IT will be bemusing for members of the Scottish Conservative (and Unionist?) Party to find their leader Ruth Davidson making not one U-turn, but several, across the whole constitutional agenda as covered in your report ("Davidson in move to give Tories fresh image" and Leader, The Herald, January 26).
Having hitherto rejected progress within the devolution arrangement on the grounds that giving way would endanger the Union, it will be interesting to see what meat Ruth Davidson puts on the bones of her proposals that contradicts that philosophy.
The party spurned the initiative following the SNP victory in 2007, allowing the then Labour leader Wendy Alexander's speech on St Andrews Day, 2007, which led to the Calman income tax proposals. Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats stood shoulder to shoulder in support of us taking responsibility for the 10% – one-half of the standard rate of income tax – and the £5bn proceeds, which would be recovered from the remaining £20bn block grant. The danger for Scotland is, or was, that the tax figure is a pure guesstimate – if there were a shortfall we would have to borrow to make up the difference. And the continuing annual £200m, 1% Barnett squeeze would mean applying a 1% income tax rise every two years to cover that loss.
The problem the Unionist parties face is that they do not agree, and they will never agree on what constitutional structure they will put to the Scottish people as an alternative to independence, because there is only one that will work; that is, full fiscal autonomy.
They seem to have all rejected Calman, which is written into the statute for implementation in 2016. The policies of these parties following a No vote are irrelevant until after the referendum. Perhaps they all realised the absurdity of splitting the taxation system under Calman; it certainly would not have made Holyrood more accountable.
A significant change occurred in the so-called Scottish Questions at Westminster as the referendum question came under scrutiny. Prior to that, we had a steady succession of mainly English Conservative MPs queueing up to register their displeasure about English taxpayers paying for what they regarded as Scotland's largesse – that stopped during the negotiation period. What evidence do they have for that contention, and did Ruth Davidson agree with them, and will she reject that should it come up again?
Regarding the series of speeches Ms Davidson proposes to make in the coming months, we can only wait to see the extent of her volte face, and to measure the extent to which the party membership agrees with her changes.
Douglas R Mayer,
76 Thomson Crescent,
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