Letter: All agreed on need for Calman referendum

I NEVER thought I'd agree with a former Thatcherite Tory like Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. He is, however, correct to call for a referendum on the Calman proposals (your report, 28 December).

We can see why the Westminster-inspired Scotland Office wants Calman because it would mean the end of the Barnett formula.

What the Scottish public have failed to grasp is that Calman is intended to be punitive to Scotland, not a reward - to make the Scots electorate accept responsibility for a government that mis-spends its budget.

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MSPs, of course, see "more power" a bit like Homer Simpson would see "more food", ie more is good. They think that if they can only get their hands on "the levers of power" that everything they complain about in the economy will suddenly be rectified.

In this they are supported by lower and middle tier Scottish businessmen who have noted the low rate of corporation tax in Ireland and its impact on their own pockets. Everyone conveniently closes their eyes to the way the Celtic pussy cat is drowning because of the way the "levers of power" have been abused in Ireland. And it's the minnows of the Scottish economy who want their hands on the levers. The biggest companies have adopted a policy of wait and see.

The danger to the Scottish people is that our largest businesses are all in the financial sector and it is precisely these companies which are the most mobile. Their capital is highly mobile and the jobs they create most certainly are. As it is, they are major employers in other countries besides Scotland and nothing will stop them transferring work to a more tax favourable regime.

In this debate, all the talk has been about Holyrood and the powers of MSPs. But like Lord Forsyth, I believe the Scottish people need to be brought into the argument. There should be a referendum about the nature of changes that will affect everyone, not just the political in-crowd.


Paisley Drive


LORD Forsyth is right to say that the powers proposed by the Calman commision would be useless - in his words: "You can't play golf with just one club. You need to set corporation tax and others. But that is called independence."

Before calling for another referendum, I would have expected a former secretary of state for Scotland to know what the questions in the last one were. Your Political Editor, Eddie Barnes, reports: "Lord Forsyth says there is a clear principle for a referendum on the plans, pointing to the 1997 referendum question which asked whether the country wanted to hand MSPs power to vary income tax, subsequently set at plus or minus 3p on the basic rate."

This is not what was asked. While it was known that the Labour Party favoured limited tax-varying powers, that was not what the question put to the voters asked.The alternatives were "I agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax varying powers; or I do not agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax varying powers". The Labour government, who wrote the questions, could have asked about "limited tax-varying powers", in which case many Scottish Nationalists might have voted No. As put to the electorate the Yes/Yes result means that constitutionally the Scottish Parliament already has power to vary any and all taxes, although Westminster has so far failed to provide the mechanism to transfer these powers.

Perhaps you could reproduce the relevant part of the Scottish Referendum 1997 document for his information and that of the three Unionist parties who all peddle the same misrepresentation.


Kinneddar St, Lossiemouth

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The irony seems to have escaped Lord Forsyth of Drumlean as he tables amendments in the House of Lords for a nationwide referendum on the Calman reforms.

Where is our referendum on allowing failed MPs like him to be elevated to that unelected body?

Surely any mandate he had to table amendments to legislation lapsed when he was unceremoniously dumped as MP for Stirling in 1997.

His argument that the public has a democratic right to decide on the transfer of powers extends equally to the transfer of powers to unelected lawmakers.


Broomieknowe Gardens

Bonnyrigg, Midlothian