Friday, November 19, 2010

SNP opt out of the tartan tax charade

I'm getting slightly confused by the attacks on the SNP government from the right-wing press.  The usual refrain is that they're irresponsible spendthrifts who refuse to take the tough choices necessary to protect the public purse (neatly ignoring the fact that they're working within a fixed budget anyway).  But now it appears that the Telegraph think it would have been highly appropriate in the current economic climate to throw away £7 million on the purely symbolic upkeep of a tax-varying power that even the dogs on the street know isn't going to be used in the foreseeable future, no matter who wins the election in May.

There's no great mystery about why all the major parties have been so reluctant to use the tax-varying power - it only applies to the basic rate of income tax, and therefore is a blunt instrument that isn't progressive enough.   Calman doesn't actually offer much of an advance on that - higher rates of tax can be raised or lowered, but only in direct proportion to changes made on the basic rate.  So the central problem remains - if the UK government sets a regressive income tax framework, Scotland has no meaningful way of breaking out of it.  The unionist parties have deliberately set this trap to neuter Scotland's 'rebellious' ideological impulses, so grumbling about the SNP's hard-headed acceptance - for the short-term only - of the logical consequences of that seems a trifle odd.

Patrick Harvie is perhaps one of the few people in a position to attack the Scottish government on this issue with any credibility, as his party would actually use the existing tax-raising power.  But his claim that the SNP shouldn't even think about demanding extra powers for Holyrood until they use the ones they've already got simply doesn't stack up.  The SNP have their own analysis, and the fact that they have no interest in using a power that in their view is barely worth having should scarcely preclude them from seeking meaningful powers that would be of considerable use.


  1. "SNP opt out of the tartan tax charade"

    It would take ten laughing policemen to do justice to the jollity raised by this opinion.....

  2. £10 million for the independence referendum was apparently a "waste" - that's what Labour and Tavish Scott were telling us a year ago. So why would it have been good governance to spend £7 million on a system that has never been used, and likely never would?

    The SNP should have highlighted this absurdity in 2007, and then they couldn't be accused of incompetence now - that's their only mistake. It's the same naivete that has been behind most of their problems over the past 3.5 years, a naivete that is probably to be expected from a party which is governing for the first time, and in the toughest of conditions.

    I can see we're going to have a nice election campaign, based on issues rather than points-scoring...

  3. Good points James.

    You might want to make them here:

    As you say the Greens can have some credibility on this.

    The Lib Dems however can be painted as secretly wanting to use the tax power since they are making such a song and dance about it.

    However there seems to be some hyperbole involved in this one.

  4. Why did Michael Moore write the letter and why was he selective with the facts?

    The reply from Alex Salmond has also been made public and is on:

    The only reason can be that Michael Moore was trying to damage the SNP ahead of the election in Scotland. You have to think about that one a little as the only beneficiary of a slump in SNP support in Scotland is the Labour party.

    As a Minister in a Con-Lib coalition government Michael Moore tried to do his best with this letter to ensure that Labour, the main opposition in Westminster, retakes the Scottish Parliament in 2011.

    I wonder if he actually had the brains to work that out or was he blinded by his hatred of Salmond and the SNP into offering support in kind to his main parliamentary opposition in Westminster?

    Never trust a Lib-Dem.

  5. Electoral history suggests that the SNP and Liberal (later LD) vote is more interchangeable than Labour and LD. With a couple of Highland LD seat MSP standing down it will make it more interesting next time around.


  6. In answer to Dougthedug
    The distinction between LibDem, Labour and Tory in Scotland is outdated and irrelevant. The polarisation now is increasingly unionist v. nationalist.
    The more the unionist trio asscociate with each other the more they diminish each other. Michael Moore could as readily be Tory as Labour or LibDem and has no previous record of discernable political ability.
    Good stuff

  7. Doug, interesting that Salmond suggests in his letter that Michael Moore's real motivation is to establish a precedent in time for the implementation of Calman. But it does seem a bizarre intervention given that he must have known Salmond would respond with reference to the facts that were conveniently left out. Moore is learning a painful lesson previously learnt by Senator Menendez - think before writing a public letter to Alex Salmond for political gain!

  8. Michael Moore is clearly an idiot.

    But it seems that the whole coalition Government is run by people who wake up in the middle of the night with the latest bright idea and do not bother to check things like facts before blurting it out. For example it was announced today that kids will get marks taken off for bad grammar and spelling but in order to do that wont they (the English) have to start teching these things to pupils? Did that escape Mr Gove's attention when he dreamed up this little lulu in the wee small hours!

    Government by headless chicken!

  9. Is it possible for a Government to run out of talent before it has even begun?

    Its scary because all these people have got where they are becuse they are rich or ambitous and not through talent or hard work. And they are all to a man rubbish. How is it possible when you have two parties to choose from to find so little talent?

    This Government acts like it is moribund and at the end of its life it has no talent and its ideas are daft, it has no vigour and makes silly mistakes and that is scary because it is only six months old!

  10. Snecked:
    You're probably right. When you think about it, both the Lib-Dems and the Conservatives would be happier with a Labour government in Scotland because then the Scottish Parliament would sink back into being a dull regional authority rather than a parliament run by a party with a belief in Scotland as a capable country and aspirations to take Scotland out of the UK.

    The Conservatives might not be too happy about it but as has been proved in the past, it doesn't matter how many MP's or MSP's Labour has in Scotland they will be ignored by Westminster when they are in opposition and the Conservatives have very little to lose in Scotland anyway.

    It would also make it easier for the Conservative majority Government to really shaft Scotland because a unionist Scottish Government run by Labour implies that the independence threat is over and it will be open season on Scotland's finances.

    If the letter was the starting gun to get Scotland used to the idea that it will have to pay extra to HMRC for Calman's new financial arrangements it was a very clumsy way to do it especially as the media will have to admit in the end to the fact that all Calman does is bump up the current 3p in the pound variable rate to 10p in the pound while making the actual level of funding more uncertain for each year.

    It may be that Mr. Moore still hasn't worked out that he's not writing, "Only the Lib-Dems can win here", election leaflets and that anything he writes as a Minister will be subject to a lot more scrutiny than the Lib-Dems normally expect.

  11. Doug: "The only reason can be that Michael Moore was trying to damage the SNP ahead of the election in Scotland. You have to think about that one a little as the only beneficiary of a slump in SNP support in Scotland is the Labour party.

    As a Minister in a Con-Lib coalition government Michael Moore tried to do his best with this letter to ensure that Labour, the main opposition in Westminster, retakes the Scottish Parliament in 2011."

    Eh? So because only Labour or the SNP can be the senior party in a government, none of the "third" parties should attack either of them because then they're helping the other? Come on, that's daft.

  12. Colin:

    1. Michael Moore is a Lib-Dem Government Minister in a Tory/Lib-Dem Coalition whose main opposition in the context of the UK is the Labour Party.

    2. He's trying to help Labour win in Scotland by attacking the SNP.

    Two simple facts there. I can't see where any confusion comes in.

  13. He is indeed attacking the SNP. You equate this with "helping Labour to win". This is analogous to Margaret Curran's infamous "argument" that, by campaigning against Labour in a UK election, the SNP are helping the Tories to win. Would you agree with her assessment?

  14. Of course not Colin.

    If either Labour or the SNP win a Scottish Westminster constituency then the total number of Conservative MP's remains the same but their percentage of the total number of MP's elected falls and with it their chance of a majority in Westminster.

  15. And if the SNP takes a seat which Labour would otherwise have won, the Tories' chance of having more seats than Labour increases (not sure why you bring majorities into it). The only beneficiary of a slump in Labour support in the UK is the Tory party.