Will a disastrous fiscal settlement be the end for John Swinney?

Finance-Secretary-John-Swinney-567593The secrecy surrounding the negotiations for the post-Smith Scottish fiscal settlement continues basically unbroken – apart, that is, from some recent articles in the mainstream media which have a suspiciously uniform tone. The thrust of these is that the Scots are holding out for a method of indexing the adjustment to the Scottish block grant which would avoid Scotland being penalised for having relatively lower population growth than England. (The method which the Scots are supposedly holding out for is the so-called per capita indexed deduction, or PCID, method – see my Jimmy Reid Foundation paper of 25 January, which can be accessed here, for more details on how this method is defined.)

In fact, these clearly Treasury inspired articles are not good news for Scotland. What is almost certainly the case is that the Treasury is preparing to agree to the PCID method – and then to present this as a major concession on their part: they could then say that the Scottish negotiators had won a victory. In fact, however, the PCID method would be a disaster for Scotland. If this is what emerges, then our negotiators would have allowed themselves to be manoeuvred into the following position – far from anything that was implicit in the original Smith agreement.

First of all, the PCID method, as envisaged by the Treasury, bases indexation of the abatement to the block grant on growth in tax revenues, (the aggregate of income tax collected in the rest of the UK), rather than on growth in tax base, (that is, the aggregate of taxable incomes in the rUK.) Use of tax revenues rather than tax base exposes Scotland to an additional tier of risk: the risk that the tax richness of the tax base in Scotland grows more slowly than in rUK – in addition to the risk that the size of the tax base grows more slowly: (again, see the Jimmy Reid Foundation paper referenced above for more details.) The move to indexing on tax revenues rather than tax base amounts to a huge concession by the Scottish negotiators, which has been slipped in during the negotiations: the coalition government white paper, Cm8990, which was the original proposal for implementing Smith, clearly envisaged tax base indexation. It is astonishing that the Scottish negotiators are apparently just nodding this concession through.

Secondly, and most damagingly, PCID indexation is still one of those methods which would involve Scotland engaging in an economic race with rUK – a race in which, to avoid being penalised, Scotland has to grow its income tax revenues per head as fast as rUK. Given Scotland’s lack of economic powers, and given that income tax is not Scotland’s strong suite, there is every chance of Scotland being pushed into a dynamic of relative economic decline, where it chronically lags behind rUK – a bit like Greece and Germany, but worse. And the penalties if we get into this situation are very severe. Ultimately, if Scotland’s growth rate in income tax revenues per head is consistently lower than the growth rate in rUK, then levels of public expenditure per head in Scotland on devolved services would reduce to about half levels in rUK. This would be a level of discrepancy it would be impossible to make up by raising Scottish tax rates: indeed, the attempt would make matters worse.

It is important to remember that this kind of desperate economic race was not implicit in the original Smith report: all it said was that some appropriate form of indexation should be used for the abatement to the block grant. Perfectly satisfactory alternatives exist, (see the JRF paper referred to above): again, it appears almost inconceivable that our negotiators seem to be being led into this damaging position.

Part of the problem is that our negotiators have allowed the flawed report produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies to dominate the negotiations: (see my Bella article of 27 December.) There is plenty of evidence which could have been used against the IFS report, and to ensure that it did not set the agenda for the negotiation process. Despite this, our negotiators seem to have been hypnotised by the presumed authority of the IFS.

And finally, by weakly agreeing that the fiscal settlement negotiations are conducted in secret, the Scottish negotiators have thrown away what should have been their strongest card – namely, the anger of the Scottish people at a humiliating settlement which is being inflicted on a defeated, but potentially still defiant, Scotland.

Of course, the secrecy surrounding the negotiations means that John Swinney might still surprise us all. He might still produce, with a last minute flourish, an acceptable deal which safeguards Scotland’s interests. But on current indications, that would be much against the run of play: and PCID, or any similar approach, would be an unmitigated disaster for Scotland. If what is finally proposed is PCID, then John Swinney should certainly consider whether he should continue in office. And the Scottish Parliament should veto the proposed deal.

Comments (42)

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  1. Gordie says:

    A fair article as far as I understand the issues involved. I respect the author and I respect Swinney. Both have always worked in Scotland’s best interests. I can’t see Swinney making an mess of it and I can’t see this fiscal framework as people are describing it or many of the other so called new powers making up the road to Edinburgh. The Vow, The Smith Commission, the Scotland bill were all deceptions. The SNP were forced to take at face value a scheme that was designed to take the piss out of them and the wider Independence movement .

    It is embarrassing that this is all we have to show for all the efforts of the YES campaign during the referendum and the 56/59 SNP MP’s in the Westminster election. The punters have probably driven the Independence cause recently, now we might need some inspiration and leadership from the Scottish Government.

    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Since 1707 UK tax contributions have been inexorably drawn to London and the SE, raising land values there. But this effect would have been minimised by a land tax (Annual Ground Rent) which would have collected and redistributed the rising ground values fairly around the UK. Joseph Ricardo was the one to unearth the mechanism that draws resources unfairly from the economic hinterland to the economic centre (see Fred Harrison’s ‘Ricardo’s Law’).
      We currently have leaders in discussion with Westminster on the subject of the division of UK resources. Do they have any concept of the cumulative loss to Scotland and peripheral UK regions over two centuries? And more urgently, have they any intent to bring forward reforms to prevent UK regional losses continuing indefinitely into the future in favour of the South-east? Our tax contributions gravitate inexorably to London and the South-east because society’s investments are crystallised into the high price of land there. My point is this: a part of that SE site value is derived from Scots’ tax payments. The reason why Annual Ground Rent (AGR) is the solution is because it collects that value and redistributes it fairly around the country rather than concentrating it as free capital gains in the private hands of London property owners. IT IS A PROBLEM WITH TAX.
      Clause 9 of the Act of Union guaranteed the continuance of Scotland’s Land Tax of that time. It disappeared pretty quick — which was a betrayal. We need to visualise how Scotland would have fared under that revenue system to grasp the extent of Scotland’s cumulative losses over 200 years …and its losses over the next two centuries if nothing is done to call a halt. This is the pivotal briefing point for any politician sent to negotiate with Westminster about resources.

      1. Ian Kirkwood says:

        …and if you read ‘Ricardo’s Law’ you will laugh at the pitifully miniscule adjustment in favour of Scotland that is the Barnett Formula. English MPs choke over what they suppose to be a shocking adjustment in favour of Scotland. Its pathetic sums are a drop in the ocean of what our political leaders should be demanding. But then, maybe they have not read ‘Ricardo’s Law’.

  2. June Stewart says:

    Having finished reading this blog, I had to scroll to the top of the page to make sure I was not reading some Unionist rag. The article started off with some interesting points but then descended into what one would expect from MSM.

    “the Scottish negotiators have thrown away what should have been their strongest card – namely, the anger of the Scottish people at a humiliating settlement which is being inflicted on a defeated, but potentially defiant, Scotland.

    One wonders whether the writers crystal ball is made of the blurred second rate, not quite up to scratch type. And not the crystal clear model some of our senior politicians use. I too can be portentous.

    1. yesindyref2 says:

      Perhaps. On the othre hand Smith and the fiscal framework are the promise of the UK Government, not the Scottish Government. The SG are just forced to go along with it, and in good faith. It’s up to the Treasury to deliver, not the SG.

      It remains to be seen just who exactly, is being manipulated and driven into a corner.

      I’ve met John Swinney, I never met Greg Hands. And we all know about David Mundell.

    2. Gordie says:

      http://www.cuthbert1.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/

      Jim and Margaret Cuthbert’s website. I’m assuming its the same Jim Cuthbert.

    3. June – the writer is one of the most respected pro-indy economists in the country who raises some significant questions about the fiscal settlement.

      Please try and stop the trigger-response of “some Unionist rag” stuff. Its just childish, and if you don’t know where Bella stands after a decade of campaigning for independence then I don’t know what to do.

      1. willie says:

        It’s not surprising that some folks see the article’s headline as something more akin to what one would see in the mainstream media. Such tawdry partisan styled headlines detract from the many quality pieces published by Bella.

  3. yesindyref2 says:

    Thanks for that. We who comment in media are still mostly reliant on biased media reports of, as Jim Cuthbert says, biased and sneaky Treasury leaks.

    The good news is that it’s apparently 50-50 whether the talks will succeed, if they fail then Swinney’s in the clear as long as the documents he’s promised to release before March 24th back up his claims of unfairness and an absence of “no detriment”.

    And if the talks “succeed”, then the result is open for all economists to check out and complain about. It would be interesting if Labour and the Conservatives were forced to vote against the framework, with the SNP “reluctantly” joining them. “It was the best we could do, we accept it wasn’t good enough”.

    Personally I have faith in Swinney, the proof will be in the fiscal framework dumpling. Will it taste fuity and nice, or will it taste like ….

    1. yesindyref2 says:

      Oops typos. Still “fuity” is like “fruity” without the “r” for “revenues”.

  4. K1 says:

    It’s very ‘click baitish’ in its headline I must say. Also very speculative, do you really imagine Mr Swinney and our other negotiators being duped by this? It would seem awfully naive at this stage if this were indeed a possibility. If such great harm to our economy was even a remote possibility by the deployment of this by the Treasury, surely the negotiators have enough savvy to notice and take evasive maneuvers?

    We really would be ‘too stupid’ if this were the case. Seems a wee bit far fetched…imv.

  5. Iain McGregor says:

    Swinney has a deep seated decency about him, he is exceedingly honest with the Scottish people and an he has an eye for seeing a pig in a poke!

    Both Swinney and Stugeon would rather see these powers pass by for the moment rather than saddle Scots with an unsustainable deal that would cripple Scotland whilst it remains in this union.

    Compare and contrast this with labour in Scotland, they would have signed up months ago to mundell’s con and raised their penny tax on low wage earners only to realise their block grant had gone down by a corresponding sum.

    The combined genius of kez, james and jackie, sums up to that of my Jack Russell – McLean.

    Swinney will domwhat’s best for Scotland, he always has!

    P.S I think a more pertinent question is what is the Scottish Secretary’s role in this regards Scotland? To me it appears he is representing English interests!

    1. Tom Mc Guire says:

      Iain,
      They didn’t rule half the world by being nice.
      Just hope our folk are not overawed by the people they are up against.
      Oh and I do not include Mumble in this as he is a nonentity as far as I am concerned and Minister Against Scotland.

  6. Fae Queen says:

    Like June Stewart (above) I wondered at the resemblance to MSM even though the headline did warn us all. Calling for care and caution is rational. Describing the parts of the process that require care and caution is informative. Using those to rather imperfectly disguise unwarranted criticism of John Swinney is cringeworthy.
    How about Mike and Bella Caledonia joining me in a big “I’m not in John Swinney’s party, but as he enters these talks I’d like to wish him every success in securing the best deal possible for Scotland.”

    1. Dear Fae Queen, it goes without saying that we wish him every success in securing the best deal possible for Scotland…

    2. Allan Thomson says:

      The author refers to the secrecy of the process and bases his fears on what he sees as a uniformity in the MSM reporting which exists, while implying it is Treasury inspired. On this basis alone he is attempting to flag up a strong warning. I am intrigued by his very insightful conclusion (“what is almost certainly the case is that the Treasury is preparing to agree to the PCID method – and then to present this as a major concession on their part”) the consequences of which are serious if he is right. Does he perhaps also know a bit more about events than he can currently let on? Time will tell.
      If his predictions are on the money it may well be a career limiting event for John Swinney who, as the author concedes may yet surprise us all.
      This reads to me more like an attempt to catch Mr Swinneys ear on a matter of serious concern rather than a simple bid to damage him.

  7. slavent says:

    My heart is always with our brave MP’s, MSP’s but…Swinney always looks miserable, always intense, and he seems confrontational.
    We must be aware that all the euphoria we enjoy could start to dissipate through his intent to pass on the cuts from Westminster directly on to our Local Governments without a by or leave. We must realize that the council workers put their faith in the SNP to fight against Osborne and his inhumane ideology. Through experience I can tell you they feel let down, unprotected, and betrayed. They are also confused because the very people they believed in to protect them from the Tory cuts agenda are the ones who impose it on them.
    Stop the council tax freeze, realise that home care is as important as the NHS and you can’t protect one or the other will fall.
    Local Government is being squeezed to intolerant levels which includes many SNP voters who have placed their trust in the Scottish Government to protect them in their workplace. Labour is at least trying something different with their penny increase. Although this is not ideal for the lowest income families it does offer some protection for council workers.
    Swinney’s eagerness to pass on the cuts is going to lose votes from the very people that had so much hope in their hearts…..” The council workers “

    1. Cairnallochy says:

      But if you recall Gideon’s words in Parliament (broadcast on TV news) to “put up or shut up” ie in relation to tax, Labour propose to implement Osborne’s tax increases to offset his cuts. Doesn’t seem much difference to me. Perhaps we should replace Hobson with Osborne in a certain well known saying !

    2. Autoclub says:

      Scottish Labour – Vote no to independence or your taxes will go up. One year later they’re screaming for more taxation to mitigate Tory austerity.

      Correct me if I’m wrong but wouldn’t us raising more money in taxation count against our Barnett consequences and thus completely cancel out any good the raise might’ve generated?

    3. muttley79 says:

      The SNP have no choice but to implement spending cuts from Westminster, because there was a No vote in the referendum. If some voters in Scotland cannot recognise that fact then we are in real trouble.

      1. Alistair says:

        And let’s remember that Labour also voted these cuts through by an enormous margin. Their raising tax ploy is hypocritical in the extreme and they should be held to account. This Bill is a pig in a poke, predominately only there to lay fiscal traps for the SG and opportunities for unionist parties to exploit as a means to destroy any increasing appetite for independence. It’s got hee-haw to do with meeting the aspirations of the |Scottish People. They will if they can force us to believe the ‘too wee, too poor, too stupid’ mantra once again and put us on a diet of porage and ‘We told you so’.

        They can take their Scotland Bill and stick it for all I’m concerned.

        This is an informative piece and has helped open up some of the potential traps that we should be concerned about for me and for that I’m grateful. I too like many commentators will put my faith in Swinney – but I’ve also got my fingers crossed on these negotiations big time. It’s too important to get wrong and I hope some of the scenarios depicted above don’t play out in reality.

    4. speywitch says:

      Labour is not trying something different with the penny increase, in fact this was the very thing dubbed ” A penny for Scotland” when it was on the SNP manifesto ( they would use the revenue generated for education etc). Labour trashed the idea and produced Inland Revenue reports as to why it would be the worse thing ever stating it would harm those very people ( Nurses, teachers, Councils etc) it was supposed to aid.

      “Penny dreadful for low paid: Inland Revenue figures back Labour claims public-sector workers would bear brunt of SNP tax plan

      Labour will seek to put tax at the centre of its ‘big push’ for a Holyrood majority this week, with new figures showing nurses, teachers, and council workers will foot the bill for the SNP’s ‘penny for Scotland’.

      A detailed breakdown of the tax’s impact reveals how public-sector workers would be forced to bear the brunt of a measure that would affect more than two million workers.

      An analysis prepared by the Inland Revenue and passed to The Herald confirms Labour claims that the Nationalists’ flagship policy, intended to raise £690m extra for health and education, will fall disproportionately on those on low and middle incomes.

      The figures, released with just 72 hrs to go to polling day, mark the culmination of Labour’s non-stop campaign against the SNP’s economic policies.

      [Gordon Brown] said last night: ‘There is hardly a nurse, teacher, policeman, or council worker in Scotland who won’t be paying this tax increase. These are the very people the SNP claimed it wanted to help and instead they will be hit the hardest.’”

    5. Alistair White says:

      I’ve met with and spoken to J Swinney a few times. I think your description at the beginning is unfortunate and not my characterisation. I think between him and Sturgeon they are quite literally all that Scotland has and No voters have no idea of the concept of professionalism these folk have given the cards they’ve been dealt in arguing for Scotland’s interests. I read this article because if true (removal of Swinney) then I would equate that to a loss equal to the failure to secure a Yes vote and would be a dark day indeed. Not having any control or input to these matters I hope this is not the case and the outcome at the very least meets the Smith commission the losers were given as consolation prize.

  8. DB1 says:

    The problem seems to be that the Tories WANT the Scotland Bill to fail. Their heart was never in further devolution, but something had to be done as a last minute referendum bribe.
    Now they are taking advantage of the current low oil price, and the short term effect on Scotland’s finances. Calling Scotland’s bluff in a way.
    By burying the ‘no-detriment’ principle, the Tories want to make it look like the SNP are rejecting the bill – because it will give the impression they prefer Scotland to be permanently subsidised by the Barnett formula. They no doubt hope this will kill off any future demand for home rule, and they can get away with no further changes.

    I see there is talk of a possible future ‘review’ in a few years. In this case, perhaps there will be sufficient proof that a flawed settlement is starting to harm the Scottish budget – but only if no major changes are made until then that could be ‘blamed’ for any future shortfall.

    So if the choice is between nothing at all or further devolution with a weak framework, I could see a case for Swinney accepting a flawed deal with a future review, but making VERY clear it is insufficient, and that further powers are needed to compensate.

    In a couple of years, we will be at the point where added powers are ESSENTIAL to stop Scotland’s budget falling. Just like Swinney said. We certainly won’t be moving backwards at that point.
    And if that is refused, then independence is the only reasonable solution.

    The only other option I can see is for the SNP to reject the bill right away, and campaign to hold a home rule referendum to give a mandate for far more powers than currently proposed.
    Again, this is where the Tories would try to take advantage of the current oil price, and hope to get away with no further devolution.

  9. Alf Baird says:

    The so-called “Scottish negotiators” are part of Her Majesty’s Home Civil Service, so batting for the same team as their counterparts in London. There is no such thing as ‘Scottish’ civil servants and won’t be until independence is secured. We know from Sir Nicholas Macpherson that all UK civil servants (must) have a UK agenda. Surely Mr. Swinney knows this?!? He would have been better employing Jim Cuthbert as head of his negotiating team.

  10. Ghillie says:

    Jim Cuthbert.

    Oh ye of little faith.

  11. Clive Scott says:

    Regardless of what is offered by Mundell and his toadies it should be rejected. A better offer will come along later and ramping up a dispute with Westminster will hasten indyref#2. Mundell’s performance on Sunday Politics yesterday said it all. His expression throughout was as if there was a particularly fetid smell in the room. There was a time when the Scottish Secretary was supposed to represent Scotland’s interests in the Westminster cabinet. What we have now is this embarrassing excuse of a man shaming our nation.

  12. willie says:

    Let’s be quite clear. The very partial devolution of a handful of taxes grudgingly granted by a recalcitrant and malevolent Westminster government is a sow’s ear that will never become a silk purse.
    Swinney and the SG know that and are attuned to the reality. Moreover, in a statement this weekend Mundell made the statement that they ( the Tories) would look at the settlement in a few years” to make sure it is fair to Scotland and the rest of the UK”. Only the gullible, who believe in Father Christmas, could have any positive take on this. All the evidence so far is that the ‘ vow ‘ was a lie, but maybe, just maybe Father Christmas is around the corner and pigs will fly. And when they don’t fly you can expect the SG to allow us to understand why. Raising all our taxes and contributing internationally to mutually agreed cooperations is the end game. This is but an interim step towards that

  13. Maureen McCann says:

    John Swinney has always done the best he could for Scotland He has balanced the books despite very difficult financial difficulties He is an honourable man and has integrity and will make every effort to get the best deal for Scotland .
    Our country would be worse off if it were not for John Swinney and I am very disappointed in your remarks

  14. Rentaghost says:

    Ultimately Swinney is a politician, and he’s human – so is prone to error. I’ve got a lot of time for the guy, particularly latter day angry Swinney, but it’s not beyond reason that we might end up getting screwed in this process, there are a number of factors at work and Jim Cuthbert is right to bring the economic ones into focus for us to discuss.

    On the other hand, a lot of Jim Cuthbert’s article above focuses on a very specific set of circumstances coming about, and I don’t see a lot of supporting evidence to corroborate that argument. It may be that his knowledge of both economics and civil service routines allow him to intimate certain details and directions of travel from what’s been said that the rest of us punters can’t pick up – in which case it’d be nice to see some further elucidation of that (I actually enjoy his writing in so much as he puts a lot of the voodoo of economics into something more digestible), or he may just have some insider knowledge – in which case we can’t fairly judge the issue.

    Ultimately we’ll wait and see. Politics isn’t just about securing an honourable deal, it’s not even just about turning down something that you know won’t work. Not in an election year, not this close to it. This isn’t just about the mechanics of the fiscal arrangement but also about who’ll tag the blame and/or credit. It’s about timelines as well (accept a bad deal now and take the victory lap from folk who aren’t looking all that keenly at it to give yourself enough room to win an election in the hope of an early indyref 2)…..

  15. Blair paterson says:

    I agree with D.B.I if we do not,get what was promised in full we should hold a referendum on home rule I am sure even some of the no voters would vote for that

  16. Alf Baird says:

    OT (sort of), enough gas has just come onstream in Shetland to fuel virtually every household in Scotland cheaply over the next 25-30 years. Yet like the oil its simply given awa tae Westminister (less the usual ‘cut’ for astute Shetlanders). Very high energy prices (i.e. making Scotland uncompetitive economically) plus rising fuel poverty are a high price to pay for this so-called ‘union’.

  17. Coul Porter says:

    I agree with Jim Cuthbert’s reticence in accepting the IFS. Although it is a charity and nominally independent think-tank, any glance at its previous and current membership will reveal a dearth of Scottish representation.

    Difficult, then, to avoid accusations of geographical bias and centralist mindset. But, hey – they’re professionals!!

  18. Mike says:

    It seems that the Scottish Government has no winning scenarios at all and all they can achieve is to accept the least harmful of nothing but harmful propositions.

    But those of us who voted Yes knew when the No vote was delivered we would be hit and hit hard.
    Our Oil and Gas industry is being decimated way beyond what the value of Oil demands.

    The worthless vow is proving to be not just worthless but actually harmful.
    The Scottish Government is going to be put into a position where it will have no choice but to raise our taxation levels above that of the rest of the UK or try to balance a shrinking budget with less funding.
    All that is being proposed is a transfer from Barnett funding to locally raised taxation with no net gain in revenues.

    We only had one avenue of escape and that was the Yes vote. Now we are going to take a kicking for daring to get so close.

    1. DB1 says:

      The winning scenario is a further step towards independence.
      Even if a deal is flawed in the long term, and the Scottish budget begins to fall.
      Perhaps income tax rates shouldn’t be touched so that becomes clear.

      At that point, Holyrood will inevitably need upgraded with more powers.
      If that happens – we are half way there, and independence is a much easier argument.

      If no more powers are forthcoming, then independence is the only escape.

      There is just as much risk to the Tories in proposing a weak deal that harms the Scottish people.
      Because Scottish voters are far more likely to trust the SNP over the Tories when disputes arise.

      1. Mike says:

        I honestly hope you are right. It would be better however if Independence was gained through consensus rather than fear of what the Tories are doing. We need to convince far more people of the economic arguments for Independence from Westminster. To me they are a no brainer but to others they seem convinced that its Westminster who props us up with all this UK largesse.
        We cant have a currency our oil and gas is worthless we are subsidised bigger is better etc etc still has far too many people cringing. That will only get worse if the Scottish economy is seen to be getting worse.
        The media wont portray the new powers as anything other than a benefit to Scotland no matter what they are. Those who are convinced of the opposite are already Yes voters. I can see how we can swing frightened No voters into voting yes if the new powers make us look even weaker.

  19. bill fraser says:

    This is a one sided fight in which we have little or no chance of winning.Reject the whole thing and re-negotiate .The whole Smith Commission busness was a failure from the start.

  20. 1314 says:

    It doesn’t matter if it’s PCID or anything else. The ‘Scottish Bill’ is a mess and intended to be so – it has nothing to do with the good governance of Scotland.

    The only winning scenario is that no ‘agreement’ is reached before the deadline for discussion in the Scottish Parliament and, in May, the SNP are returned as the Scottish Government (preferably together with more Green and other independence supporting MSPs – but first things first ).

    I am hoping that the Scottish Government have no intention of agreeing to what would amount to self-harm and are stringing along those nice people in the UK team who are, of course, only interested in ‘what is best for Scotland and the UK’ – you bet.

  21. DB1 says:

    @1314
    The way I see it is that the Tories don’t want a deal.
    They have no intention of further devolution if they can get away with it.

    So tactically, it may be better to accept a mess of a deal that will have to be upgraded in a few years. Swinney would have to make that clear when accepting it.

    The alternative is nothing at all, and the hope that independence support will increase in times of low oil prices – which could possibly be permanent as electric vehicles start to become more popular.
    If we get into a situation where it appears like Scotland is dependent on the Barnett Formula, then the chances of independence are much reduced.

    Of course, if the Scotland Bill deal ends up as fair and reasonable, then enough people might be happy enough with the level of power Scotland has. That’s the chance we take.

  22. arthur thomson says:

    In any negotiations you only get some of what you want even if you are negotiating with idiots.

    Some good and some bad will come out of these negotiations. In my opinion they are a case of ‘heads we win/tails you lose’ for those who want independence. A bad deal will be viewed by the Scottish electorate as a case of Westminster doing Scotland down; a good deal will be viewed by the same electorate as continuing good quality Scottish government.

    My assessment is based firstly, on my observation that the momentum is with the independence movement – however slowly the polls claim that movement to Yes seems to be and secondly, because the media will fall into the trap of spouting lies yet again to an electorate that has largely rumbled their propensity for lying and will disbelieve what they say.

    I easily understand the impatience of those who think the Scottish Government should be more radical in all its actions but the glorious failures of the past will not be repeated this time. We need to constantly remind ourselves of what has been achieved in the last few years and remind ourselves too of the cowed state that the majority of Scots had come to accept, courtesy of the British Labour Party. The improvement in the self-confidence of the Scottish people needs time to mature. To this end, the Holyrood elections and the following local government elections are far more important than the farce of Smith, which the three tory parties always viewed as a way to neuter Scotland.

    I am confident that Mr Swinney will ably represent Scotland. In the unlikely event that he feels he has not achieved the best possible outcome for Scotland, I am sure he won’t do a Brown or a Carmichael – he will of course do the honourable thing.

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