Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Swinney: Episode 1- Help Me Borrow

We have all heard the protestation from the SNP regarding the Calman Commission set up by Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Scotland. How they will not get involved. How they would rather focus on their own one issue, one sided national conversation. Yes not since Shakespeare has a Scottish soliloquy had so much attention, only in this case it is the alternative dialogue that some people dare not name.

That is until the Nats Finance Minister John Swinney noticed a little something. You see local councils can issue bonds to borrow money and the Westminster Parliament can do the same thing. But Holyrood is unable to raise any additional revenue of it's own except through the Tax raises powers voted on in the devolution referendum's second question, and even that has limitations. While being asked about the Scottish Futures Trust, aka PFI-lite, yesterday Mr Swinney actually linked this list of words in one sentence:-


In fact what he did say was:

"There are legitimate areas where it would make sense for the powers of the parliament to be enhanced in a fashion which allows the parliament to be more effective; the government to be more effective in securing greater opportunities for taxpayers within Scotland.

"The ability to borrow would strike me as one example of how that might take place."

Now greater financial powers is one of the areas being looked at by the Calman Commission. But surely an independent Scotland would have all the powers it would need, one would assume. However, the Finance Minster is saying that there are legitimate areas where enhanced powers should be sought.

Does this mean that the Nats aren't that confident of winning a referendum on independence in 2010?

Are they secretly hoping that the Calman Commission does come up with some good proposals after all to strengthen Scotland's governance under devolution?

Apart from PFI, sorry Scottish Futures Trust investment where public borrowing could be finance at the council, why is there a need for the Scottish Government to borrow? Are the Nats admitting that their grand schemes are going to cost more than they let on leading up to last May's elections. something that some of us did realise and tried to point out.

Why if they need more money are they not using existing means to do so? They have the power to raise income tax by up to 3% over that set in the Westminster budget. But then we all saw how unpopular even taking a little bit more income tax from everyone put egg on Gordon Brown's face. So are the SNP Labour in disguise looking for stealthy ways to raise money which the Scottish taxpayer will eventually have to pay back rather than being up front about it?

Tune in next time (I'm sure there will be one) for another installment of The Swinney.

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