Conservative report is “a promising development” says Devo Plus Chairman

Ben Thomson welcomes income tax devolution as a promising development for greater accountability at Holyrood

The Chairman of Devo Plus, the cross party group campaigning for a substantially more powerful Scottish Parliament, has welcomed aspects of the Conservative Strathclyde Commission’s final report, released today.

The report advocates the full devolution of income tax and possibly some aspects of welfare. However, the proposals leave other taxes, such as Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax with Westminster.

Commenting, Ben Thomson, Chairman of Devo Plus, said:

“This report is a welcome addition to the range of proposals being offered by the pro-UK parties to advance devolution. The full devolution of income tax – which has also been proposed by the Liberal Democrats – will make Holyrood much more accountable for raising the money it spends, and therefore it is a positive development.

“We also welcome the commission’s desire to look at devolving housing benefit and attendance allowance, which has also been proposed by Labour’s constitutional commission.

“The report claims that Holyrood would raise around 40% of what it spends. This compares to Devo Plus’s proposal that the Parliament raises almost three-quarters of what it spends, and our Glasgow Agreement, which was designed to unite the pro-UK parties around a single proposal, called for it to raise at least half. In comparison, all pro-UK parties have fallen short.

“Whilst we welcome this as a step in the right direction, we believe there is a long way to go to make Holyrood truly accountable in the eyes of the public.

“All three parties supporting Better Together have agreed, following their own constitutional commissions, to a convention after the referendum to review devolving more powers with proper public representation. However, we believe it would now be helpful in the run up to the referendum if the three parties set out a consensus position of the minimum powers they would all guarantee to devolve including full income tax powers, housing benefit and attendance allowance.

“This would give the public confidence that significant further devolution giving Holyrood greater accountability would really happen after a No vote.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Devo Plus is a cross-party, non-party group, set up by the think tank Reform Scotland, which includes former Liberal Democrat Leader Tavish Scott MSP, former Presiding Officer and Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson (who sits on the Scottish Conservative Strathclyde Commission) and Health Committee Convenor and Labour MSP Duncan McNeill (who also sits on Scottish Labour’s Devolution Commission).

2. Media enquiries to Andy Maciver on 07855 261 244 (andy@messagematters.co.uk) or Peter Duncan on 07740 469 949 (peter@messagematters.co.uk).