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December 01, 2010

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The problem with trying to alter Calman's recommendations is that if your aim is to loosen the straitjacket of Westminster control and to give Scotland more control of its finances and to give it greater freedom to act on the economy and more effective powers in other areas of government then you will be acting against the actual purpose of Calman.

Apart from the addition of restricted borrowing powers for capital spending that local authorities already have, all Calman has done in financial terms is to alter the existing 3p Scottish Variable Rate to 10p and to add a few minor taxes into the mix while upping the bureaucracy involved in the funding of the Scottish Parliament to a new level of complication.

There is no control of tax bands, tax rates or allowances for Scottish income tax and no control of the economic levers of power in Calman.

To complain that Calman is unwieldy, doesn't give Scotland any powers beyond air-rifles and speed limits and complicates funding without any added benefit is to misunderstand the purpose of Calman completely.

Calman is at its heart a con. It trumpets financial accountability by linking Scotland's funding to the tax take in Scotland when the economy and tax base in Scotland is linked directly to Westminster's handling of the economy and it hails the transfer of a few minor powers to Scotland and the taking back of several powers from Scotland as some huge constitutional change.

Calman was designed to produce a lot of distraction, noise and lights but to do nothing to change the underlying powers of the Scottish Parliament. Calman has put a racing stripe, furry dice, a leaky sunroof and a spoiler onto the Trabant that is Scottish devolution and called it a Ferrari.

Once that is understood then Calman stops being a piece of junk and is seen to be a beautifully crafted piece of obfuscation.

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