789

UK 5,726 6,225 6,624 7,012 7,308 7,790

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London