Labour commission ‘not serious' on further powers

Labour’s commission on further devolution for the Scottish Parliament is nothing more than a talking shop, the SNP has said, after revealing that a key advisor to the Commission has already rubbished the idea of further financial powers being transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

Writing in the journal Public Policy and Management earlier this year, Professor Arthur Midwinter said that “the evidence on fiscal decentralization and tax cutting is not conclusive, and a poor basis for policy making.”

He also described Full Fiscal Autonomy as “a recipe for political conflict with the UK Government…if used to gain ‘competitive tax advantage’” and concluded that “the real choice in Scotland is between devolution and independence – there is no middle way.”

Significantly, Professor Midwinter also rules out the transfer of oil and gas revenues – one of the key areas Labour’s new Commission is to examine, stating that “they are treated as UK income, not Scottish, in the public accounts and would not be transferred under devolution.”

Along with Professor Jim Gallagher – who was heavily involved in the previous Scotland Bill - Professor Midwinter is to prepare an interim report on enhanced powers in time for next year’s Scottish Labour Conference, and a final report for the following year.

The comments come as a blow to Johann Lamont, who promised in an interview in last week’s Scotland on Sunday that the Commission “won’t be afraid” to look at the questions surrounding further devolution

Commenting, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani – who chaired the Scotland Bill Committee in which extra financial powers were blocked by the Labour party – said:

“Labour promised that the Calman Commission would lead to real financial powers for Scotland – instead they blocked the inclusion of vital job-creating powers in the Scotland Bill. Their track record proves that they are not serious about real economic powers.

“People in Scotland won’t be fooled by yet another Labour talking shop. If they didn’t see the need to transfer these powers just a few months ago, why on earth should we believe they’re going to say anything different now?

“Professor Midwinter has already made his views on further financial powers quite clear.

“It’s no wonder that more and more people – including Jim McColl – have announced that they will support independence as the only way of getting real job-creating powers for Scotland.”


Notes: For Professor Midwinter’s comments, see ‘Fiscal autonomy in Scotland: an assessment and critique’ Public Money and Management January 2012.