By Chris Rumbles
Labour’s claim that the party’s Devolution Commission proposals will allow the Scottish Parliament to raise 40 per cent of its expenditure have been challenged by an economic think tank.
Edinburgh-based Reform Scotland, a right-leaning, free market public policy institute, used the recommendations for greater devolution in the commission’s final report and applied them to the latest (2012/2013) Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures.

Reform Scotland said its analysis highlighted how under Labour’s plans the Scottish Parliament would only raise 26.18 per cent of what it spends which, it said, was an increase of less than five per cent on what will result from the Scotland Act 2012.

Entitled ‘Powers for a purpose’, the report from Labour’s Devolution Commission states that the 40 per cent would be raised by the extra £2 billion it says an additional 5p in income tax would generate.

The analysis conducted by Reform Scotland also included the commission’s suggestions that the funding of Housing Benefit (£1.7bn) and Attendance Allowance (£480m) be devolved also.

Chairman of Reform Scotland and member of the Devo Plus group, Ben Thomson, said:

“Labour’s proposals increase the Scottish Parliament’s tax-raising powers by less than 5%, and represent only 26% of Scottish Government expenditure, which falls well short of the 40% they are claiming.

“The report is clearly motivated more by short-term referendum politics than a real desire for significant further devolution.”

Among some of the other recommendations of the commission are making the Scottish Parliament legally ‘indissoluble’ by its inclusion in the UK constitution, enabling the Scottish Parliament to have full administrative control over its own electoral system and retaining the Barnett formula as the funding mechanism for Scotland’s public services.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Labour had an ‘obligation’ to now present the detailed workings to support the commission’s recommendations.

She said: “It is becoming clearer by the hour that this incompetent report falls far short of the powers Scotland needs.  It adds to Labour’s embarrassment that this new independent analysis shows that the party leadership got their sums wrong.

“Reform Scotland confirms that Labour’s watered down proposals would see 80 per cent of Scotland’s tax revenues remaining in Westminster’s hands.  It would also see 85 per cent of our welfare budget controlled by Westminster.  With UK cuts threatening to push up to 100,000 more children into poverty by 2020, we can’t take the risk of leaving these powers at Westminster.”

In a blog post on, politics professor at Strathclyde University John Curtice wrote that Labour’s prospectus was by no means one that saw Holyrood assuming primary responsibility over welfare and tax.

Analysing the report he wrote: “On the face of it Labour’s proposals for more devolution would appear to fall well short of what might be required to convince voters that a No vote would be followed by the kind of enhanced devolution that a majority of people in Scotland would apparently like to see.”

YouGov surveys for The Times carried out in September 2013 asked people who they thought should have power over ‘taxation’ and ‘welfare and benefits’.  53 per cent of respondents said taxation should be under Scottish and not UK government control while 56 per cent said the same should apply to welfare and benefits.


martin morrison
2014-03-21 12:04

Has anybody thought to consider the implications of a currency union under Devo-max/Devo-max-super-pro-vitamin-plus/whatever they wish to call it?

One of the arguments underpinning Osball’s announcement a few weeks ago was that it would be unfeasible having two countries with different tax regimes using the same central bank and currency. If Labour’s promise of variable tax powers was introduced, surely we would be in precisely this situation?

Even if these powers weren’t even applied, their mere presence would surely create the “uncertainty” that the markets apparently can’t cope with?

Mind you, I still can’t understand why we would want the dead weight of an unproductive England dragging us into market-worshiping penury anyway.
2014-03-21 17:24

Could anybody tell me if the Labour party have actually voted at their conferences on their stance against Independence?
2014-03-21 21:27

A YES vote will solve all of these Unionist difficulties letting them keep their contrived handouts for their own purposes.

It also gives Scotland the unfettered freedom to evolve in ways that suit the Scottish people, giving full freedom to make whatever liaisons with whoever we choose, for whatever purpose we wish.
Additionally we will not allow ourselves to be locked into any arrangement that does not match changing circumstances.
2014-03-21 22:14

Totally agree hiorta.
The decision about whether we should have a shared bank with England,be a member of the EU or NATO or anything else outside our country is entirely a decision for us Scots.
As you say:
It also gives Scotland the unfettered freedom to evolve in ways that suit the Scottish people, giving full freedom to make whatever liaisons with whoever we choose, for whatever purpose we wish.

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