Commission rejects Scottish autonomy

“Full fiscal autonomy for Scotland is “inconsistent with the union”, an independent commission has concluded.

The Commission on Scottish Devolution, established by the Scottish parliament and British government but independent of both, made the claim in an interim report released today.

Its chairman, Sir Kenneth Calman, said 160 written submissions and over 30 oral evidence sessions had confirmed devolution has been a “great success”.

But on finance he ruled out calls for fiscal autonomy and accepted the independent expert group’s conclusions.

“There are trade-offs between the principles of equity, efficiency and accountability, but this balance should be determined by the constitutional objectives the funding system is designed to support,” Sir Kenneth said.

“We will examine these trade-offs, and the main funding mechanisms – assignment of tax revenues; devolution of taxes and block grant – in the next phase of our work.”

At present the Barnett formula is used to calculate how much public money is received by Scotland, Wales and Northern England.

Scotland receives 22 per cent more spending per head than England, while Wales (14 per cent) and Northern Ireland (30 per cent) also receive more – contributing to growing pressure for a reassessment of the formula in future.

Sir Kenneth has also made clear his opposition to full independence for Scotland as backed by the governing Scottish National party.

“Devolution is working well in practice,” he added.

“At the same time some functions are an integral part of the Union and can only be dealt with at the UK level: for example defence and national security, international representation, an integrated single market.”