I entirely agree with the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, when he indicates that the UK Government would reject John Swinney’s call for full fiscal autonomy for Scotland.
The Scotland Bill was signed by all participants to the Smith Commission, including Mr Swinney, giving powers to Holyrood, including the following:
Control over income tax rates and bands; a proportion of the VAT raised in Scotland; the power to create new benefits in development areas, and to make discretionary welfare payments.
As Mr Mundell correctly states, amendments to the agreed powers, as demanded by Swinney and his cohorts, would effectively kill off the Barnett Formula, and would end the sharing of resources across the UK – a “full fiscal autonomy” policy would be a shambles which would cost every family in Scotland around £5,000.
So is it the case that John Swinney is becoming more daring? When Alex Salmond was still in power, I do recall that a leaked memo from the Scottish Government revealed that Swinney was most concerned about Salmond’s economic policies and urged caution. So what has caused him to change his views on the matter?
The indications are that Scottish oil receipts are reduced by about £34.5 billion. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has indicated that an increase in Scotland’s deficit would be about £9.7bn higher than the status quo under the present UK Government.
John Swinney’s new-found confidence may be based on a sense of bravado after the SNPs apparent success in the general election. As we all know, he was not always as confident as the referred leaked memo from the Scottish Office revealed.
Also, it must be remembered that over 55 per cent of Scots voted against independence in the 2014 referendum. Even in the more recent general election 1,456,029 Scots did not vote for the SNP, but because of our first-past-the-post electoral system, with 49.97 per cent of the vote, the SNP took 56 seats in the House of Commons – not exactly representative of the electorate.
I am fairly certain that many people in Scotland would just like to return to a less intense political scene, and just get on with their lives.
Robert I G Scott