The Scottish National Party (SNP) has submitted an amendment to the Scotland Bill on enlarged self-government so that Scotland can achieve full fiscal autonomy. The bill was presented to Parliament on 28 May, and has now entered the committee stage in the House of Commons.
Under the full fiscal autonomy system, the Scottish government would receive all taxation levied in Scotland, and would spend all of it. The Scottish government would then pay the UK for services provided in Scotland by the UK state administration and for Scotland's share of UK exclusive powers such as defense or foreign policy.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said the amendment aims to " to give the Scottish Parliament the ability to introduce full fiscal autonomy." The SNP's amendment also calls for Scotland to have responsibility for "National Insurance, setting the minimum wage and protecting key parts of the welfare state."
Rejection for conservatives expected
Enjoying an absolute majority in Westminster, it is expected that the Conservative Party will not accept the SNP's amendment. The Tories rather prefer to go ahead with a bill focused on the 2014 five-party deal following the recommendations of the Smith Commission. Quoting an Institute for Fiscal Studies report, the conservatives say that full fiscal autonomy would cost Scotland £7.6 billion per year (10.400 million euros). Therefore, they argue, the Scottish government could not continue to provide the same services as it does now.
The SNP disputes that by saying that the 7.6 billion figure is just an "academic calculation" and that, in any case, the quantity and quality of services eventually provided by a fully autonomous Scottish government would depend on its own decisions on tax revenues and spending. Or put another way: the SNP finds that UK governments spend public resources on policies that do not meet Scotland's needs.
In either case, the pro-independence party stops short of saying that the implementation of full fiscal autonomy should be immediate. In recent months, the SNP has maintained an ambiguous position on the issue, and within its ranks some voices consider that giving up the UK's annual block grant -which is calculated under the so-called Barnett Formula- would be "a disaster" for Scotland's public policies. The SNP thus wants the Scotland Bill to "let the Scottish Parliament decide if and when we move to greater financial autonomy."
(Image: Scottish Parliament's debating chamber / Photo by Colin.)