Magazine article Public Finance

Scottish Tsunami Still Making Waves

Magazine article Public Finance

Scottish Tsunami Still Making Waves

Article excerpt

The shocks from the SNP's electoral 'tsunami', as the general election result is being called, continue to reverberate through Scottish public life.

The only remaining Liberal Democrat MP, Alistair Carmichael, is facing legal action over statements made during the campaign concerning a leaked memo suggesting that Nicola Sturgeon had secretly wanted David Cameron to win.

Labour's solitary Scottish MP, Ian Murray, has been trying to establish himself as shadow Scottish secretary in the Commons, but with some difficulty. The phalanx of 56 SNP MPs continually try to undermine his authority to lead in debates and at question time.

As for the Scottish Secretary himself, David Mundell, the only Conservative MP left in Scotland has been trying to convince the SNP that the Scotland Bill, which has just received its Second Reading, is an accurate reflection of the infamous 'vow' delivered by the unionist party leaders in the dying days of the independence referendum campaign last year.

The SNP says the vow was for "devo max" or "near federalism". Mundell says it merely promised the devolution of income tax powers and certain welfare responsibilities proposed by the Smith commission. And it has to be said that the Bill does exactly this.

The Scottish Government signed off on the Smith recommendations last December. But the landscape has changed so markedly since the election that the SNP believes the government should have gone much further in devolving taxation and welfare powers to Holyrood.

How much further is a moot point. There appeared to be an initial reluctance on the part of some SNP MPs to press for an early transition to full fiscal autonomy. This is because, given the collapse in the price of oil, the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests there would be a black hole of £7.6bn a year if all public spending in Scotland were to be financed by Scottish tax revenues. …

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