Let’s get fiscal

I can’t help but disagree with Calum Stewart’s assertion that opposition to full fiscal autonomy is Project Fear Mark II 
(Letters, 6 July).

Firstly, we need to determine what full fiscal autonomy actually is. Simply put, it is generally viewed as Scotland raising the money that it then spends.

Is this though what the SNP actually want? In one of the leaders’ debates Nicola Sturgeon said she would vote for FFA in the first year of the new Parliament.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

However, the day after the debate John Swinney was doing the rounds clarifying the situation. He claimed that it would take up to seven years to deliver FFA because it was a complicated process. (I am sure this also had something to do with the extra £7.6 billion budget deficit identified by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.) Full independence within 18 months but seven years for FFA. I don’t get it.

So what exactly do the SNP actually want, because it would appear not to be FFA as recognised by Calum Stewart or me?

George Kerevan, the new SNP MP for East Lothian and a distinguished economist, wrote shortly after the election: “For Scotland to accept fiscal autonomy without in-built UK-wide fiscal balancing would be tantamount to economic suicide.

“However, all federal systems have mechanisms for cross-subsidising regions in economic need by regions in surplus.”

Sound reasonable enough, but is it FFA? It sounds more like a modified version of what we have got with the Barnett formula being retained. So what other parts of the UK are currently running a surplus that would be able to cross-subsidise Scotland? Mr Kerevan helpfully answered this in the very same article: “The UK as a whole is running a massive budget deficit which means every single region and nation of the UK is running its own individual deficit, London included.”

So if the SNP were to get FFA, which their MPs have just voted for, they would be expecting other parts of the UK that are also running a deficit to subsidise Scotland’s deficit – surely not? It would appear so, but is it really FFA?

Colin Yorkston

Cameron Way

Prestonpans, East Lothian