Reform Scotland calls for pro-UK parties to “pick the best bits and put them together”
Report card by Devo Plus founders says parties’ proposals for devolution together offer a radical shift; report also analyses pro-independence proposals
Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, has released a major report which analyses the constitutional proposals of all five of Scotland’s represented political parties.
The report – Scotland’s Future: The Constitutional Report Card – examines the taxation, expenditure and local government proposals of the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens to determine how far they go towards the aspiration of levels of government being responsible for raising what they spend. The proposals are benchmarked against Reform Scotland’s Devo Plus proposal.
The full report can be accessed by clicking below.
Reform Scotland founded the Devo Plus group over two years ago, calling for the Scottish Parliament to raise most of the money it spends. The group includes senior MSPs from all three pro-UK parties.
Over a year ago, it produced the Glasgow Agreement in an effort to bring the parties together under a common proposal.
Last week, speculation mounted that the pro-UK parties would coalesce to offer a minimum level of additional financial and legislative power for the Scottish Parliament. Ben Thomson, Chairman of Reform Scotland and Devo Plus, has called for the parties to ensure that this process does not descend into a ‘lowest common denominator’ set of proposals. Instead, he has called for the three parties to “pick the best bits” of all three parties’ reports “and put them together”.
Ahead of an anticipated announcement by the three parties this afternoon, Mr Thomson said:
“In order to deliver for the people of Scotland in a mature, responsible way, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish local authorities must be made more accountable for raising the money they spend. This is the best way forward for Scotland and has the added benefit, as far as the political parties are concerned, of being a considerably more popular option than both the status quo and independence.
“The proposals of all five parties, both those supporting independence and those wishing to remain as part of the UK, are welcome in that they will all increase Holyrood’s accountability. However, we believe the pro-UK parties could go much further in presenting a radical, united case to the people of Scotland before the referendum.
“Each party’s proposal has a mixture of radical and timid proposals. Labour lags behind the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats when it comes to devolving fiscal powers. The Conservatives are behind in terms of making the Scottish Parliament permanent. And the Liberal Democrats are timid in their reluctance to devolve additional welfare powers.
“It would be immensely regrettable if the parties united around a ‘lowest common denominator’ proposal, under which all we would get is an extra 5p on income tax, adding little to the accountability of the Scottish Parliament and failing to meet the aspirations of Scots.
“Instead, we want the parties to pick the best bits of all their proposals and put them together.
“Whilst we would wish them to go further, the best bits of all three would be a radical step towards the real accountability proposed by Devo Plus.”
“The Best Bits” would deliver the following financial and legislative accountability for Holyrood:
The Constitutional Report Card also critiques the proposals of both pro-independence parties – the SNP and the Greens. Commenting, Mr Thomson said:
“There are significant differences in the visions of the SNP and the Greens when it comes to independence. The Green proposal is by a distance the most decentralising of the two.
“Indeed, the SNP is the only one of all five parties which does not propose decentralisation from Holyrood to local government. This seems at odds with a party which argues that decisions should be made as closely as possible to those affected by them.
“With Council Tax frozen by Holyrood and with business rates centrally set, an independent Scotland under the SNP’s proposals would instantly become the most fiscally centralised country in the world, with 100% of taxation reserved to Holyrood.”