Monday, 2 June 2014

Credit where it is due

I wrote back in March about how disappointed I was with Labour's revised devolution proposals. I also however speculated as to the reason why, mainly involving the internal tensions among the various competing interests in my own Party.

Now, as someone seldom with a good word to say about the Tories I have to first of all concede (through gritted teeth) that their proposals published today are far from disappointing. They are comprehensive and radical and they make a proper attempt to address the absurdity that since 1999, far from echoing the American colonists demand of no taxation without representation, Scotland's politics have been corrupted by representation without taxation.

All the focus on the coverage of the proposals today has been on Income Tax but it should not be overlooked that there is also a tentative proposal to assign VAT revenues and devolve Air Passenger Duty. The ability to "top up" benefits will also call the bluff of those who think Scots would readily pay higher taxes to do just that. A typically devious Tory manouver.

The conclusions reached about which taxes cannot/should not be devolved: National Insurance; Corporation Tax; Capital Gains Tax and excise duties coincide largely with my own thinking on these matters (for what that's worth).

If I had a minor quibble it might be about Inheritance Tax. It is a geographic tax and it is difficult to comprehend how it might be subject to tax competition other than in the most macabre of circumstance. It has also seemed to me to provide the potential long term solution to the ever increasing cost of free personal care. Perhaps Ruth might yet be persuadable on that.

For my sentence immediately above betrays why the Tory proposals are so much more radical than our own. For these proposals, with no disrespect to the other contributors and advisers are, recognisably, Ruth Davidson's proposals. Now, Ms Davidson has a number of advantages over my own Party leader. She has not required to juggle competing internal interests. To start with, she has no Westminster Group of MPs to worry about. Insofar as she has required to take on the Thatcherite dinosaurs in the Lords she has the huge advantage of already starting to recover the Party support they are mainly remembered for having thrown away. And a gratitude for that has already started to filter down to local government and to ambitious future candidates for either Parliament. So she has, "up here" an almost free hand.

And then most crucially of all, in playing that hand, she has had the support of the Prime Minister. On this matter he clearly trusts her and she, in turn, trusts him to let her get on with it.

I have never for a moment thought anyone on the English Tory camp, other than a few nutters, has ever viewed the departure of Scotland from the United Kingdom with equanimity. But particularly I have always thought that David Cameron himself is utterly sincere in that sentiment. So sincere that he would do whatever was felt required to prevent that.

Today he saw the reward of what all able politicians do. He had delegated the detail to a trusted lieutenant, trusted their judgement, and then backed them to the hilt.

If there is any justice, then, come May 2015, they will be rewarded at the polls. Just hopefully not so much that they start taking seats off us.

1 comment:

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