Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Calamari Commission: Full of holes

Here is what the UK Government’s Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution might have said if it were not window dressing for the vested interests of the UK of GB and NI.

The following summaries of its main points are from this excellent summary in the Times.

Calman Commission On Income Tax:
“The commission recommends a 10p cut in all income tax rates in Scotland, with a corresponding reduction in the annual block grant from the Treasury. Holyrood would be free to levy part or all of the 10p rate, or even levy more. The Scottish government would have to make a “tax decision” in terms of the size of its budget. If it levied less than the 10p rate, it would in effect cut its own budget. If it levied more, it could spend more on public services.”

Here is a better idea:
After a successful referendum on independence, the Scottish Government should take control of ALL its tax revenue raising abilities. The Scottish government should then make tax decisions based on what is good for the country.

Just as every other country does.

On Oil:
“While the devolution of North Sea oil revenues is feasible, oil is a finite resource and volatile in price. Basing the Scottish budget on oil prices would be a big risk and for this reason the devolution of oil and gas tax receipts was rejected.”

What a truly breathtaking piece of condescension. Ironic on so many levels. We'll pass. How about:
While the continued appropriation of North Sea oil revenues by the UK is feasible, oil is a finite resource and volatile in price. Basing the British budget on oil prices has been shown to be a big risk and for this reason the direct payment of all oil and gas tax receipts to Scotland is the preferred model.

On the Barnett formula:
“The population-based Barnett formula should stay until a new needs-based mechanism for the whole of the UK is introduced.”

A 'needs-based mechanism' has already been proposed - for the needs of the people of Scotland:
The population-based Barnett formula should be scrapped and Scotland should declare itself independent and free of interference from London.

On other powers:
“Holyrood should have control over airgun laws and the power to set drink-driving and speed limits and run Scottish elections. Scottish ministers should also appoint a Scotland representative to the BBC Trust.”

The following wording would have made much more sense:
Holyrood should have control over all Scotland's laws and have the power to set any limit on antisocial behaviour it chooses. The Government of an independent Scotland should create its own broadcasting corporation.

On handing back powers to Westminster:
“The commission says that Westminster should set laws on charities, food content and labelling and the regulation of health professionals for the whole of the UK, along with legislation on the winding up of companies.”

Charities? Westminster has purloined Scotland's lottery money for the London Olympics, money earmarked for Scottish charities. Food content? Under the free market policies of the British government we got mad cow disease. Health policies? The Scottish health system is leaving behind the English system with every passing month.

It all seems very messy. There is an easier way:
Holyrood should have control over all Scotland's laws.

On strengthening relations:
“Co-operation should be strengthened between Holyrood and Westminster. Ministers from Holyrood should appear routinely before committees in Westminster and vice versa.”

Co-operation is a wonderful concept. Here is a much better idea:
After three centuries of incorporation into the United Kingdom as a minor partner without a voice of its own, direct diplomatic relations should be re-established between Scotland and the other nations of the world. Ministers from Holyrood should co-operate with ministers from other nations on a routine basis at bilateral, committee and summit level.

Just as every other country does.


Top economists add voice to claims Calman tax plan could hit economy


subrosa said...

This whole exercise is based on tying us into the UK even further. Unionists are jumping up and down with joy.

It should read "Now do x y z and we'll reward you with returning a little of your taxes. Not much because we can't have you getting above yourselves and in order to ensure you don't, we will deduct the same amount from your yearly pocket money."

OutLander said...

Precisely, Rosie.

UK Inc would seem to have quite an obvious plan:

1. Keep global recognition that Scotland is still part of Britain (G8, UN Security Council, etc).
2. Give the appearance of autonomy to Scotland without the reality.
3. Reduce the cost to London of keeping Scotland.
4. Allow London to blame the Scottish govt for any downturn in the Scottish economy.
5. Allow London to keep all the oil revenue.

A five year old could see through this.

Why 10%? Why not 25%? or 5%? Or 85%?

I suspect the 10% is index linked - I detect a strong element of the windblown primary digit coated with a thin film of oxygen dihydrate.

scunnert said...

Smoke and mirrors - they'll never allow anything that would actually benefit Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Calman is but another London Establishment placeman...

Unless the vote rigging in Scotland is sorted, we've an uphill struggle for the utlimate prize... Independence.

OutLander said...


Agreed. The people of Scotland will see it for what it is - a work for your pocket money scheme.

What is the rest of the UK doing to earn our oil money?

OutLander said...


That he is.

The Calman recommendations are merely lipstick on the British bulldog.

No thanks.

Dark Lochnagar said...

As we thought the whole exercise has been a sham and there is next to nothing on the table. Like the Calamari Commission comment, wish I'd thought of it!

OutLander said...

Dark Lochnagar

Glad you like it.

I was kicking myself when 'lipstick on the British bulldog' occurred to me later, but I suspect it's been said before.

neil craig said...

our prefered option is just to say that "indepedence" (actually "independence in Europe", the SNP not actually supporting independence) would solve all problems.

The real problem with Calman is that they have given a couple of tokens (more of a tax varying power no party dare use + airguns) & left Corporation Tax untouched. It is CT that got Ireland its 7% annual growth rate & the commission even acknowledges this would work here but opposes it because some (only some) of the extra growth would come from companies which were going to create jobs in the UK anyway would choose to locate in Scotland.

OutLander said...

Hi Neil,

Good points.

I agree that Europe makes many of our laws already, and this would not change, unless we decided to go the route of Norway and exist outside the EU. One decision at a time.

Yes, corporation tax is key. Not having this power is why the whole Silicon Glen thing fizzled in the 80s. Having control would have transformed the Scottish economy.

Westminster obviously sees corporation tax variations as a zero-sum game with England, that England would be the big loser, but it is not necessarily the case. When Ireland dropped its corporation tax, the bulk of the foreign investment did not come from the UK, but from the US and mainland Europe.

Even so, London will not let us touch this while they have the power. It will not happen without independence.