Cameron signals more tax powers if Scots vote No

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at the Scottish Conservative party conference. Picture: PA
Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at the Scottish Conservative party conference. Picture: PA
Share this article
Have your say

DAVID Cameron has said it is “right” the Scottish Parliament should get more powers if voters rejected independence.

DAVID Cameron has said it is “right” the Scottish Parliament should get more powers if voters rejected independence.

The Prime Minister gave his strongest signal yet that Holyrood should have significantly more tax-raising powers, saying it should have “greater responsibility for raising more of the money it spends”.

Speaking at the Scottish Conservative conference in Edinburgh yesterday, Mr Cameron said: “Let me be absolutely clear. A vote for No is not a vote for ‘no change’.

“We are committed to making devolution work better still. Not because we want to give Alex Salmond a consolation prize if Scotland votes No, but because it is the right thing to do – giving the Scottish Parliament greater responsibility for raising more of the money it spends.”

The Scottish Conservatives are considering the possibility of further constitutional change under a commission led by Lord Strathclyde. It is not expected to publish its report until May but, among the party’s grass-roots, there are many who oppose more devolution.

Mr Cameron’s speech, however, indicated the Conservatives intend to offer more income tax powers in the event of a No vote.

He said both he and the party’s Scottish leader, Ruth Davidson, thought Scotland should have greater fiscal responsibility. “That’s what Ruth believes, and I believe it too,” Mr Cameron said.

Arguing that more powers without breaking the Union made sense for Scotland, he said: “Vote Yes – that is total separation. Vote No – that can mean further devolution; more power to the Scottish people and their parliament, but with the crucial insurance policy that comes with being part of the UK.”

The Prime Minister’s intervention was an attempt to counter the SNP’s argument that a Yes vote represents the only way secure constitutional change for Scotland. Mr Cameron said it was “wrong” for the Nationalists to suggest a No vote was the “end of the line” for devolution.

His speech came just a few days before Scottish Labour is scheduled to unveil the findings of its devolution commission, which is expected to recommend further devolution of income tax powers and control over some aspects of welfare, including housing benefit.

On the opening day of a conference that was dominated by the referendum, Mr Cameron said he was determined to make a positive case for the Union and claimed Tories should be proud of the economic recovery.

Addressing a conference hall that was about two-thirds full of its 1,200 capacity, Mr Cameron took issue with suggestions that Scottish and Tory “values” were at odds with each other.

The Prime Minister told the conference: “When they say that Conservative values are somehow wrong for Scotland, we’ve got to say, ‘Excuse me?’

“We believe that enterprise is not the enemy but the answer, and how on earth is that wrong for the country of Adam Smith and David Hume, of Edinburgh’s tech start-ups and Aberdeen’s innovators? We believe in family, community, place, history, in cherishing our traditions and, guess what, so do millions of people in Scotland.”

As the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War approaches, Mr Cameron spoke of the shared history of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Together, Mr Cameron said, the people of the UK’s family of nations had “stood together” against the enemy.

The Prime Minister spoke of his great-great-uncle Captain John Geddes’s role in one of the “most extraordinary” episodes of the war. As a solider in the Canadian Scottish Regiment, Geddes advanced with his battalion into a wall of enemy machinegun fire to close a gap in the line created by the Germans’ first poison gas attack on the Western Front.

“I am proud to be linked, in some small way, to this extraordinary heroism,” Mr Cameron said. “The United Kingdom has a great and glorious history and as Conservatives we’ll never be ashamed to say it.”

He also quoted Scotland’s Eve Muirhead, recalling that the curling skip, who led Team GB to bronze at the Winter Olympics, had spoken of the “great, great feeling” of being part of “Team Great Britain”.

The Prime Minister said: “It is a great feeling. It’s not about subjection or colonialism or dry pragmatism. It is about being part of a bigger team – a family of nations.”

But Blair Jenkins, chief executive of the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign, said it was yet another vague promise from the Tories.

He added: “The trouble is that we have heard it all before and it is clear from what the Prime Minister said today in his speech that he cannot and will not guarantee more powers for the Scottish Parliament.”