Letters: Changing tack

I WAS interested in the arguments by six economists led by Professor Anton Muscatelli Principal of Glasgow University (Perspective, 31 January) apparently challenging the argument by Professors Scott and Hughes Hallett that fiscal autonomy would lead to economic growth.

In 2005, I was signatory to an open letter from 13 economists titled "Increased Fiscal Power Essential", it argued that "Increased fiscal responsibility is essential for the prudent management of Scottish government spending and, ultimately, of the Scottish economy …Scottish politicians under the current regime have no incentive to improve Scotland's economic growth … for a small open economy on the periphery of Europe, an ability to alter the incentive structure is crucial".

One of the co-signatories to that letter was Prof Muscatelli, then Professor of Economics at Glasgow University.

I have to confess that I find it difficult to find much difference between the sentiments of Muscatelli (2005) and Hughes Hallett and Scott (2011), and it is not clear to me what of substance has happened in the last six years for Muscatelli (2011) to apparently reject or forget the arguments of Muscatelli (2005).

EMERITUS PROFESSOR NEIL KAY

Economics Department University of Strathclyde

Glasgow

Unfortunately for Alexander McKay, his attack on Scottish fiscal powers (Letters, 1 February) came on the day the price of Brent crude reached $100 a barrel, thus pushing Scotland further into financial surplus.

The Holyrood Committee failed to properly scrutinise the Scotland Bill or consider the considerable body of evidence against the proposed limited taxation powers, which was its supposed remit.

The choice for voters in May is a decade of Tory/Lib Dem cuts from London, caused not least by Labour's UK current account deficit of 155 billion, or Scottish self-determination with the resultant financial economic boost that Norway has.

FRASER GRANT

It IS not surprising that some members of the Calman Commission, including its chair (Prof Muscatelli), wish to defend their conclusions.

In doing so, they continue the efforts of many involved in the Calman process to avoid scrutiny of the deflationary and damaging proposals being put forward in the Scotland Bill. It is, though, disappointing to see a supposedly independent expert adviser to the Parliamentary Scotland Bill Committee involved in such actions.

Of the economists involved Professor Ulph, though you wouldn't know it from the piece, was selected by some members of the Scotland Bill Committee as their adviser on the economic implications of the bill. The public suggestion of the SNP that MSPs of nearly 12 years' experience should pursue their inquiry themselves was rejected by Labour, Tory and Lib Dem members, seemingly concerned they would have to fight their own battles and build their own smokescreens.

It is not Prof Ulph's views in themselves that concern me, though I disagree with him, but the conflict of interest inherent in publicly defending the proposals of an expert group of which he was a member, whilst employed by a parliamentary committee to provide advice and criticism on the legislation which followed on from that work.

LINDA FABIANI, MSP

Warrender Park Road

Edinburgh

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