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.