Letter: We must examine Scotland's tax powers

Is the New Year message from CBI Scotland (your report, 29 December] representative of the businesses it represents or a one-man political crusade by its director, Iain McMillan, to stop discussion about greater fiscal powers for Scotland?

The first criticism Mr McMillan makes about the Scottish Government is on wasting energy and money setting up the National Conversation.

He is being somewhat hypocritical to complain about the expense when he sat on the panel of the UK government's equivalent review, the Calman Commission, which was set up after the National Conversation and cost the taxpayer a good deal more.

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However, turning to the substance of the debate, is it not right that we have a proper examination of Scotland's tax and borrowing powers given that it is now being legislated for in the Scotland Act, with no real public consultation?

Tax and borrowing powers are vital economic levers for politicians to use to stimulate growth. The UK has one of the most centralised tax raising systems in Europe with more than 90 per cent of the taxes raised by Westminster.

If we are to reduce the dependency culture of Scottish politicians caused by central tax collection and budgets, then we need to have a proper debate on the extent of fiscal powers transferred to Scotland and not sweep it under the carpet.

To begin, perhaps the CBI could have a debate among its own sister organisations. While CBI Scotland supports limited transfer of fiscal power to Holyrood (under Calman more than 80 per cent of tax raised in Scotland would still be set and collected by Westminster), its Northern Ireland counterpart is much more progressive and even recommends a different corporation tax for Ulster.

As they say, it's good to talk!

Ben Thomson

Campaign for Fiscal Responsibility

North St David Street


Those Scots with no party political affiliation of any kind would agree wholeheartedly with the CBI's New Year message and its verdict on the record of the SNP minority administration.

To splash out millions and civil service energy on the blatantly political National Conversation and preparations for a referendum in the midst of world wide recession was bad enough. Yet even those things could have been understood as a necessity to quell the radicals in the SNP demanding more.

What is unforgivable, however, is to allow SNP dogma on Nato and, in particular, on nuclear energy to take over from clear thinking. If the first duty of government is to make the people they govern secure, the SNP has failed miserably.

Its avowed withdrawal from Nato will endanger every Scot. With regard to future provision of power, allowing dogma to prevent the building of nuclear power stations as part of a mix comes close to being criminally negligent and threatens the secure futures of our children and grandchildren.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg

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EdinburghBeware Unionists bearing gifts: Lord Forsyth of Drumlean has decided that the Scottish people deserve a referendum on the Calman Commission's proposals (your report, 28 December). Was it not the Conservatives who encouraged us to vote against the "loaded" 1979 devolution referendum on the basis that it was flawed and that they would offer a better proposal?

Once they were in power this promise was conveniently forgotten and Scotland had to wait for another change of Westminster government before the referendum was finally offered in 1997.

As a former Secretary of State for Scotland, who actually campaigned against devolution and tax varying powers, he obviously has a vested interest in frustrating any further devolution proposals.

Michael N Crosby


By Linlithgow

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean calls for a referendum on proposals to increase the powers of our Scottish Parliament. I propose a referendum to decide whether Michael Forsyth should continue to enjoy life membership of the London-based House of Lords.

He led his party to disaster, lost his seat here in Stirling - and was promptly parachuted into a peerage. If the noble Lord wishes to serve as a legislator, he should first get himself re-elected.

John Coutts

Ladysneuk Road