By Sean Martin
Top finance experts including the author of the McCrone Report are to appear in front of a Holyrood Committee in order to answer questions on the future of Scotland’s public finances.
Throughout the next three months, the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee will hear analysis and opinion of the country’s financial outlook post-2014 from renowned experts including Professor Gavin McCrone, who wrote the now infamous report into Scotland’s oil revenue capabilities in 1974, Professor Jo Armstrong of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Public Policy for Regions, and Professor Andrew Hughes-Hallett of the Fiscal Commission Working Group.
Witnesses will be asked for their views on four main topics: taxation, borrowing, public sector debt and fiscal rules. There will also be specific panels held to discuss the issue of pensions in Scotland after 2014, as well as Scotland’s budget post-referendum and the Barnett formula – the method used to allocate tax revenues from Westminster to the devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Professor Armstrong previously told an audience back in February that the Barnett formula was “definitely up for change”, citing the adjustments made to non-domestic rates in Wales after the autumn statement as evidence the formula could be altered.
Professor McCrone is perhaps most well-known for his 1974 report which concluded that an independent Scotland would have massive surpluses on both its budget and its balance of payments. McCrone also suggested in his paper that, such was British reliance on North Sea oil at the time, Scottish independence would likely have left England in “dire straits” without it.
Less than three years ago, Professor Hughes-Hallett was one of the first to point out that banking conventions meant debts incurred by failed financial institutions rested proportionately on the jurisdictions in which they had traded. As such, he concluded that the cost to Scotland of the failure of the Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland would likely have been around £1bn – not the £27bn which had been mooted by Westminster at the time.
Finance Committee convenor, Kenneth Gibson MSP, said gathering evidence from experts in economic fields is essential in order to gain some clarity on the most prolific financial issues surrounding Scotland’s future.
“Our evidence sessions will provide a vital platform for debate and clarity on some of the most important financial issues at the forefront of the Scottish public’s mind,” he said. “That is why we have invited respected experts in the fields of taxation, debt and pensions to share their views on what Scotland’s public finances will look like after 2014.”
Other high-profile witnesses who will give evidence include referenda expert and senior lecturer at Cranfield University Dr Matt Qvortrup, head of economics at Strathclyde Business School Professor Peter McGregor and Professor Alan Trench, the former adviser to the House of Lords Ad Hoc Select Committee on the Barnett Formula.
A full list of witnesses scheduled to appear will be made available on the Committee’s webpage: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/29822.aspx