Lib Dems seek SNP deal
THE fight to hand more powers to the Scottish Parliament is to take a dramatic step forward with a move by the Lib Dems to include the SNP in the Calman Commission group examining greater home rule.
Writing in Scotland on Sunday today, Tavish Scott, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, reveals that he wants Scotland to move on to "Calman Plus" – a constitutional settlement that would involve far greater control over raising taxes than so far envisaged. And he argues that SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond should be part of that process, which has so far been limited to the three Unionist parties – Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories.
Scott argues that the aim for the Scottish Liberal Democrats was to implement the recommendations of the Steel Commission, which reported on Scottish devolution in 2007, and was more radical than Calman.
That commission advocated the transfer of most tax-and-spend powers to Holyrood, allowing the Scottish Parliament to vary the rates and bands, leaving only some reserved taxes at Westminster. It also said there was a case for allocating Scotland's share of North Sea oil and gas revenues to the Scottish Government.
The Calman Commission did not go as far as that, calling instead for the Scottish Parliament to have control to vary the basic and higher rates of income tax by 10p – something the SNP and other critics have warned would be inflexible and damaging.
Scott said: "David Steel's commission argued for greater change in 2007. So I want to see 'Calman plus' emerge from the work the Scottish Secretary started this week. And unlike Labour, the new UK government should include the Scottish government in (Scottish Secretary] Danny Alexander's working group."
Scott appealed to Salmond to get involved in the process ahead of the tabling at Westminster in October of the Scotland Bill, which will implement the Calman Commission findings.
He said: "He has to decide whether he wants to be constructive, to be the First Minister and work with the UK government and the others. That is what most Scots want.
"If Mr Salmond recognises that his primary responsibility is as First Minister and not as the leader of the SNP, then we can all achieve a better outcome for Scotland."
Scott added: "The ball is firmly in Mr Salmond's court. If he plays on the pitch which strengthens Scotland's Parliament then much can be done."
A source close to the First Minister said ministers from the Scottish Government were willing to talk to their counterparts at Westminster to see if a way forward could be found.
The Nationalists believe the Calman proposals are deeply flawed and restrictive and want much wider fiscal autonomy for Scotland.
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