Likely timescale for additional Scottish tax and fiscal powers

I  have been asked a number of times recently to comment on a likely timescale for additional tax and fiscal powers if Scotland votes ‘NO’ in September 2014.

Estimating a likely timescale is not that difficult a task.  It may though be a pointless task if as is likely this issue is for all intents and purposes ignored by Westminster.

Recent delays to the devolving of additional fiscal powers to both Northern Ireland and Wales give an indication of the sense of priority these matters even now are given at Westminster. Add to this the background of the 2015 UK General Election and the debate surrounding the UK’s membership of the European Union.  This means that the likelihood of Westminster devoting anything more than a token amount of time and effort to yet another debate on which tax and fiscal powers to, or more realistically not to, devolve to the Scottish Parliament cannot be high.

The debate for additional powers is also not going to be all one way.  Those arguing for additional powers after a ‘NO’ vote will also have to counter those calling for powers to be removed from the Scottish Parliament or even that the Scottish Parliament be abolished.

That said, one recent example does gives us some idea of how long these things take.

  • SNP win May 2007 Scottish General Election
  • Calman Commission set up December 2007
  • Interim report published December 2008
  • Main report published June 2009
  • 2010 UK General Election and change of government resulted in a review of the matter
  • Scotland Act May 2012
  • Powers to be devolved in April 2015 and 2016

So 8 or 9 years and that is where very few powers were being devolved and there was a large amount of consensus between the main UK parties.

8 or 9 years may though be unduly optimistic.  Calman was set up within six months of the SNP’s victory. Would something similar be set up so quickly in the event of a ‘NO’ vote given how close the next UK General Election was?  I suspect not.  That means any additional powers are not likely to be in the control of the Scottish Parliament for at least a decade.

Also worth remembering that three of the six tax powers recommended by Calman were omitted from the Scotland Act 2012.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.