2 Jun 2014
The Scottish Parliament should be handed full powers over income tax, according to a report commissioned by the Scottish Conservatives.
In the key recommendation of the Strathclyde Commission – set up by party leader Ruth Davidson MSP last year – the report says that the setting of rates and bands in Scotland should be decided by MSPs.
The report also concludes that there is a case for a share of Scottish VAT receipts being assigned to the Scottish Parliament.
It adds that all barriers should be removed from Holyrood supplementing UK benefits out of its own budgets.
The findings contained in the “Commission on the Future Governance of Scotland” are unveiled today in Glasgow by Lord Strathclyde, chairman of the Commission.
The report declares that all the recommendations are based on “strong Conservative principles of responsibility, transparency and accountability, which we believe are required for a sustained relationship of all four parts of the UK”.
The report says there should also be Scottish versions of the Personal Tax Statements sent from HMRC, highlighting the taxes under the control of the Scottish Parliament.
On income tax, the report concludes that the tax-free personal allowance should remain a reserved issue for Westminster. After that, however, it would be up to the Scottish Parliament to decide on both rates and bands.
And it backs the creation of a new independent Scottish Fiscal Commission, which would be responsible for producing official macro-economic and fiscal forecasts in Scotland.
The report also proposes that Holyrood should be given more responsibility on some welfare issues.
Where a particular cash benefit is closely related to a devolved policy area, there is a stronger case for Scotland having more control.
Examples would include housing benefit and attendance allowance, which is paid to disabled people aged 65 or over who need help with personal care.
With substantial new powers, the Commission believes a range of reforms are needed at Holyrood to improve legislative scrutiny.
It recommends that the chairs of powerful Holyrood committees such as finance should come from opposition parties to give stronger checks and balances.
Finally, with such a major transfer of new powers the report recognises that relations must improve between the various parliaments and assemblies throughout the United Kingdom.
To help achieve this, it calls for a committee representing all the legislatures to be created to shape the future of the UK.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:
“The Scottish Parliament is a powerful institution, but it has little responsibility for the tens of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money it spends every year.
“The Strathclyde Commission puts forward a radical plan to give Holyrood full powers to raise all its own income tax.
“It also sets out a number of other fiscal and welfare measures to suit Scotland’s particular needs and strengthen its position within the UK.
“After 15 years of devolution, it is now time for a mature Parliament that is more accountable for the cash it spends.
“This is not some kind of consolation prize for the SNP if Scotland rejects their separatist agenda.
“It is about modern Conservative principles of accountability, responsibility and doing the right thing for the Scottish people.
“For the first time, MSPs will have to consider where the money they spend comes from – the hard-pressed Scottish taxpayer.
“These proposals also give Holyrood a direct stake in growing the Scottish economy.
“If more people are in work and more goods are sold in Scotland, this will generate greater tax revenues returning directly to the Scottish Government.
“We believe decision makers should focus on where government money comes from as well as how it’s distributed.
“In just 15 weeks, Scotland faces its biggest decision in almost 300 years on whether to remain part of the UK.
“We believe the people of Scotland should have good reasons to be passionate about wanting to remain within this Union.
“That is why it’s imperative to offer voters in September a positive vision of how our nation can progress and have a bigger say within the UK.
“The Conservative-led Coalition government has already delivered with the passing of the Scotland Act 2012.
“But we are committed to going beyond that and devolving substantial new powers to the Scottish Parliament.
“People across Scotland can now see that a ‘No’ vote in September will allow devolution to develop, while the SNP’s plans kill devolution stone dead.
“These proposals for new powers for Scotland will inform our 2015 General Election manifesto.”