A few thoughts on Labour’s Devolution Commission

(I have my own disappointments at what Johann Lamont announced as Labour’s offering to Scotland, should we choose ‘No’ in September and Labour wins the 2015. Indeed, the ‘Devo Plus’ option was one that I argued should be on the ballot because that interim stage was probably the most popular option among the apolitical majority of Scots. Given that, the attached blog from a professional dissects the paper’s shortcomings far more elegantly and clinically than I could.

Quoted verbatim from http://www.legalknowledgescotland.com/?p=1558):

I am surprised that Labour has backtracked on almost all of the tax proposals it made in its interim report.  I did not expect Lamont to be so thoroughly routed by her opponents in her own party on the need to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament in any meaningful way.  The final report can be found here and my blog on the interim report can be found here.

The final report does not even go as far as the final recommendations made by the Calman Commission.  Calman recommend 6 new tax powers for the Scottish Parliament.  The Scotland Act 2012, often referred to as “Calman minus” only implements 3 of them.

This is from the final report: “We concluded that, for a variety of good reasons, VAT, national insurance contributions, corporation tax, alcohol, tobacco and fuel duties, climate change levy, insurance premium tax, vehicle excise duty, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and tax on oil receipts should remain reserved.” It is not clear from the final report if the Aggregates Levy will be devolved.  What is meant by the Crown Estate recommendation is anyone’s guess.

With regard to the only tax power left standing when the music stopped; income tax.  The interim report said: “In our view, a strong case exists for devolving income tax in full, and we are minded to do so“.  How Labour got from that point to the income tax proposal announced yesterday is again anybody’s guess.  I will come back to that point.

This announcement must also have exasperated those still arguing for “devo plus” and “devomax”.  These proposals are often misunderstood, often intentionally.  ”Devo Plus” would devolve almost all tax and welfare powers.  ”Devo max” goes even further. Remember there are over 25 taxes, charges and duties when comparing the Labour proposal to “devo plus” or “devo max”. The Labour proposal such as it is, when taken together with the recent announcements by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives may well prove to be the final straw for those arguing for the devolving of substantial powers for the Scottish Parliament. That I suspect can only be good news for the “YES” campaign.

Johann Lamont was unable to even answer basic questions on the income tax proposal when she was interviewed on Newsnight Scotland.  A link to this interview can be found here.  To be fair, I am not sure if anyone could easily explain the income tax proposal.  If I was the cynical type I might suggest that this looks like a policy that is intentionally created to make sure it never sees the light of day.  I was also interested to hear that she is opposed to tax competition if it involves Scotland.

This is from my chapter in the Hassan/Mitchell publication “After Independence” and titled: “The continuing battle for Scottish tax powers”.   Nothing it seems has changed.

“So how have the opponents of substantial tax powers for the Scottish Parliament been able to ensure that substantial tax powers are not devolved to the Scottish Parliament?  A template can be seen from Calman, what might be called the ”Calman doctrine”. Make a huge fuss about having someone look at the issue, take your time, offer as little as possible, exaggerate any problems, minimise or ignore any advantages and ensure HMRC and HM Treasury remain in control.”

About davidsberry

Local councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Stood for the Scottish Parliament 2011; lost by 151 votes.
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