The Scotland Bill has suffered a massive blow after it emerged a key tax proposal, contained in the Calman Commission recommendations on which the Bill is based, had no evidence to justify it.
The admission from Sir Kenneth Calman, who chaired the unionist dominated commission that bore his name, came as he faced questions from a special Holyrood Committee set up to scrutinise the Bill.
Under questioning, Sir Kenneth was forced to concede that a plan to cut the Scottish block grant by the equivalent of 10p in income tax and then allow the Scottish Parliament to raise the tax again to recoup the shortfall had “no evidential basis” and that 10p seemed “a good figure to choose”.
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell asked Sir Kenneth: “It doesn’t seem to be there’s any deep, solid evidential reason why it should be 10p as opposed to any other figure.”
Sir Kenneth replied: “What we were anxious to do was to find a figure which would allow reasonable amounts of the Scottish block grant to be replaced by income tax, and 10p is a good figure to choose.
“There’s no evidential basis that it is better than 11.5p that I know of.”
The astonishing admission from Sir Kenneth severely weakens the tax plan that some respected academics have insisted will damage the Scottish economy. It also calls into question the whole Scotland Bill of which it is a central plank.
Responding, Stewart Maxwell MSP who questioned Sir Kenneth said:
“The more we discover about this tax plan the more it looks like it was drawn up on the back of an envelope.
“The Calman Commission and the Labour, Lib Dem and Tory Governments who have endorsed this tax bombshell simply picked a figure out of thin air.
“There is not a shred of evidence behind this 10p plan they are so desperately clinging too, if they have evidence for the 10p rate then they must produce it.
“The tax plans from the UK Government look increasingly like they are intended to push income tax in Scotland up and to cost the Scottish taxpayer a fortune to run.”
Sir Kenneth’s admission comes one week after Lib Dem Secretary of State Michael Moore struggled to answer questions on costs and impact of the Bill on the Scottish budget.
Mr Maxwell added:
“The reality of the situation is that the majority of the people of Scotland want the Scottish Parliament to have responsibility for all taxation – not a 10p tax bombshell from a Tory Government.”