Magazine article Public Finance

More Options Develop for Devolution

Magazine article Public Finance

More Options Develop for Devolution

Article excerpt

First Minister Alex Salmond's independence referendum is only one of several possible routes to Scottish constitutional change, according to the chair of the think-tank behind the 'devo-plus' option.

In an interview with Public Finance, Ben Thomson of Reform Scotland said that consultations being held between Edinburgh and London governments, Sir Menzies Campbell's policy review for the Liberal Democrats, and the recently launched civic coalition, Future of Scotland, could all provide conduits to a negotiated constitutional settlement.

'There are lots of different ways you could arrive at a new structure in Scotland that don't involve the referendum,' Thomson said.

He suggested that the Scotland Bill, currently before Westminster, be turned into an enabling Bill rather than enacted in its present form, which gives Holyrood control over income tax above the first ten pence of the basic rate.

The Scotland Bill, based on the recommendations of the Commission on Scottish Devolution, chaired by Sir Kenneth Caiman, is regarded by some as having been overtaken by events. But Thomson sees it differently. 'It could easily be turned into an enabling Bill. You would then reach mutual agreement between the two Parliaments about which taxes could be devolved,' he said.

You also have the possibility of one or two referendums. You could have one or two questions. Or you could have a negotiated settlement with Westminster,' he added.

Future of Scotland includes groups such as the Scottish Trades Union Congress, third sector bodies, the churches and the Institute of Directors. …

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