Lies, damned lies, and Calman

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by Ken McNeil

So this is how democracy works.  Or rather politics because this isn’t democracy.  You lose the election so you set up a commission to put a spanner in the works of the main policy of the duly elected government and you get the taxpayer to pay for it.

Of course you do all this because it really is time we had a review of devolution, no political motive involved.  I know this because Sir Kenneth Calman admonished Joan McAlpine MSP for suggesting the possibility.

The same fellow then confirms the review was politically motivated by expressing his surprise, nay astonishment, that the little diversion he headed up actually ever got as far as a parliamentary bill.

In the great scheme of things this review which the Unionist politicians tell us will bring about major improvements to devolution and the greatest transfer of powers to Scotland for 300 years, is merely a minor chapter in the career of Sir Kenneth.  He tells us he has moved on which is why he is having difficulty remembering the details of his own report.  The members of the Scottish Parliament committee can’t really expect him to remember what happened two years ago.

Calman’s performance at the Holyrood committee set up to scrutinise the Scotland Bill was extraordinary.  His most frequent answer to why his commission did not consider implementing the findings of the various pieces of evidence or external reports laid before them  was that the commission didn’t think it was appropriate.  He couldn’t explain why any particular suggestion, like devolving corporation tax for example, was inappropriate other than it seemed too complicated for the collective brain of the commission to deal with.

It is a disgrace that so much time and taxpayers money can be spent on the farce that is Calman and the Scotland Bill but I want to concentrate on one particular aspect.

One thing that has been picked up and commented on is the arbitrary way the 10p income tax figure was arrived at.  But there is another figure which does not seem to have attracted the same attention and which should be used to hammer the Unionists and this bill.

For months UK Government ministers, unionist  politicians  and the mainstream media told us the transfer of income tax powers represented control over 35% of the Scottish Government’s budget.  There was then a change from a percentage to emphasising an actual cash figure, £12bn.  Why the change?  I don’t know, maybe they thought £12bn sounded better than 35% which of course flags up that there must be 65% that has not been devolved.  But these figures have been repeated ad nauseum.  No research has ever been presented to back them up.

Sir Kenneth however blew these figures out of the water when he told the committee that the 10p rate represents 16% of Scottish Government spending.  So not even half the 35% being claimed.  £12bn?  16% of the budget, if we take that as £30bn, is only £4.8bn.

Here is my back of a fag packet figure, which is more than you’ll get from Moore and Co.  I got these figures from a simple web search and they are correct as of June this year.

There are 2,444,000 people in work in Scotland.  The average wage is £25,620.  If we deduct the personal tax allowance of £7,475 this leaves taxable income of £18,145.  Tax at 10% (10p in the pound) is £1,814.  This figure multiplied by the number of people in work gives you £4,433,416,000.  Not far off Calman’s figure but way short of £12bn.

The media, including the BBC, continue to quote these discredited figures.  Why?  Why have the figures never been challenged?  It’s a simple question:  “How did you arrive at these figures Minister?”

Calman’s revelation blows a hole in the argument for the bill.  Who is going to pick it up?  Will anyone in the media armed with this revelation challenge the UK Government?  Will anyone tell the electorate they are being conned yet again?

Will the Scottish Government seize this opportunity and will they vote down the bill unless substantial and substantive improvements are made?

Unionism =  lies, damned lies and Calman.