Letter: A flawed bill and a missed opportunity

WE ARE concerned that the Scotland Bill currently under examination by Holyrood will neither deliver the critical levers that will make Scotland more competitive, nor provide the platform for improved economic performance, nor will it make politicians more accountable.

There is a recognition by all four major political parties in Scotland of the need for greater fiscal responsibility and that the current budget system driven by the Barnett formula is fundamentally flawed. There is ample evidence in both academia and real-world experience to support the principle that financial responsibility leads to better government by giving politicians the powers to set and collect the taxes they are responsible for spending. Indeed, it is no wonder so many business leaders have recently joined the call for financial responsibility in such impressive numbers over the past year.

The Scotland Bill was an attempt to create greater fiscal responsibility. But we are not persuaded that there is anything in it that contains real incentives or levers for economic growth. However, what the Scotland Bill does contain are flaws that will only further complicate Scotland's funding arrangement without delivering either real accountability or the levers by which the Scottish Parliament can improve the country's economic competitiveness and performance.

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We believe that the devolution of financial powers - where the Scottish Parliament is responsible for raising its revenues as well as spending them - will allow more tailored economic policies to be put in place to improve the Scottish economy. Securing the levers of financial responsibility is critical to Scotland's future economic prosperity.

By contrast, passing a flawed Scotland Bill only creates additional problems while delaying the moment when Scotland can take real responsibility for improving its economic prospects.

It is a great shame that the most important bill since the Devolution Bill in 1997 has not been open to full public consultation as there has been a huge missed opportunity to improve the way in which Scotland is governed.

PROF ROD CROSS (Emeritus, University of Strathclyde), PROF MIKE DANSON (University of the West of Scotland), DR HERVEY GIBSON (Chairman, Cogent Strategies International), DR JOHN HOUSTON (Scottish Economic Society and Glasgow Caledonian University), PROF ANDREW HUGHES HALLETT (University of St Andrews and George Mason University), PROF NEIL KAY (Emeritus, University of Strathclyde), PROF DOUGLAS MAIR (Emeritus, Heriot-Watt University), DR SAVVAS SAVOURI (Chief Economist, Toscafund), PROF DREW SCOTT (University of Edinburgh) PROF JOHN STRUTHERS (University of the West of Scotland)