Calman overtaken as drive for fiscal autonomy gains momentum

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The Calman Commission looked to have been overtaken by events this weekend as the drive for significant fiscal powers for Holyrood accelerated with the launch on Thursday….

The Calman Commission looked to have been overtaken by events this week as the drive for significant fiscal powers for Holyrood accelerated with the launch on Thursday of the Campaign for Fiscal Responsibility (CFFR).  The group, whose spokesman is Ben Thompson, has attracted massive support from Scotland’s business, academic and charitable communities.

Mr Thompson, who is also chairman of the independent think-tank Reform Scotland, said: “The initial response to the campaign has been extraordinary. It would appear there is a real groundswell of opinion in favour of giving Holyrood responsibility for raising as well as spending the money it receives.

“Over the next few weeks and months we are confident the campaign will continue to gather strength and help stimulate the debate, which is vital to Scotland’s future.”

Fellow group member and former STUC general secretary Campbell Christie said: “If we are to address the problems that will arise from the public expenditure attacks, it is vital that we have these additional powers available to us in Scotland.”

The campaigners believe that the tax raising proposals as laid out by the Calman Commission are insufficient and will cause serious damage to Scotland’s economy.  The Calman Commission was set up by the Unionist parties at Holyrood and its tax proposals were central to Labour’s recent election campaign.

The CFFR believes that a Scottish Parliament with greater responsibility for raising the money it spends would lead to better government.

This, it argues, would make politicians more accountable for the financial decisions they take whilst giving them both the incentive and the fiscal powers necessary to improve both public services and economic growth.  The group also maintain that such a setup would foster a healthy relationship between Westminster and Holyrood.

Another group member is Jim McColl chairman of Clyde Blowers and one of Scotland’s richest men.  Mr McColl said: “Scotland stands at the crossroads of an enormous opportunity. Across civic society, within the business community and among all political parties, there is a broad consensus that we must enter into a new era of economic responsibility.”

CBI Scotland director Iain MacMillan, an outspoken critic of the Scottish government, has warned that different tax rates across the UK would create too much uncertainty and put an unnecessary administrative burden on Scottish companies.

Mr McColl questioned whether Mr MacMillan’s views were representative of the Scottish business community and dismissed the CBI spokesman’s arguments by pointing out that his company operated in 27 countries with different tax regimes, including America, where even states have different rates.

A spokesperson for Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “This is a welcome intervention, including a range of respected individuals across the business and academic communities, trade unionists and the voluntary sector.”

According to The Herald newspaper backers of the campaign include the following:

  • Jim McColl, chairman, Clyde Blowers
  • Ben Thomson, chairman, Reform Scotland
  • Martin Gilbert, chief executive, Aberdeen Asset Management
  • Campbell Christie, former STUC general secretary
  • Dan Macdonald, CEO, Macdonald Estates
  • Peter de Vink, managing director, EFGH Corporate Finance
  • Alex Hammond Chambers, chairman, Alex Hammond-Chambers & Co
  • Stephen Maxwell, – associate director, SCVO
  • Professor Andrew Hughes Hallett, St Andrews University
  • Professor Drew Scott, University of Edinburgh
  • Joan McAlpine, journalist
  • Michael Fry, journalist and historian
  • George Kerevan, journalist and economic commentator
  • Mark Shaw, chief executive, Hazeledene Group
  • Hugh Andrew, managing director, Birlinn Ltd
  • Graeme Blackett, economist and co-author of Reform Scotland’s fiscal powers papers
  • James Aitken, Reform Scotland trustee and co-author of above
  • Professor Rod Cross, emeritus professor of economics, Strathclyde
  • Malcolm Fraser, architect
  • Malcolm Scott, Dunalastair Estates
  • Gerry Hassan, writer and commentator
  • Oliver Chapman, Oliver Chapman Architects
  • William Frame, managing director, Braemore Estates
  • Dr David Milne, Wolfson Microelectronics
  • Andy Wightman, writer and land campaigner
  • Angus MacDonald, chief executive, SWR Limited
  • Keith Falconer, chairman of Impax and Adelphi
  • Toby Henderson, Henderson Rowe Investment Management
  • Angus Tulloch, investment manager