Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/585/7474

From The Socialist newspaper, 24 June 2009

Fight for a Scottish parliament with full powers

ON 1 July 1999, a Scottish parliament was convened for the first time since its controversial dissolution in 1707. In the run-up to the tenth anniversary of Scottish devolution, a report of the Calman commission - set up by Labour, the Tories, Lib Dems and supported by the Westminster government - has proposed extending the Scottish parliament's powers.

Philip Stott, International Socialists, Scotland

The Calman commission was widely seen as a response to the Scottish Nationalist Party's (SNP) election victory in May 2007 and the need to 'protect the Union.' It is a rival to the SNP government's so-called "national conversation" on Scotland's constitutional future and their demand for a referendum on independence.

Calman's proposals are to extend the powers of the Scottish parliament, including taking control of a potential 9 billion in tax revenues. The present annual budget for the parliament is 30 billion. The centrepiece of Calman is the power to set an element of the rate of income tax in Scotland.

The Westminster government would set a 10% rate of income tax for Scotland (the current base rate of income tax is 20%). The Scottish government would then be responsible for levying its own rate of income tax with the power to vary the rate by ten pence in the pound up or down.

Block grant cut

However, Calman's proposals would also involve a 5 billion cut in the block grant from Westminster to Scotland to compensate. To ensure the same budget for public spending the Scottish government would need to set the Scottish income tax element at 10% - making a total tax rate of 20%.

With an economic recession and rising unemployment, and therefore a falling tax take, there would be enormous pressure to slash public spending and raise taxes. Both New Labour and the Tories have said that public spending will be savaged whoever wins the next election and Scotland's block grant is certain to be squeezed dramatically.

Under Calman's proposals it would not be possible to only increase the higher rate of tax - currently 40%. Any tax rises or cuts in Scotland would need to apply to both the upper and standard rates simultaneously - removing the possibility of increased taxes on the rich without penalising ordinary workers at the same time.

Other proposed changes include the Scottish parliament having control of air passenger tax, stamp duty and landfill tax as well as law-making powers on airguns, drink driving, speed limits and more limited borrowing powers.

There are no proposals to allow any control over oil revenues or of corporation tax, social security, the powers to bring companies into public ownership or over the minimum wage.

These are the type of powers that the International Socialists would support - a Scottish parliament with full powers. Instead these changes - devolution-lite, rather than the devolution-max of full fiscal autonomy - have been carefully constructed to avoid increasing the proposed powers to such an extent that a new referendum would be required which would open up the clamour for a question on outright independence to be included.

The Calman commission report has been accepted by, in reality, all parties in the Scottish parliament. The SNP, led by Alex Salmond, long ago accepted a 'gradualist' approach towards their long-term goal of Scottish independence.

Without a majority in the Scottish parliament for the SNP's desired referendum on independence and with the SNP leadership happy to settle for incremental advances in powers, they have supported Calman with a few criticisms. At least a section, possibly a majority, of the SNP would settle for "full fiscal autonomy" within a modified or federal United Kingdom.

The pro big business SNP would prefer this to an out and out collision with the capitalist interests that at the moment overwhelmingly oppose a break-up of the union with England and Wales.

The SNP can also claim, with some justification, that their 2007 election victory forced the other parties' hand to set up Calman. In that sense we are seeing the end of the first phase of devolution in Scotland. There is a widespread understanding by the capitalist class and the political establishment that additional concessions must be made to Scotland to try to head off centrifugal forces that could destabilise the union even further and potentially pull it apart.

Economic crisis

Set against the current economic crisis and the inevitable social upheaval that it will provoke, the likely election of a Tory government could see a major resurgence in the national question in Scotland.

The lame duck prime minister, Gordon Brown, supports Calman's report and some parts of it are likely to be implemented before the next general election. But the prospect is that a David Cameron led Tory government will have to work with an SNP government in Scotland to agree the changes post-election. That raises the question, have the Tories changed?

Margaret Thatcher, then Tory prime minister, infamously declared in the 1980s: "We will fight to ensure that constitutional devolution for Scotland does not pass." For decades the Tory government of the 1980s and early 1990s ruled out any concessions to the Scottish people's national aspirations. The political consequences for the Tories were dramatic; due to this and their other policies they lost every Tory MP in Scotland by the 1997 general election.

Today, the Tory party leadership has been forced to adapt its position. Scotland's Tories have formed a sometimes on, sometimes off, bloc with the SNP in the Scottish parliament. Tory leader David Cameron made it clear that he welcomes devolving more powers to the Scottish parliament, while also supporting a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster and restricting the issues that they can vote on - eg legislation that affects the NHS or education in England.

In this way he hopes to appeal to a broader constituency in Scotland with the message that the Tories have 'learned their lesson' while also reassuring a rising 'English nationalism' that the so-called "hand-outs" to Scotland will be reduced by making a Scottish parliament more "fiscally responsible."

However, the memory of Thatcherism, and its economic and social catastrophe, is still strong in Scotland. Despite Calman, any return of a Tory government, especially if the Tories fail to win more than one or two seats in Scotland, will be certain to increase national sentiment and probably support for independence as well - which currently stands at around 35%.

Ten years of devolution, including two years of an SNP government that is being increasingly exposed as hostile to the interests of working-class people, has failed to provide an answer for working class communities in Scotland. With an economic crisis wreaking carnage in its wake, none of the establishment parties, including the SNP, have any answers.

They all support the capitalist market and the logic of 'slash and burn' policies that go with it when the system enters a crisis. That's why the building of a mass party to represent working-class people is so desperately needed. Such a party can play a vital role in opposing the onslaught on jobs and working conditions and help lead the struggle for a socialist Scotland.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 24 June 2009:

Lindsey refinery dispute: Workers show their strength

Protests at Fiddlers Ferry

New pamphlet: Lindsey, Visteon, Linamar - lessons from the disputes of Spring 2009


Youth fight for jobs

No to mass youth unemployment


Socialist Party editorial

Economy - 'Green shoots' are without real roots


Socialist Party news and analysis

Iraq war inquiry

The guns fall silent - but no peace for Tamils

Fight for a Scottish parliament with full powers

Racists in Northern Ireland threaten socialist for defending Romanian community

'Sponsors' deserting academy schools

Another RBS rip-off payout


Unison conference

Unison conference: We needed a council of war - we got a council of doom


Revolution in Iran

Where now for the Iranian revolution?


Socialist Party statement

Reply to SWP open letter: Workers' party must be built


 

Home   |   The Socialist 24 June 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Scotland:

triangleRoyal Mail dispute: Interview with a CWU branch secretary

triangleExpired PPE relabelled for NHS use

triangleIs there an anti-cuts rebellion in Scotland?

triangle'Roses are red, violets are blue, BP and Shell - we're coming for you'

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Scotland - is the stage set for a new independence struggle?

Parliament:

triangleDefend the right to strike! RMT and NSSN lobby parliament

triangleCapitalist 'democracy' v socialist democracy

triangleTories in tatters: Corbyn must seize the time

triangleTories out now - Corbyn in with socialist policies

Tax:

triangle30 years since the huge anti-poll tax demo... And how mass non-payment of the tax was built

triangleNewham campaign set up against council cuts and tax hikes

triangleLiverpool & District Socialist Party: 30 years ago - How the poll tax was defeated

SNP:

triangleMassive Scottish independence demo marks new stage in struggle

triangleScotland and Brexit: Developing threat to the capitalist union

International

International

31/5/20

US

Outrage spreads globally following US police murder of George Floyd

27/5/20

Hong Kong

Chinese state's imposition of draconian law reignites Hong Kong protests

27/5/20

Lebanon

Economic collapse leads to renewed protests across Lebanon

20/5/20

US

Trump, coronavirus, capitalism, and the presidential race

6/5/20

India

India: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus

6/5/20

Trump

Trump puts profit before safety (again)

6/5/20

US

US: Trump's public health cuts have condemned thousands worldwide

29/4/20

May Day

A CWI May Day 2020 statement

29/4/20

Ireland

Irish police use Covid-19 emergency powers to disperse Dublin shop workers' protest

22/4/20

USA

US private healthcare system in meltdown

14/4/20

Coronavirus

Rapacious capitalism and the spread of coronavirus

8/4/20

CWI

Coronavirus, capitalism and fighting for socialism worldwide

8/4/20

Amazon

Amazon workers threaten revolution!

18/3/20

France

French local elections: CWI candidate elected

18/3/20

Coronavirus

United States: private healthcare exposed as Trump throws money at markets

triangleMore International articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999