An upheaval in the whole shape of devolution is foreshadowed tomorrow when the report of the Calman Commission on more powers for the Scottish Parliament is published. Tax raising and government borrowing powers are being recommended, giving Holyrood direct control over around £6 billion worth of tax income to make it more accountable for its spending decisions, according to an email leaked to the Scottish media. The report, commissioned by the previous Labour/LD coalition is an argument in favour of ending the Barnett formula and replacing it by assigned revenues from London based on a new assessment of need throughout the UK. Although the Stormont Executive has s no ambitions to follow the Scottish lead to gain tax- raising powers, a revised Scottish settlement would eventually throw Northern Irelands block grant into the melting pot.
Says the Sunday Herald ,
the Commission will call for MSPs to be given control of around half the £10bn of income tax raised in Scotland each year, with around £1bn of other taxes, including stamp duty, devolved outright. A “national piggybank” will also be created using North Sea oil revenue.
The SNP government, which has largely ignored the Commission because it refused to consider Scottish independence, questioned the value of the tax plans, as the greater control would be offset by cuts in the annual £30bn block grant from Westminster. (It described Calman as a ) “completely fatuous and irrelevant exercise” that would “give with one hand and take away with the other”.
Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor says:
(Calman is) a recognition, basically, that the current power to vary taxation in the Scottish Parliament hasn’t worked.Down the road a bit, the Treasury, I think, will expect a review of need across the UK – they will then argue Scotland’s spending levels should be reduced.
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