Steel Commission reports

The Scottish Lib Dems have produced a new report calling for more autonomy for Scotland, including tax-raising powers.

The convenor of the commission that chaired the report, Lord Steel, said:

"No self respecting parliament should expect to exist permanently on a grant from another parliament. The Scottish Parliament is unique in having considerable legislative power, but very limited control over taxation. That has created a democratic deficit.

"It is time to change that. Transferring substantial revenue-raising authority to the Scottish Parliament should enable future Scottish Governments to have a free hand in developing policies which will stimulate growth in the Scottish economy and remove the democratic deficit." (Scottish Lib Dems)

Lib Dem policies like this one have a good chance of being implemented within the next decade, as they could hold the balance of power at Westminster as well as Holyrood, even without making any further advances.

It is quite possible there could be a coalition in Westminster after the next general election – even Professor John Curtice says so. Labour need drop only 33 seats and Gordon Brown would find himself a leader bereft of a working majority. Brown is, of course, a long-time supporter of devolution and any talks between him and Menzies Campbell about a UK coalition would inevitably involve the proposals in the Steel Commission.

Indeed, one way of looking at this week’s report is that it’s an opening bid in these very negotiations. (Iain MacWhirter, The Herald)

As the Campaign for an English Parliament has noted, fiscal autonomy for Scotland would lead to even greater pressure to resolve the Westlothian question.

The Lib Dem solution is for a federal Britain, with assemblies for the English regions. However, this has already been rejected once in the north-east referendum. The other option is an English Parliament.

Given England’s size relative to the rest of Britain, this would probably lead to Tom Nairn’s solution, not federalism but confederalism.







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