Michael Moore defies Holyrood cash calls

SCOTLAND'S new Secretary of State has defied growing calls for Holyrood to be given greater tax raising powers.

• Moore is sticking to terms already agreed by the Calman Commission

In his first major interview, Michael Moore said the Scottish Government would not get any new abilities to raise money other than those already agreed by the Calman Commission.

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His comments will anger a group of business leaders – including Ben Thomson, chairman of think-tank Reform Scotland, and Scotland's richest man Jim McColl – who last week called for greater fiscal autonomy north of the Border. Moore's stance also signals a major rift between Westminster and the SNP administration at Holyrood.

The Scottish Secretary told Scotland on Sunday he was prepared to consider any minor changes to Calman which might improve the devolution settlement but when he was asked whether he was considering any moves towards fiscal autonomy, he replied: "Absolutely not."

Moore stressed that the Bill granting more powers to Scotland was being drawn up around the Calman proposals themselves.

The Calman Commission recommended giving Holyrood control over a large part of income tax – 10p in the pound on both the basic and upper rates – which would give Scottish ministers the power to raise a third of the Scottish block grant.

The coalition government in London announced its commitment to introduce the Calman proposals in the Queen's Speech last month, sparking a wide debate in Scotland as to whether the proposals went far enough.

Last week, Tavish Scott, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said he hoped the debate over Calman would lead to 'Calman Plus' – which he interpreted as more sweeping tax powers.

Then Reform Scotland, the right-leaning think tank, published a report with the backing of senior business leaders calling for extra new tax powers including corporation tax to be devolved to Scotland, over and above the Calman proposals.

However, in an interview with Scotland on Sunday today, Moore said he will not consider any major extension to the Calman proposals. He insisted he took the same view as Scott and he wanted to see 'Calman Plus' – but his version of 'Calman Plus' is Calman with any minor adjustments which might make it work better.

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Moore said: "Tavish and I are in complete agreement. Where there is an opportunity, as we change the Calman Commission report into a legislative package, where we see as we go along issues that arise, something that wasn't envisaged at the time, we are open-minded and comfortable about that."

Asked whether there was any chance of major changes to the proposals towards full fiscal autonomy, he replied: "Absolutely not."

Moore said he had already spoken to Chancellor George Osborne and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander about the Calman proposals.

Scotland on Sunday understands that the Treasury is fiercely opposed to any extension of the Calman proposals on tax powers.

The SNP wants to see full fiscal autonomy and have raised concerns over proposed changes to tax thresholds.

They believe Scotland would lose out by about 250 million a year if Calman is implemented as it is now and the UK Government goes ahead and raises the basic tax threshold to 10,000.

A spokesman for Finance Secretary John Swinney said: "We don't recognise the Secretary of State's reported comments as reflecting where the debate now is."