Call their bluff

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PETER Jones (Perspective, 9 June) hits the nail on the head. The SNP’s claim to be pursuing full fiscal autonomy is a “bluff”. The reality is the Nationalists are backing off from the policy as from a ticking timebomb. 

Despite the fact that even one of their own, Tommy Sheppard, can see and has admitted the “silliness” of the policy (your report, same day) Nicola Sturgeon wishes to perpetuate the bluff by claiming Scotland “could shoulder the burden”. Interesting language – so she does at least admit that there would be a “burden”. How big a burden I wonder – say, £7.6 billion a year and rising?

The truth was evident in Angus Robertson’s uncomfortably slippery appearance on BBC2’s Scotland 2015 (8 June). When asked repeatedly why he would not push for FFA as per the manifesto, his best attempt at an answer was… because the Tory government would not accept the proposal! So much for the promise of “a stronger voice for Scotland”.

The real reason is surely the exact opposite – that the Tory government might very well go along with the proposal. There would not be many more than one Tory MP who would object on the grounds that it would be a disaster for Scotland. 

Thankfully Mr Robertson can see and made it clear to all that ditching a major plank of the SNP manifesto will indeed be “stronger for Scotland”.

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue

Edinburgh

THE SNP doublespeak over full fiscal autonomy (FFA) is fascinating to follow.

The Nationalists clearly realise FFA at present would be a disaster, as evidenced by statements from new MPs Tommy Sheppard and George Kerevan. They persist in the fiction that they want FFA while secure in the belief that the UK government will not grant it. This enables them to simultaneously pursue FFA and also their grievance agenda that Westminster is doing the dirty on Scotland with cuts to the central government grant.

They are therefore demanding not only continuing funding from the UK but new powers over economic matters.

I doubt the SNP has much willingness to raise taxes. It has never used the powers the Scottish Government was given to raise income tax and has frozen council tax for years now. The Smith Commission’s tax-raising powers are probably irrelevant to the Nationalists.

What the Nationalists really want is other fiscal, welfare and economic powers which they think will help grow the Scottish economy, based on the belief, probably well founded, that the Tories UK austerity policies are blocking economic growth. In this way the Nationalists hope Scotland’s fiscal gap will close sufficiently over the next few years to make FFA or even independence look more feasible.

They do, of course, have to maintain the fiction that they still want FFA and independence now to keep their more fundamentalist supporters on board.

The UK Tory government seems happy to collude in this charade for the present, although some of its supporters seem to want to call the Nationalists bluff and give them what they say they want, FFA, rather than what they actually want. 

The truth, given how they used the SNP as demons to scare the English electorate, may be that the Tories will be happy to throw the Nationalists crumbs and keep them as a stick to beat the English voters into not going to Labour at the next election.

Henry Kinloch

Campbell Park Crescent

Edinburgh