2007 - 2020

Time to get ready for the second biggest decision in 300 years

Deconstructing Jack by Edmund SmithNot that you would know it from the present deafening silence: but Scotland is currently in the run up to a decision which is likely to be second in importance, over the past 300 years, only to the recent referendum – namely, whether or not to sign up to the post-Smith fiscal settlement.

The fiscal arrangements which will be put in place in the light of the Smith report will probably play a more important role than any other single factor in determining Scotland’s economic and social future, and also in determining the timing of the next referendum. Despite this, vital details of the fiscal arrangements post-Smith were left unspecified in both the Smith Report and in the Scotland Bill: instead, they are currently being negotiated behind closed doors between the Scottish government and the Treasury. No-one outside of a charmed circle knows what direction these negotiations are taking. But when details of the proposed fiscal settlement do become public, (and that should be well before next May’s Scottish Parliament elections), the Scottish Parliament will have the opportunity to veto the proposals if it wishes. At that stage, it is essential that the Scottish people are fully aware of the implications of whatever is proposed.

This note has been prepared without inside knowledge of the current negotiations. What it does is to look at some of the most likely options for the post-Smith fiscal settlement: and assesses their implications. In doing this it builds upon the modelling work reported on in my Bella paper of 26 June: and also on further work undertaken in relation to evidence given to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee in September: (see Reference 1 for more details.)

Let’s start with what we do know about the fiscal arrangements post-Smith, before moving on to the critical details we don’t know. Scotland will have control of certain taxes, (mainly income tax), and will also receive about half of VAT revenues raised in Scotland, (though it will have no control over VAT rates.) In addition to its devolved tax revenues, Scotland will continue to receive a block grant from Westminster. The starting point in calculating the block grant will be the original Barnett formula: but there will be an abatement to the block grant, (that is, an amount will be subtracted from the block grant), to allow for the Scottish tax revenues Westminster will no longer receive.

This abatement will initially be calculated on the principle of “no-detriment”: i.e., to start with it will exactly equal the tax revenues raised in Scotland and foregone by Westminster. The abatement will, however, be increased through time. And one of the critical elements which we don’t know at present is the mechanism by which this abatement will be increased.

What was proposed when the previous UK coalition government set out its plans for implementing Smith was that the abatement in the block grant because Scotland now controls income tax should be increased by a procedure known as Holtham indexation. Holtham indexation involves increasing the abatement each year in line with the growth in the overall UK income tax base. (The indexation methods for the other abatements for VAT etc were not spelled out.) It is useful to look at Holtham indexation under two particular headings: namely, what are the conditions for it to be neutral, and what are the penalties if Scotland fails to meet these conditions. What is meant by this?

Suppose Scotland post-Smith continues with the same income tax rates as the rest of the UK. Then under what circumstances would it continue to receive exactly the same funding, through its own taxes plus the abated block grant, as it would have done if the original Barnett formula had been maintained? (We call this a neutral position.) The answer is that Scotland’s income tax base, (i.e., the sum of taxable incomes in Scotland), would have to grow at exactly the same rate as the tax base in the rest of the UK. This is the condition under which Holtham indexation, as originally proposed, would be neutral.

Are we likely to be in a neutral position? Scotland’s population has historically grown more slowly than that of the rest of the UK: so if this continues, then in order to grow our overall income tax base at the same rate as the rest of the UK, we would have to grow our per capita tax base faster than the rest of the UK. Further, the only way Scotland can grow its income tax base is by growing its economy. However, under the post-referendum settlement, the Scottish government will lack many important economic powers: (the Scottish government will, of course, have no control over monetary policy; it will have control of only a single major tax, income tax; it will have restricted borrowing powers; and it lacks control of competition policy, international trade development, licensing of North Sea oil, utility regulation, and a number of labour market responsibilities). Even worse, growing the economy is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for growing the income tax base. Developing a successful industry, (e.g., in renewable energy), might have relatively little effect on Scotland’s income tax base, if all that happens is that the profits of the industry are sent abroad, rather than being spent in the Scottish economy. So it is not just that Scotland lacks economic powers: in addition, it lacks the powers to influence the ownership of Scottish industry, and to encourage profits to be spent and re-invested within the Scottish economy. Given all this, meeting the neutrality condition for Holtham indexation looks an extremely challenging task.

And what happens if Scotland fails to meet this neutrality condition? In this case, public expenditure per head in Scotland would be pushed down to levels well below those in England. In fact, (as shown in Reference 1), if Scotland’s tax base chronically grows at a slower rate than in the rest of the UK, then ultimately public expenditure in the control of the Scottish government would dwindle to nothing, before turning negative. Of course, this won’t actually happen – something would have to give: but this long-term scenario indicates the unsupportable pressures which would start to build up. Overall, therefore, Holtham indexation implies both an inequitable neutrality condition, and the possibility of a grotesquely severe penalty if we fail to meet that condition.

The failure of Holtham indexation to allow for relative population change suggests an alternative approach, denoted here as adjusted Holtham indexation. Under adjusted Holtham, the income tax abatement to the block grant would be indexed in line with the growth in the UK tax base, divided by the relative rate of population growth between the UK and Scotland.

Looked at in terms of the same two criteria, namely, neutrality condition, and eventual penalty, adjusted Holtham performs somewhat better than crude Holtham. The neutrality condition is that the Scottish tax base per head has to grow at the same rate as the per capita tax base in the rest of the UK. The long-term penalty if Scotland grows its per capita tax base at a slower rate than the rest of the UK is that levels of public expenditure per head in Scotland on devolved services would tend to about half of the levels of per capita expenditure on the corresponding services in England: (a proof is given in Reference 1.) While adjusted Holtham may be better than crude Holtham, therefore, it is nevertheless still the case that, given Scotland’s lack of economic powers, both the neutrality condition, and the eventual penalty, appear unacceptable.

Another possible variant of Holtham indexation is known as the Level Deduction method. This was outlined in a paper by Bell and Eiser, (Reference 2), and may well be under consideration in the current negotiations. Under this approach, the increase to the abatement to the block grant on account of income tax would be calculated as the same per capita amount by which income tax revenues in the rest of the UK had increased over the relevant period. In terms of its neutrality condition, this method is exceptionally severe: to be neutral, Scotland would have to increase its income tax base some 14% faster than the increase in the tax base in the rest of the UK. (This arises because Scotland has a significantly smaller income tax base per head than the rest of the UK: so the same per capita change represents a much bigger percentage increase for Scotland.) In terms of the long run penalty if Scotland fails to grow its tax base as fast as the rest of the UK, the penalty under the Level Deduction method is very like the penalty under adjusted Holtham.

So all of the three variants of Holtham indexation which are likely to be under consideration just now are unacceptable. But this is not surprising. Despite all the fine words in the Smith report, what Scotland is actually being invited to take part in is the great Smith handicap race. We will hobble you by denying you the most important economic powers. Then we will set up a fiscal system where you have to engage in an economic race with the rest of the UK. And if you fail to win in that handicap race, then you will be severely penalised. So much for the famous vow.

Viewed in this light, the fundamental flaw in the Smith fiscal settlement becomes very clear. The logic of the union contains an implicit bargain. Yes, you will have less economic powers: but in exchange for that, you will have various benefits. And one of the benefits, explicitly stated in the vow, was the Barnett formula. But under Holtham type indexation arrangements, to attain neutrality of funding with the Barnett formula we have to match, or outperform the rest of the union – despite our lack of economic powers. Smith, in combination with Holtham, in effect breaches the bargain implicit in the union.

It need not be thus. There is no law of nature which says that outperforming the rest of the UK has to be part of the deal if we want to benefit from the union. An alternative approach to adjusting the abatement to the block grant would, for example, involve increasing the abatement by some fixed percentage increment in real terms every year. More details of such an arrangement are set out in Reference 1. It is not ideal: but then, no arrangement is going to be ideal within the constraints of the current unbalanced union. But it would be a good deal better than any of the possible Holtham variants.

For present purposes, however, what we need to do is to be fully conscious of the magnitude of the decision which will have to be taken on the Smith fiscal settlement: to be ready to scrutinise the final proposals rigorously when they emerge from the current negotiations: and to stand ready to veto them if necessary. And when we are looking at the final proposals, two of the key aspects we should be checking are: what are the neutrality conditions, and what are the penalties if we fail to meet them.

Reference 1. J. Cuthbert. “Note for House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee following evidence session on 9th September”: accessible at
http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/economic-affairs-committee/the-devolution-of-public-finances-in-the-united-kingdom/written/21826.pdf

Reference 2. D. Bell and D. Eiser: “How should the Barnett formula be adjusted to reflect devolved taxes”: posted on Scottish Fiscal and Economic Studies website, 20 November 2014.

Comments (32)

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  1. Mike says:

    Are there no circumstances where the Holtham index penalises Westminster? It seems to me Scotland is being offered a system whereby it keeps up or it gets punished but if the rUK cant keep up it doesn’t.
    Lets hope the Scottish Government tells Westminster to shove the poisoned chalice.
    Imagine if any of these arrangements were in place while Labour controlled the Parliament in Scotland and the Conservatives controlled the Parliament of Westminster.
    Or Labour controlled both Parliaments again.

    Nightmare.

  2. Mike Fenwick says:

    My starting point: I am on record elsewhere on Bella questionning critically the membership of the Scottish Affairs Committee, namely that out of the 59 elected MPs from Scotland only 4 Scottish MPs are on the Committee, being outnumbered by the other 7 from anywhere but Scotland, some of whom have consistently voted against devolving more powers to Scotland.

    Moving on: If you refer to Mhairi Black’s twitter account you will see a clip of her questioning of David Mundell over whether any Scottish Government attempts to mitigate welfare cuts will be immediately clawed back to Westminster, and Mhairi Black asks that everyone in Scotland should write to David Mundell (copying in their MPs) and repeat her question.

    I chose instead to write to the Scottish Affairs Committee, in these terms:

    Call for an inquiry by the Scottish Affairs Committee

    As an adult resident of Scotland, I ask that the Committee conduct an inquiry into the failure by David Mundell MP to reply in a satisfactory and fulsome manner to a question posed by Mhairi Black MP during the passage of the Scotland Bill in Parliament yesterday, namely whether as Secretary of State for Scotland, on the issue of tax credits, he would pledge that the Tories wouldn’t treat any compensatory payments to victims of the cuts as income and claw it back to Westminster – leaving Holyrood hundreds of millions out of pocket but the victims no better off.

    This is a matter of genuine and significant concern to many in Scotland.

    Hansard will record the manner in which David Mundell MP chose to answer the question posed by Mhairi Black MP, and it will be for the Scottish Affairs Committee to decide whether the reply given by the Secretary of State for Scotland was clear, unambiguous, and therefore sufficient to allay the fears of many in Scotland on this issue. Should the Committee decide that it was not, I believe it provides more than sufficient and reasonable grounds for the Committee to conduct the inquiry requested.

    Whilst rarely used, I understand that any witness called before the Committee may be required to answer questions under oath, and be subject to the law of perjury.

    I await a response.

    Mike Fenwick …

    I received a reply, and which also drew my attention to this item from the Smith Commission:

    The Smith Commission is clear that additional welfare payments made by the Scottish Government should not be clawed back through other parts of the welfare system. The relevant paragraph (55) states:

    “Any new benefits or discretionary payments introduced by the Scottish Parliament must provide additional income for a recipient and not result in an automatic offsetting reduction in their entitlement to other benefits or post-tax earnings
    if in employment.”

    Now so far Mhairi Black’s question, as far as I am aware, remains unanswered, and yet, it remains within the Parliamentary competence of the Scottish Affairs Committee to summon David Mundell to appear before them, and to be asked – under oath – to answer the question.

    Am I wrong in believing that the Scottish Affairs Committee is incorrectly constituted?

    Am I wrong in believing that it is there to ask questions on behalf of the Scottish electorate, and appears, to me at least, to be failing in that task?

    This is just one question of the many that will affect many of us in Scotland – are we not deserving of an answer?

  3. fermerfaefife says:

    The Scottish Parliament must have the balls to reject the Scotland Bill and all its inadequacies. The labour and tories included as they might have to deal with the consequences at some (distant?) point in the future.
    Hopefully Swinney and co are clued up enough to bring this to a point at SP16 elections and stand on a ticket of “proper” devolution / federalism after vetoing the Scotland Bill. Give westminister a year to deliver “devomax” / federalism as laid out in the SNP 2016 manifesto – or face that as a trigger point for indyref2 — put the ball firmly in WM court to deliver what the majority of people in Scotland support or face the consequences of Independence, as there would be no opportunity to bribe voters with more powers , it would be independence or bust in the status quo – a binary choice.
    Given a rejection of the initial Scotland BIll as fiscal suicide, WM intransigence & no further proper powers subsequently devolved after the election and the prospect of another 5 years of Tory cuts and buffoonery with Boris or Osbourne at the helm after the next WM general election, then a 2020 indyref2 looks like an excellent prospect for success.

    1. DB1 says:

      I think the idea of the SNP putting it to the people is a good suggestion.

      The Scottish people should get a chance to accept or reject this bill, or vote to upgrade it with more powers. We need a proper mandate on the extent of devolution wanted.

      This current bill is far weaker than what most people were led to believe would result from the referendum promises.

  4. johnny rudkin says:

    I dont have a lot of confidence in john swinnie negotiating for scotland on the scotland bill look what happened in the smith report we got offered little or nothing and he signed it off knowing we had a bad deal then complained the day after he signed the scotland bill would only make scotland tax collectors for westminster nothing else we would be better with the barnett formula staying as it is

    1. Mike says:

      What are you talking about? Nobody signed off on the Smith commission conclusions. There was no agreement. No party agreed with the commissions end result. It was a recommendation nothing more. It never had any teeth or compulsion to force its conclusions on anybody.
      That’s why the whole process was a farce. A total betrayal of the vow.

  5. FF says:

    With Smith, we have partial fiscal autonomy and part of the problems associated with it. Moving to full fiscal autonomy won’t avoid the full set of the problems you describe here. Maybe independence just makes that bigger set of problems more acceptable. Difficult sell, I think.

  6. Robert Costello says:

    I find it incredible that we are in this position, the Scottish Government having signed off the Smith Commission report without first addressing the financial implications . What in heavens name were they thinking about?

  7. bringiton says:

    Part of the problem with refusing to accept the Westminster bill is that they can then turn round and claim that they offered us Smith in full and we rejected it.
    That is how it will be spun by HM press and broadcaster.
    Very tricky situation…perhaps best to accept it but campaign for FFA as part of the Holyrood elections,which would expose where Smith comes far short of what most Scots want and indeed expected.
    As far as Mundell goes,neither he nor the towel folder currently resident at No.11 Downing Street have a Scooby about economics so no surprises when he cannot answer related questions.

    1. Mike says:

      Are you under the delusion that any decision the Scottish Government takes will go unchallenged and un criticised?

  8. peter says:

    Second biggest decision in 300 years??? sorry but the people of Scotland never had any part in the decision to join the union, that was up to but a few traitors. ( bought and sold for English gold ) and I would say don’t accept this parcel of deceptions . tell them to ram it. a Trojan horse if ever there was one. a fiscal trap just waiting for the gullible, to take that bait…..

    1. FraserP says:

      Peter, Jim’s opening paragraph states that this decision is second only to last year’s referendum. There is no suggestion that the Act of Union was a decision made by the people of Scotland.

  9. Dan Huil says:

    The SG should debate the Bill and pass any amendments it deems fit. Westminster will of course treat SG with contempt and bellow its opposition to anything the SG decides to do. The SG then rejects the Bill.

    1. fermerfaefife says:

      yup – dead right. Westminster keeps shouting that smith is what people voted for ….. the ONLY way to get them to shift to a real devomax position is to campaign on it at SP16 with the threat of indyref if they don’t deliver. The power is currently with them , it is time we took back the initiative and regained the agenda.

  10. ambrose (@Tdrinker2) says:

    Time to organize a massive all Scotland “walk away”, now.

  11. Broadbield says:

    An excellent analysis. Members of the Quebec independence movement said Scotland would be punished if it voted “No”. The Scotland Bill is the first step. I cannot see how any negotiations currently underway will change that. The strategy is simple: hobble the SG so that economic and social conditions in Scotland deteriorate, the SNP lose power and Unionist parties arise phoenix-like to do WM’s bidding.

  12. Steve says:

    Debate it in Holyrood. Propose amendments, and offer to implement it if the amendments are incorporated. When Westminster reject this, as they will, reject it. Give it back to Westminster and deal with the negative msm response as best we can. If we accept it in its current form we will set independence back decades and give labour a way back in. They will happily promise things in opposition they have no intention of implementing if ever in power. This really is a huge crossroads in the path to independence. Get it wrong and some of us will never see it in our lifetime.

  13. old battle says:

    SCOTLAND BILL

    Found this elsewhere an alternative response for popular education?

    This is the sad tale of Scotland Bill
    Who voted Labour & voted NO, until
    Working in the safe British HMRC
    Scotland Bill was shocked to see
    A wee letter saying ‘”we’re shutting down
    Moving out to an English town
    Moving out a Cumbernauld
    Oh forget the lies that once we told
    That was only politics
    Just a few London dirty tricks
    The Referendum we HAD to win
    A few porky lies well a minor sin!
    (After –all, a lie is not as big
    As stickin your willie in a pig!)

    Let’s get back to the letter
    from the folk who promised you better!

    “Sorry but you are now redundant
    It had to be done, very urgent
    Britain needs to help the wealthy
    Work up there is not financially healthy
    And we need cuts to stem the tide
    So 800 get lost in East Kilbride
    Move to London if you like
    Take a bus get on your bike
    We never said it would be all right
    Better together was just a sound bite
    We never promised you a better life
    Just better together (like a divorced man n wife)
    Promises & vows only lies, just silly
    Tales. You didn’t believe them surely Billy!

    Come on Billy did you believe?
    Better together was MEANT to deceive
    To pretend that London really cares
    For Scotland Bill and folk up there
    (Really Billy you are not Mayfair
    And much too far from Trafalgar Square)
    Quite frankly we don’t care a shit
    It’s time for England to benefit
    (England votes for English laws
    We’ve got the jocks by the baws)
    We’ll squeeze your ungrateful Sturgeon
    A difficult Glaswegian woman!
    We will give you a Bill to let you fail
    More cuts & layoffs more in the mail
    We are the Union we know the game
    WE’ve now got Holyrood to BLAME!
    Scotland Bill! We set you up
    To fail! To f you up!”

    G TF we heard enough
    Lets get Independence quick enough
    Its time to educate & win the minds
    Hearts & heads of every kind
    You voted No last time?
    YES, you can change your mind
    Get your NO pals to vote SNP
    It’s Your future, can you see
    It’s the ONLY way
    For Scotland to gain prosperity
    To be rid of persistent poverty
    To realize our history
    To bring back our dignity
    Pride in our country
    From Shetland to Galloway
    Listen you hear that word my friends
    Softly from the bens & glens
    Louder in the cities & the schemes
    In your hearts & in your dreams
    Hear It! Say it!
    INDEPENDENCE is coming have no fear!
    INDEPENDENCE work for it you hear!
    Win more minds and win more souls
    Win the vote that history stole
    Listen it’s like a train
    Here it comes again and again
    INDEPENDENCE
    Climb on board the TRAIN
    You got your ticket? Let me see!
    You good! You are SNP!
    Others tae must catch this train
    We need the masses &
    the multi-classes
    Folk that are angry
    Folk that are hungry
    Folk in business
    On farms ‘n factory
    Folk that work in public service
    The Teacher, nurse, young apprentice
    The TRAIN is now at your station
    Destination the Scottish NATION
    But Reject the Bill that reeks o Judas
    The benefits are fning bogus
    They are out to fool and fk us!

  14. Dr Jim says:

    An incredibly complex set of non powers designed to completely alter the name and title of John Swinneys job from deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary to

    John Swinney Tax collector for the Crown (That’ll keep you busy ya Scotch Git)

    Does anybody seriously think for one nano second that Westminster is interested in Scotlands interests, wait…….I can hear the Cuckoos…Cuckooing abroad in the land

    There was a serious and simple option Westminster could have done, they chose not to, instead they chose this Spaghetti Junction of stupidity in the hope we’re as stupid as them to fall for it
    Why does anybody think something which could have been made so simple was made so difficult

    Answers on a stone tablet (But only in the form of a question) and make sure they are the most powerful words in all of the known worlds words

  15. James Dow A voice from the diaspora OZ says:

    Considering that Scots have been described as deep thinkers and uncommonly intellectual,
    could there be any one of that ilk that is unaware that England is our old enemy, our current enemy, and with it’s projected form our future enemy?
    I wrote prior to the referendum,
    England, the drowning man of Europe clutching at oil slicks, a conjoined Scotland to suffer the same fate.
    Unless Scotland can find the survival instinct and the courage to alter the current union status, for sure we are going to find out how long Scotland can hold it’s breath.

    1. FraserP says:

      As a voice from the diaspora in NZ I would like to repudiate your characterisation of this struggle as a narrow nationalist one. England (whatever and whoever that is) is not an enemy. It is merely sufficiently different in its overall political and cultural identity from Scotland’s to demand that we would be better going our separate ways.

      1. James Dow A voice from the diaspora OZ says:

        Are you serious Fraser, and are you Scottish? Even as a boy in Scotland I can recall England being referred to as The Auld enemy, they just haven’t changed that’s all.
        However I do agree with your observation England [ whatever and who ever that is]
        I am sure they ask themselves the same question. Our Scottish distinctiveness is also the reason they are resentful and jealous of us, hence their eternal efforts to blend us into their Anglicised blandness.
        And I can assure you that person

        1. FraserP says:

          Did you get cut off? Dodgy line from Oz :^D

          No, seriously, Jim, the independence struggle is not and never should be about Scottish antipathy towards England. If we want to forge a new country that espouses the values of social justice, equality, peace and openness and to engender a welcome for ourselves in the family of nations then the last place we want to start is in stirring up irrelevant historical rivalry with England. That is history, this is about politics and economics.

  16. Alan Weir says:

    Once again we are indebted to Dr. Cuthbert. The SNP decision to sign off on Smith was surely a major blunder- the girning of the BritNat parties on refusing to do so would have been a minor thing compared to the fix we are in now.

    For huge political difficulties would attend rejecting the Scotland Bill. It seems to me that a veto, as suggested by Dr. Cuthbert, will be baffling even to lots of SNP voters who were told, by John Swinney, the bill was a step forward, minor but a step forward nonetheless and most folks eyes glaze over when being told about Holtham indexation etc. The spin against the Scottish govt on vetoing would be huge.

    Perhaps something can be salvaged. The SNP will go into the May election demanding more powers. Perhaps a way forward is to use the above analysis to point out the trap which looks before us and to demand in addition welfare powers, at least over in-work welfare, also our own pension system, for those retiring after the date they can be set up (to show folk the roof won’t fall in if we run our own pensions like a normal nation does) and control over the tax levers Jim Cuthbert mentions, all subject to revised Barnett, on the expenditure front, and an indexation as favourable to Scotland as we can get on the tax revenue front.

    This will be derided by unionists, of course, as being as near to full fiscal autonomy as one can get while still being subsidised. But here again the work of the Cuthbert’s is invaluable. We really do need to nail the subsidy junkie myth and hammer home to Scots that, on the contrary, Scotland has subsidised rUK to around the tune of £150 billion at least, since we were lied to over the oil in the 70s in order to block a fiscally strong Scottish parliament (or independence). A Barnett-type cushion while the oil price is low would provide some sort of compensation though nowhere near the full level which would be expected in much more minor scandals such as PIP mis-selling and the like.

  17. neil allan says:

    I know this must sound naive to all you SNP supporters but is the constant bleat for more powers not bound to result in Scotland being worse off so long as our economic growth is slower than England’s?
    Why would independence lead to faster growth? Can it overcome the drag implied by a Scottish central bank, and borrowing so much more per head? So many businesses say that independence would be bad for them, that to believe the contrary is magical realism – without the realism. And are we looking forward to the cultural implications of Rev Stu. and his followers as CEO and members of a new Scottish Broadcasting Authority and 200 other new quangos, Ambassadors in London and 70 other capitals? Still expecting to grow faster than others?

    1. Alan Weir says:

      Supposing independence didn’t make us better off than England (we’d then be a fairly unique exception among small European nations: even Ireland, after its catastrophic following of Bush/Brown/Darling neo-liberalism didn’t drop as low after the crash per capita as the UK, GNP as well as GDP). So what?

      We’d still be a rich West European nation (unless you believe all the racist crap from the likes of Farage to the effect that famine would stalk the land if Scotland wasn’t ruled by England- which, for those of you with poor skills in political arithmetic, is what being ruled by a Parliament answering to an 84% English electorate effectively amounts to). Not all rich Western nations are equally rich or grow equally fast. The Danish wouldn’t vote to become a German region if promised £500 a year more, the Canadians wouldn’t become an American state if they were told they’d be richer, nor the Portuguese Spanish.

      Moreover being a bit poorer than England is something we (apart from a tiny handful of highly Anglicised Scots in the ruling elite) are used to. At the start of WWI (when 26% of Scots soldiers were sent to their death by a PM who has ‘Prime Minister of England 1908-1916 on his gravestone, vis a vis a UK toll of 11%) Scotland was one of the most advanced industrial nations in the world, producing huge proportions of world steel, ships, heavy engineering goods etc. Yet according to Tom Devine slum overcrowding was three or four times worse in Glasgow than in Manchester or London, and think how bad it was there.

      If guys like you would just come out openly and say you think Scotland isn’t a nation like Denmark or Austria but a region like Merseyside or Surrey, than I wouldn’t have a problem with your UKanian nationalism, you are entitled to your national identity just as I am. But most of you BritNats declare we are a nation like Denmark or Austria with one wee salient difference: we are a crap nation unable to stand on our own two feet without a subsidy (the entire basis of the unionist economic case for the union and totally false as the Cuthberts have shown) and who therefore ought to hand over power of attorney to the English ruling elite. What a sad, miserable, humiliating and servile way to think about your own country.

      That’s the greatest benefit independence would bring: putting a stake in the heart of this miserable, putrid, bigoted 17th Century ‘the big guy must rule the wee guy’ nationalism which is British nationalism.

      1. James Dow A voice from the diaspora OZ says:

        We are already better off than England, having won the lottery of life, for we are Scots.

      2. neil allan says:

        Unlike you I want Scotland to be well off. Pathetic that a guy who wants it to be worse off attacks one who wants it to be better off on the grounds of lack of patriotism!

  18. Lawrence Anderson Burley says:

    From my recollection of the Smith negotiations – which were conducted at breakneck speed for such an important matter – all the Scottish parties worked in good faith, although of v different viewpoints, so that by the last day but one they had reached compromises that did not satisfy SNP and Greens but that they were ready to sign, in a spirit of constructiveness.

    Then in the very last hours came a hail of objections from Whitehall/Westminster, clawing back everything from control of welfare to control of the vast Scottish foreshore and waters, source of our renewable energies, reserved unto the Crown Estates. I heard it was like a tsunami.

    At that point, Sturgeon & Harvie could have delivered an ultimatum: “we’ll sign what we all agreed in the room but we won’t sign this dog’s breakfast returned from London. If you impose that, we withdraw.”. That position would have been clear, justified and very understandable to the electorate.

    Why the hell did they cave in?

  19. C Rober says:

    yep , see that hing the vow , “send it homeward to think again”.

    On the news this week is another Union ,one in decline , and if our media is to be believed also short in life left , the membership of the EU.

    How come as part of the European Union there is a negotiation , a decision to remain , which is based on what the Wesminster gets in return , whom can then say no need for a referendum.

    Yet as part of one of the oldest unions Scotland never even got a question regarding renegotiation as terms of continuation?

    What it got instead was an option for total indy or the continuation of the Union , with no terms of negotiation applicable , No extra question on FFA , which would have almost definitely resulted in a “yes”….. and the second step towards proof positive that indy was doable.

    As we now know those promises made to remain part of the Uk by Better Together have been broken , Safety of the NHS , Tax Jobs and so on , broken promises =broken contract and of course the subject matter here the poisoned chalice that is extra taxation , never mind the protecting of the Scottish Parliament where Westminster can cancel its powers as and when it sees fit.

    When it comes to the vote on the EU it should also be asked , do you want FFA as a condition of remaining part of the UK?

    FFA , the union remains , but with full fiscal autonomy as the condition of continuation , where 8.9 percent of the tax goes to Westminster , known from now on as our share , and the devolving of all Westminster reserved powers to Hollyrood (other than military and international affairs) , then England gets its EVEL , win win.

    Or how about we get the English voter to vote on Remaining part of the UK , now there is a thought?

  20. arthur thomson says:

    It is an indicator of just how far we have travelled that we are able to enjoy posts like this to help us understand the issues involved.

    I have every confidence in the Scottish Government. If, ultimately, Cameron’s Bill is detrimental to Scotland then it will be rejected. If it can be worked with to advantage then it will be accepted as a step on the road to full self-government.

    As it stands, the Bill is obviously a dead loss and if it isn’t fundamentally changed then it will be rejected. In that event the media and broadcasters will have a field day – of course they will. They will throw everything at us – like they haven’t for the past couple of years! And we will shrivel up and get back in the box – Not.

    I have never been so encouraged that Scotland is in the process of throwing off the process of subjugation that it has laboured under throughout my lifetime. This is just the most recent challenge to be faced and overcome.

    There is no more staunch advocate of any change than the person who has changed and there are increasing numbers of Scots who have wakened up to the understanding that independence always beats dependence. I am confident that the majority of the Scottish people will support their own government in rejecting Cameron’s Bill if that proves necessary. The apparent dishonesty of an increasingly discredited media in these circumstances will do no more than confirm that rejection is the right answer.

    As I see it, heads we win tails they lose.

  21. Brian Murray says:

    And build up more resentment in England. … ‘Always pampering to whining Jocks taking our money’…. No thanks, independence not dependence. … Take control…, our neighbour ALWAYS wins with fork tongue

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