Reform Scotland

Reform Scotland welcomes Calman but says report does not go far enough

Reform Scotland, the leading independent think tank, today [mon]welcomed the Calman Commission’s proposals to increase the tax-raising powers of the Scottish Parliament – but said they did not go far enough.

The recommendations, if accepted, will mean Holyrood becoming responsible for about a third of its £32 billion annual budget, with a corresponding reduction in the size of the block grant it receives from Westminster.

Reform Scotland said while the move represented ‘a real step forward’, it believed the Scottish Parliament should be responsible for all the money it spends.

‘These proposals are a move in the right direction but in our view they do not go far enough,’ said Reform Scotland chairman Ben Thomson.

Four members of the independent think tank – including two tax experts – gave evidence to the Commission on Scottish Devolution.

Following today’s publication of the commission’s long-awaited report, Mr Thomson commented: ‘The income tax changes being proposed certainly represent progress. However, our view is that the Scottish Parliament needs to have much greater power to raise its own revenue in order to enhance its financial autonomy and accountability.

‘This is vital to provide a real incentive to introduce policies which encourage economic growth and provide real value for money while giving the Scottish Parliament the fiscal tools which they could use to increase economic growth.

‘The question remains whether these proposals are really enough to give our politicians the responsibility and accountability they need to spend our money more effectively.’

Proposals to give Holyrood much greater fiscal autonomy than are recommended by Calman were set out in Reform Scotland’s research paper, Fiscal Powers, published last November.

Mr Thomson added: ‘Calman does do not go as far as we have recommended. On income tax, the flexibility the Calman proposals represents is about 16% of the Scottish budget. Is that really enough to enhance the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and provide a greater incentive to introduce policies which encourage growth and provide real value for money while giving the Scottish Government fiscal tools it needs to increase economic growth?’

Mr Thomson welcomed Calman’s recommendation to give the Scottish Parliament greater borrowing powers for major capital projects. He also welcomed calls to switch responsibility for other taxes, such as air passenger duty and stamp duty, from Westminster to Holyrood.