Referendum : Seeking More Powers - To Do What?

Lesley Brennan

16 August 2013

A major theme of the Referendum campaign has been what an independent Scotland could do with the powers that the devolved Scottish Parliament does not have.

This week, Finance Secretary John Swinney addressed this issue, but not as you might have hoped ,to deal with thorny problems such as  Scotland’s relations with the European Union, plans for a shared currency, defence, or declining oil revenues.

Instead Mr. Swinney gave priority to this example .

An independent Scotland, he said, would tighten up the law on companies who make unwelcome  “cold calls”  to unsuspecting households.

A regular caller for more powers for an independent Scotland is Health Secretary Alex Neil .

Mr Neil concedes that in Scotland today  “Our NHS is already independent”, but that this independence is always not enough to tackle Scotland’s health problems.

Therefore he and SNP Ministers repeatedly call for these “more powers” or “levers needed to tackle poverty and with it health inequalities”.

A progressive government can use the power of taxation to redistribute income and to finance public spending on health and education to the benefit of the less well-off .

However, John Swinney has already indicated there will be no income tax rises  on the highest earners after independence, or higher taxes on multi-national companies operating in the North Sea.

Big business can look forward to large cuts in corporation tax, which will always be 3 per lower than the rate set by the UK.

Thus we arrive at the “vision” at the heart of independence :

High Quality Public Services = Low Tax

This is as unachievable as “Scandi-American economics” as UNISON’s Dave Watson calls it where high class public services such as health are impossibly funded by low taxation

He makes a related observation in his blog post “Devo Left” :

“The independence referendum debate so far has largely focused on process and powers.

“ There has been little debate on what extended devolution or independence is actually for.   

There is no point having new powers if we are simply going to swop Neo-Liberal unionism for Neo-Liberal independence.”

Mr Neil’s claim that independence would provide Scotland with the “ levers needed to tackle poverty and with it health inequalities” is very much at odds with the political statements coming from within his own party on their uses.

Thus, tackling poverty and health inequality are somehow to be funded by an unfair tax regime of tax cuts for big business and no tax increases for the wealthy.

click on the image below to read Devo Left on Dave Watson's blog



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