I though Gordon Brewer, Ken Macdonald and the Newsnight Scotland team did an excellent job of exposing the flaws of Calman, oops, The Scotland Bill, tonight. The First Minister was given time to explain his concerns in a robust but respectful interview. Robert Brown MSP, David Mundell MP and Pauline McNeill MSP, made less than convincing attempts to talk up "The greatest transfer of fiscal power etc etc". Shame that this "mission to explain" was absent from the rest of the day's broadcast news. Reporting Scotland in particular is knuckle dragging in its approach to any form of policy, even developments it describes as historic. Is there a bar on intelligent discussion before 11pm?
It was good to see Ken Macdonald's report illustrated with a pie chart of all the taxes at the disposal of the UK Treasury, something that I also used to inform my Scotsman column on the matter today. (The illustration from below is from 2008). Some people will swallow the line that "tax powers" equals "income tax" because that's what they see on their payslip. In fact income tax is a small proportion of the revenue which Scotland raises and sends south.
We should control all our own revenue then hand a cheque to London for joint services the way the Basques operate. Until such times as the Scottish people see sense and vote for independence that is. I noticed that when McNeill and Mundell were stumped by Brewer's question along the lines of "where is the incentive for the Scottish government to raise money if any revenue from economic growth goes straight to London?" they both conceded that improvements could be considered during the process of "scrutiny". I wonder...the control freaks in Whitehall who drew up this bill are determined to keep a tight hold of the UK's centralised state power.
Another point that really ought to be challenged with rigour is the suggestion that a separate Scottish tax collection system would make things more complicated - a point made by Brown and Mundell. Firstly, the duplication currently proposed for income tax by Moore is complicated just to explain to a tv audience, never mind actually levy. Second, the current HMRC system is unfit for purpose and has over-charged and under-charged thousands of people. Third, Scotland could create a simpler, cheaper and more streamlined Tax Agency of its own. This could cut red tape for businesses and individuals, and end anomalies such as the crazy National Insurance. NI no longer bears any relationship to insurance and, as the Centre for Public Policy Research recently pointed out, is just a way of taxing citizens by the back door.
I will blog later on the bill's failure to tackle the scandal of the Crown Estate revenues.