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Brexit is an old people’s home

... And it's English, not British.

Scotland's referendum: the view from around the world

As residents of Scotland vote today on the future of their country, we take a look at how countries around the world are talking about the referendum.

Referendum rethink - The Liberal Democrats and the future of Scotland

Tom Griffin (London, OK)The SNP may not yet have the votes to get their planned independence referendum through the Scottish Parliament next year, but the proposal is certainly creating waves among their political rivals.

The Liberal Democrats announced yesterday that MSP Ross Finnie is to review their opposition to a referendum and report back to a special session of the party's Scottish conference on 30 October. 

Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott has staunchly opposed a vote up till now, but there was notable pressure for a change of stance from some Scottish activists at the UK Lib Dem conference last month. 

Where have all the Scottish radicals gone? (with apologies to Joan Baez)

At a time when the eyes of the world have been upon Scotland, its government and Parliament due to the al-Megrahi case, it is an appropriate moment to ask what happened to the Scots tradition of radicalism.

Scotland once had, and still has to an extent, a reputation as a left-wing land, a place of radical politics and possibilities, and is still talked about by some as being a ‘socialist country’.

Yet if this were the case where are the current generation of Scottish radicals who would give vent to such ideas, questioning those in power and vested interests, slaying orthodoxies and complacencies and exposing our silences and omissions from the past and present? Who are today’s radicals, not necessarily of left or even right, but of free spirit and mind?

Who are the modern day equivalents of such titans as Adam Smith and David Hume, Keir Hardie and John Maxton, Patrick Geddes and R.D. Laing? Scottish Labour had an explosion of talent in the 1970s and 1980s, as the old city fathers were challenged by a new generation of talent of the likes of Robin Cook and Gordon Brown. Since then the party has ossified and burnt out with exhaustion on the twin pillars of becoming the Scottish political establishment and twelve years in UK office.

The Nationalists have tapped into a generation of people who would previously have found a natural home in Labour but they have made it their business to be respectable and a party of government. The Scottish Tories are still earning their spurs back after the long shadow of Thatcherism; the Lib Dems are more a collection of individuals. The implosion of the Scottish Socialists lost a whole spectrum of radical opinion a voice, while the Greens are too small and polite to be radical and serious.

The long march to Scotland’s independence referendum

The world of politics and history sometimes throws up by complete accident fascinating and revealing coincidences. So it proved on the 70th anniversary of Britain and France reluctantly declaring war on Nazi Germany after Hitler had taken the decision two days previously to unleash his war machine on Poland. On such a day laden with history the SNP administration fired the first official shots in the referendum on Scottish independence. Alex Salmond, First Minister, committed his administration to bring forward a bill to hold a referendum in the next year.

More than the date of September 3rd connects these two separate events for they tell us something profound about the nature of Britain, what it became, the state it is currently in and what fate awaits it in the near-future.

Salmond puts independence on the agenda

Tom Griffin (London, OK): It's now official. The Scottish Government will bring forward plans for a vote on independence in 2010. Alex Salmond announced the Referendum Bill in Holyrood today as the centrepiece of the SNP's new programme for government.

On the face of it, this was something  of an empty gesture, as Salmond's minority government does not have the votes to get the bill through the Scottish Parliament. Yet wise heads like the BBC's Brian Taylor and Slugger's Brian Walker believe there is more to the story than that.

Even if it falls, the referendum bill is likely to keep the constitutional issue on the agenda until the next Holyrood election.

Calman's Catch-22

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Is there a fundamental flaw at the heart of the Calman Commission's  proposals for devolution of tax powers to Scotland?

Economists Jim and Margaret Cuthbert believe the plans would have some perverse effects that could leave Scotland caught in a deflationary trap, as The Scotsman reports: 

the Cuthberts warn that under Calman – set up by Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – growth in Scotland's economy could also disproportionately benefit the Treasury, rather than the Scottish Government, because Holyrood would get to keep only 10p out of every tax band. 
For every 1p cut in income tax, Scotland would need to raise an extra 5 per cent income from the basic tax payer, an extra 7.5 per cent from those in the 40p bracket and an additional 8 per cent from those in the top 50p bracket, which will be brought in next year.

The Herald carries a Labour reaction:

"This is Alice in Wonderland economics. It is right that if the Scottish Parliament used tax-varying powers that would have consequences for the budget of the Scottish Government - that is the point. It's barmy to argue that the Treasury should make up the shortfall."

All the major parties in Scotland would agree that part of the point of devolving tax-raising powers is to strengthen the incentive for the Scottish Government to manage public spending responsibly and to grow the Scottish economy. If the Cuthberts are right, Calman may not achieve this. They foresee circumstances where tax cuts could boost the Scottish economy and swell UK Treasury receipts yet leave Scottish finances worse off. Conversely, they think Holyrood might well be forced to raise taxes at the expense of economic growth to maintain revenues.

The Cuthberts argue that these effects can be avoided if the Scottish Government receives a fixed percentage of all income tax in Scotland, on the model of a revenue-sharing system currently used in Canada.

That would mean that while decisions made at Westminster would continue to affect Holyrood's revenue,  Holyrood's decisions would also start to have an impact on Westminster's revenue from Scotland:

Successful operation of such a system would require that the UK and devolved governments are willing to operate in a collegiate manner – being appreciative of, and respecting, the impact that their own actions will have on the revenues of the other parties. The implication is that a successful tax sharing system would have to involve a more federal way of working than is the current practice in the UK. It would be very unfortunate if the Calman Commission had been forced towards its flawed proposals on tax sharing because it was unwilling to countenance the implication that a proper system of tax sharing would inevitably involve a more federal aspect to the operation of the UK constitution.
The Cuthbert's open letter to the Calman Commission is available as a word file, along with some other very interesting papers, from their website.

Calman report calls for 'Scottish income tax'

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Calman Commission this week published its long-awaited report on the future of Scottish Devolution. Most attention is likely to focus on its recommendations for taxation, which could create a significant new divergence from the rest of the UK.

The Commission calls for income tax to be reduced by 10p in the pound in Scotland with a commensurate reduction in the block grant from Westminster. The Scottish Government would have the option to make up the difference by setting its own income tax. 

One limitation is that the Scottish variation would apply equally at all rates. Holyrood would not be able to raise the top rate while leaving the standard rate unchanged, or vice-versa. Such a power would threaten the UK's 'social union' according to the Commission.

This is one instance of a general theme in the report, the delicate balancing act between deeper and more accountable devolution, on the one hand, and the continued maintenance of the union on the other.

Dìomhair *

This has been a packed month of intrigue and shifting sands in UK constitutional politics, starting with news that polls show support for Independence stiffening not collapsing in recession - and culminating in this weeks (conspicuously under-reported) visit of the First Minister to the USA , and today’s strange conversion of all political parties around ‘Devolution Max’ or is it ‘Independence Lite’?

The much traduced Calman Commission has been faced with the
conundrum of being meaningless or being a thorn in the side of Brown’s
attempt to rule Britannia.

Just as the ‘downturn’ – the euphemism we are all still coyly
clinging to - has revealed the relations between us and the banks, the
‘regulators’ (sic) and the State, the ongoing constitutional
disassemblage is revealing the relationship between Labour, the media
and the British Establishment.

Today as Radio 4
reported the meeting between Gordon Brown and the leaders of the
devolved nations, here’s how David Thompson reported the scenario:
“All sides taking part in today’s meeting say it won’t be about banging
tables or banging heads together. But while there may be a desire to
reach consensus, significant divisions do exist. Gordon Brown wants the
UK Govt to make efficiency savings worth £5 billion pounds. The SNP
Govt says that would mean £500 million in Scotlands budget and would be
economic madness. The other devolved administrations are also opposed.
The Scottish Govt is also talking about greater - and ultimately - full
control of Scotland’s finances, a demand rejected by Gordon Brown.
Todays meeting in Downing Street will test whether Welsh, Scottish and
Northern Irish leaders can put party politics to one side and work with
the British Govt to protect the UK as a whole from the global economic
crisis.”

You’ll note that in BBC Editorial analysis the leaders of Wales,
Northern Ireland and Scotland don’t represent the democratically
elected will of their nations but narrow party politics. Britain is the
one and only common arena, and to think otherwise is regressive
parochialism.

It’s worth transcribing in full because it exposes an extraordinary
level of anglocentricity in our notionally ‘national’ media (paid for
by us all). The view given by the Today programme is of course
jaundiced in the extreme, but is also overtaken by events. How will
today’s emerging consenus between all parties in Holyrood square with
this mornings report? As the Scotsmans Political Editor Hamish McDonell
wrote: “Radical changes to the Scottish Parliament – including
the addition of sweeping new financial powers – appeared inevitable
last night, after both Labour and the SNP announced major reviews of
their approach to the devolution settlement.”

The SNP are clearly thinking fiscal autonomy will be further
stepping stones to independence, while the Liberals and the Labour are
presumably assuring themselves it will assuage nationalist fervour.
What does Gordon Brown think, and how will this play with his ongoing
if incoherent Britishness project?

Death of the Scottish Press
The role of the media in all of this is crucial, and not just the
haplessly English Radios 1 through 6 and Televisions equivalent. This
week the Scottish Press, a bastion of Unionism, announced to anyone who
was still interested that it was folding like a discarded Sunday Post.
As Christopher Harvie wrote presciently
in the Guardian not so long ago, “High time to assist the slump in
taking a meat-cleaver to the established media and its daft cults of
celebrity…With any luck, the present downturn will last long enough to
wreck the economics of the conventional press and its ganglions.” Too
true.

Things may get worse not better, as Kevin Williamson points out at The Scottish Patient looking at the new editor of the Scotsman.

This week the Sunday Mail and Daily Record reported job cuts of 70, just after the unthinkable – the merger of the Scotsman and the Herald
was seriously suggested by a former editor of the Edinburgh paper. The
Scottish Press may be suffering the same crisis of the digital age but
it suffers too from having no owner or publisher willing to back the
independence line suported by – at last showing a growing 44% of the
nation.

The Times - to its credit – ran a story last week that exposed one
of the greatest myths of British Politics, that the Labour Party ‘gave’
Scotland devolution. This is a nonsense. The Labour Party and the
British State opposed it since the early 1970s and were forced to
concede devolution by a realist faction within the party and an
overwhelming civic society movement. The story, ‘Secret plan to deprive independent Scotland of North Sea oil fields’ written
by Magnus Linklater and George Rosie exposes documents detailing secret
government plans in the 1970s to prevent Scotland laying claim to North
Sea oil.

The lengths to which the British State and the Labour Government
were to go to prevent the will of the Scottish people being expressed
makes extraordinary reading, for anyone not familiar with this history.
One Treasury official even proposed that a local campaign for
independence in Orkney and Shetland should be encouraged so that
Scotland would be denied access to more than half the North Sea oil.

In a neat contemporary twist, among those advising Labour ministers
was Sir David Walker, who is investigating the banking crisis for the
present Government. As assistant secretary at the Treasury, he wrote in
May 1975 that “progress toward devolution should be delayed for as long
as possible”.

The Times story about the UK Governments plot to derail the SNP’s
“It’s Scotland’s Oil” campaign during the 1970s - actually appeared
first on BBC Alba. ‘Dìomhair’ (Secret), produced by independent TV
production company, Caledonia TV, was written by George Rosie. Dìomhair
revealed how, for more than half a century, successive Conservative and
Labour Governments set aside their antipathy to share a common agenda:
stopping the march to independence.

As one nationalist commentator wrote: “If you missed it first time
around, you can see it again on BBC Alba, (if you can receive it) on
March 6th at 9PM. What chance Newsnight Scotland doing their own
special investigation, like the one they did recently about the rise of
Anti Englishness? Don’t hold your breath.” The point he is making is
that BBC Alba, Scotland’s Gaelic channel, isn’t available on Freeview,
unlike such cultural necessities as Smile TV, Heat and QVC.

Plus ca change. Dirty Tricks are more subtle these days.

* Secret

Scottish budget voted down

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Breaking news from Holyrood:

The SNP's £33bn plans fell on the casting vote of the presiding officer after being tied at 64 votes to 64.

The government won the support of the Tories but the two Green MSPs withdrew their backing shortly before the vote.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said he would bring the Budget Bill back to parliament "within days".

Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted against the spending plans, saying they were inadequate to see Scotland through the economic downturn.

The Tories, who won a £60m concession for their town centre regeneration scheme initiative, backed the budget - and blamed Labour for its rejection.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald also voted against the budget.

High drama, but given the close margin the Scottish Government will surely be able to get an extra vote from somewhere in the coming days.

SNP seeks budget deal

Tom Griffin (London, OK): An interesting situation is developing in Scotland, where the SNP minority government is trying to get its budget through the Holyrood parliament. Last year's spending plans got through because of Labour abstentions, but that may be less likely this time around.

Finance Minister John Swinney has said the government would have to resign if the budget falls. That would give Labour the opportunity to put forward its own leader Iain Gray as First Minister. However, it might mean an election if he could not secure a majority. As The Scotsman notes, that prospect may hold fewer fears for Labour than it did during the SNP's honeymoon last year. 

Calman, shared social citizenship, and the defence of the union

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Over at Unlock Democracy, Deputy Director Alexandra Runswick warns the Calman Commission against considering Scottish devolution in isolation from the wider UK constitutional settlement.

Sadly the First Report suggests this may well happen. For example, it warns against greater financial autonomy on the grounds that it would lead to less ’shared social citizenship.’ That may be true in Scotland but the experience suggests that, if anything, the lack of financial autonomy is causing resentment in England and goes to the heart of Tam Dalyell’s West Lothian Question. Fundamentally, we believe this to be a false dichotomy; a fairer and more transparent financial settlement will be good for Anglo-Scottish relations on both sides of the border.

The BBC's Brian Taylor suggests that Calman's concept of 'shared social citizenship' is at the heart of an intellectual defence of the union.

Calman issues first report on future of devolution

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Calman Commission on the future of  Scottish devolution has today published its first report. It's very much a provisional exercise, but it provides some important indications of the Commission's thinking.

The maintenance of the union was always going to be a key principle for the Commission, which is backed by the three main unionist parties in Scotland and boycotted by the SNP.  However, even within the unionist spectrum, it has become increasingly clear that Calman is headed for a much more cautious set of proposals than the fiscal autonomy advocated by the Lib Dem Steel Commission

Today's report states:

our consideration of finance follows from our discussion of the nature of the Union. As well as being an economic Union, the UK has a shared social citizenship. Greater tax devolution would be associated with less shared social citizenship, while high dependence on grant funding implies some common expectations about the need for welfare services like health and education. We have not reached a view on the appropriate point in what is a spectrum of possibilities, but we do recognise that this must reflect the expectations of the Scottish population. In the next phase of our work, with further help from the Independent Expert Group, we will identify the possible combinations of the funding mechanisms and their implications for the nature of the Union.

Competing narratives over Scottish tax report

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Calman Commission on Scottish devolution today received a report on the future of taxation and public spending from its economic advisors. 

The report's contents have been heavily spun over the past couple of days. Several members of the expert group told Scotland on Sunday that it would favour greater powers for Holyrood.

Calman gets the Whitehall view

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Calman Commission, which is taking evidence on the case for more powers for the Scottish Parliament, has today published a submission from the British Government. As Gareth Young notes, it is thin stuff for the most part, largely consisting of a rehearsal of the status quo and the case for maintaining it by each Whitehall department. The Treasury, for example, notes how "Scotland benefits from the Government’s successful macroeconomic policies set out in successive Budgets," although whether it was wise to mention the Government's two fiscal rules must be debateable at this stage.

Fear and Loathing in Glenrothes

Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia): What's a more motivating force, fear or hope? Across the pond Obama has inspired a generation, re-inspired another and put 9 million people on the electoral register. Here a halving of the Labour Partys majority has been represented as a historic victory. Here it was politics as usual, and bitter negative politics at that. Labour have successfuly played on peoples fears of economic collapse. But can Britain be held together by fear? Where is a credible positive agenda emerging from London? It's not going to be the Olympics or the sight of a UK football team emerging at Hampden comprising 11 Englishmen.

There is no doubt that Labour ran a very successful campaign, but that's not why they won. The SNP ran a great campaign but chose a candidate that made them the incumbent (Peter Grant is the Head of the SNP Council), but that's not why they lost.

There are three reasons why Labour won.

Labour holds Glenrothes

Tom Griffin (London, OK): A remarkable upset means the Brown bounce continues:

Labour, which had a majority of 10,664 in 2005, held the seat with 19,946 votes, while the SNP came second with 13,209. The Tories came third.

Voter turnout at the by-election was 52.37%, compared to 56.1% in the 2005 General Election.

 

Murphy under pressure over HBOS leak

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The ongoing saga over the fate of HBOS continues to highlight the new faultlines in Scottish politics. The recently appointed Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy is facing criticism after leaking details of talks with Jim Spowart about an alternative to the Downing Street-backed Lloyds-TSB takeover.

The Sunday Herald reports:

Alex Neil, the SNP MSP who has been campaigning for HBOS jobs to be saved, accused Murphy of trying to spike the second bid.

He said: "This is a resigning matter. Jim Murphy has shown that he can't really be trusted to keep confidential matters to himself. This is market-sensitive information. This is really underhand and mischievous behaviour to try and spike any chance of another bid."

David Mundell, the shadow Scottish secretary, said: "If there is any suggestion that any politician has got embroiled or broken any confidences then that is a very serious situation and must be investigated."

Tavish Scott, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "This is really dirty tricks to save Labour's neck. This is purely because Gordon Brown cannot be seen to change his mind after waving the Lloyds TSB and HBOS deal to go through."

SNP bids for a majority on local income tax

 Tom Griffin (London, OK):The Scottish Government's plans to replace council tax moved centre-stage in the Glenrothes by-election yesterday. On a visit to the Fife constituency, Chancellor Alistair Darling condemned the SNP's local income tax proposal as a "ridiculous idea."

In the past few days, SNP Ministers have announced significant changes to the policy, with councils being given the power to set their own income tax rate of up to 3p in the pound. This could prove crucial in winning the support of the Liberal Democrats, who have long called for a local income tax that is truly local. Without Liberal Democrat support, the SNP minority government stands little chance of getting its proposals through the Scottish Parliament.

The revamped proposals seem to have got a fair wind from Lib Dem blogger Stephen Glenn. If his colleagues at Holyrood feel similarly, council tax could yet be on the way out north of the border.

Cameron's unionist problem

Tom Griffin (London, OK):Most commentators may see it as a straight fight between Labour and the SNP, but that didn't stop David Cameron making his presence felt in the Glenrothes by-election yesterday: 

"I think it is better for all of us to be in the United Kingdom. However, we won't solve it by frightening the Scots that they cannot make it on their own. I do not believe that. It won't win the argument. One of the first things I will do as Prime Minister is arrange to meet with the First Minister, whoever that may be, and work to further the benefits of the Union for people in Scotland."

Cameron has shown in recent months that he is determined that the Tories should be more than an English party. One aspect of this strategy has been to offset weakness in Scotland through a new relationship with the Ulster Unionists. There are signs that plan may be unravelling.

Glenrothes no longer a banker for SNP

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Could victory in the Glenrothes by-election set the seal on Gordon Brown's political comeback? Labour pollsters have told the Prime Minister that they will win on the back of his handling of the banking crisis, according to the BBC.

As the Sunday Times noted at the weekend, the credit crunch has prompted a reassessment of the viability of Scottish independence. Brown himself has not been afraid to make the argument, citing the UK bailout of HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland:

"We were able to act decisively with £37bn. That would not have been possible for a Scottish administration.

"We've seen the problems in Iceland, we've seen the problems in Ireland, we were able to put the whole strength of the United Kingdom's resources behind these two banks and I think it's important because I value the Scottish banking tradition, I think that everybody does." 

Whether it is Brown's interests to preserve the Scottish banking tradition is open to question. Many now believe that the Downing Street-arranged merger of HBOS with Lloyds-TSB is unnecessary. The deal will inevitably weaken Edinburgh's status as a financial centre, and thereby, incidentally, the case for Scottish independence. One cannot help but wonder whether this was a factor in Brown's pursuit of this option.

HBOS merger questioned

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Today's Scotsman reports on the dramatic impact which the credit crunch is having in Edinburgh:

Morale is said to have fallen to an "all-time low" among the city's 31,000 finance workers as they wait to find out whether their jobs will survive the upheaval.

And as house prices fall, and the dole queue lengthens, there were fresh warnings today that the city council will have to deal with a rise in homelessness in the near future.
One reason for the gloomy outlook is the expected merger of HBOS with London-based Lloyds.That move is now being questioned by the Liberal Democrats in the light of today's huge bailout of the entire banking sector.

Commenting on the rescue package, Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott urged the government to help keep HBOS as an independent bank.

He added: "This is a massive package of money for banks. Market and banking circumstances have changed enormously since the proposed Lloyds/HBOS merger was announced.

"The government are now in direct negotiations with banks so they could make this happen.

"Keeping HBOS as an independent bank while strengthening RBS through this package would be positive economic news for Scotland. I urge the government to make this happen."

Remember Remember the 6th of November

Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia): Yesterday the date for the Glenrothes by-election was (finally) announced.As last week there was near unanimous approval amongst the commentariat that Brown was doomed, now, after a wee snog on stage he's (apparently) safe as houses.

Commentators huddle together in packs, and the swing is not contained to Westminster groupies.

BBC Scotland's own Brian Taylor writes: 'The prospect that defeat in Glenrothes might finish off the PM seems to have receded. Not because anything has changed in Glenrothes but because things have changed inside Labour. Few expect a challenge to Mr Brown, given the economic climate, whatever political triggers are made available by the electorate."

Starting gun fired in Glenrothes

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Glenrothes by-election is set to go ahead on Thursday, 6th November. The timing is not a surprise, as with a US presidential election on the Tuesday, the outcome won't be the big story of the week.

In any case,with the immediate threat to Gordon Brown's premiership receding, the poll may not be the date with destiny that many had expected.

Scotland's battle of the banks

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The credit crunch has shaken the political kaleidoscope at Holyrood as well as at Westminster. In both cases, somewhat counter-intuitively perhaps, Labour has been the initial beneficiary.

The shotgun merger between HBOS and Lloyds may have seemed like an open goal for Alex Salmond, but many feel he overplayed his hand, not least with his suggestion that an independent Scotland could have bailed out HBOS.

Former Scottish Lib Dem leader Jim Wallace argues that the episode has highlighted unanswered questions about monetary policy and financial regulation in an independent Scotland.

Another Calman meeting cancelled

Tom Griffin (London, OK): It looks like the Calman Commission may not be coming to England any time soon.  According to an email from the Commission's Secretariat, a planned meeting in Berwick-upon-Tweed has been postponed.

it's not a first time that the body, established by a Labour/Liberal Democrat/Conservative alliance in the Scottish Parliament to consider the case for further devolution, has had this problem. Its first event in Scotland, an invitation-only public meeting planned for Stirling last month, was cancelled due to lack of interest.

A certain amount of anecdotal evidence has emerged in recent weeks to support initial fears that the Commission would be 'neither open not inclusive'.

At this rate, Calman will struggle to provide a credible alternative to the SNP's National Conversation. And yet the fact remains it is only the parties represented on the Commission who have the votes at Westminster to deliver further devolution.

Gray to lead Scottish Labour

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Iain Gray has just been announced as the new leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, the BBC reports. Meanwhile the Greens are set to become the latest Scottish Party to change their leader, with the news that Robin Harper is to step down.

Scottish Labour may back strikers

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Scottish Labour Party will have a new leader by this weekend. The Scotsman suggests that Wendy Alexander's successor could quickly find themselves at odds with Westminster:

In London, the government is trying to keep down wage inflation and will not provide any more money for public-sector wages.

In Scotland, the party is going through a leadership campaign where two of the candidates have been backed by unions involved in the strike action.

What this means is that, when Labour in Scotland does get its new leader this weekend, the party here will almost certainly be in favour of strike action while the party in England is not.

A Scottish Broadcasting Corporation?

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Only days after the Scottish Government announced its plans for a local income tax, it seems another confontation with Westminster is looming. The Sunday Herald brings us news that the report of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, due to be released on Monday, will call for a new terrestrial TV service:

The stand-alone Scottish digital television channel envisaged by the commission would be based in Scotland and could resemble the new publicly funded Gaelic broadcasting channel.

The commission's near year-long inquiry also involved bosses from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 explaining how they could better cater for Scottish needs. The switchover to digital television is expected to be completed by 2012, so the new channel could be implemented within four years.

Brown backs fiscal powers for Scotland

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Gordon Brown has been coming around to the case for giving more tax powers to the Scottish Parliament for some time, as Brian Taylor notes, but last night's speech to the Scottish CBI puts fiscal devolution more firmly on the agenda.

"First of all," he told Scottish business leaders, "devolution has worked but I do see one problem. While there have been good reasons why this is so, the Scottish Parliament is wholly unaccountable for the budget it spends but not for the size of its budget. And that budget is not linked to the success of the Scottish economy. That is why we asked the commission to look carefully at the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and this is a critical part of Calman's remit."

Salmond announces Council Tax Abolition Bill

Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Scottish Government revealed its legislative programme for the next year today. The centre-piece was Alex Salmond's announcement of "abolition of the oppressive council tax in favour of a fair local income tax, bringing much needed relief to household budgets."

Over at Conservativehome, Tory MSP Derek Brownlee raises a number of searching about the assumptions behind the SNP plan for a local income tax rate of 3p in the pound.

Brown must recognise England's claim of right

Gareth Young (Lewes, CEP): The Scottish Claim of Right of 1988 was signed by all the Scottish Labour MPs, with the exception of Tam Dalyell.  In 1997, with the advent of the Labour Government of the UK, one third of that initial cabinet (8 out of 24) had signed that claim and were thus pivotal in influencing the Labour UK Government, which issued the white paper, the Scotland Devolution Bill 1998.

The Scottish Claim of Right acknowledged that the Scottish people have the sovereign right to decide the form of government best suited to their needs.  That 'form of government' must include independence as well as devolution, yet those cabinet members do not seem in any great hurry to hold a referendum on independence. When they signed the Claim quite possibly it never occurred to them that the Scottish people might decide to get rid of them altogether. They should be reminded of it at every opportunity.  Rather than display a willingness to hold a referendum on independence, apart from Wendy Alexander's short-lived "Bring it on!", the Unionists claim instead that because there is a Unionist majority in the Scottish Parliament, the people of Scotland have "voted for the Union". It is just possible that the SNP may gain a majority of the Scottish Westminister seats at the next General Election, and if so that will mean, according to Unionist logic, that the people of Scotland have voted for independence. I'm sure they will try wriggle out of that.

The Scottish Claim of Right was a principled recognition of the sovereign right of the people.  It is hypocritical of Gordon Brown, and others who signed that Claim of Right, to now deny that same sovereign right to the people of England, especially as recognition of the Scottish sovereign right has moved power away from Westminster in a way that has damaged English voters.

Scottish Lib Dems go for the continuity candidate

Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Tom Griffin spent a long time finding Stephen Glenn to write a post about the Lib Dem leadership contest. I'm afraid Tom didn't get as much warm support from me in his search as he should have. Eventually, he found Stephen and we ran this story by him on the battle to lead Lib Dem Scotland. It seemed to me that Tavish Scott was the least interesting of the three candidates, if he is indeed standing for continuity of a forlorn strategy. Today they have announced the outcome of the ballot: it seems that Scottish Lib Dems have voted for the hole into which they are digging. Could this be true?

Team UK: A Political Football

Tom Griffin (London, OK): It seems the Westminster/Holyrood faultine inside the Scottish Labour Party extends to the question of whether there should be a UK football team at the 2012 Olympics.

Gordon Brown held out that prospect during his visit to Beijing at the weekend:

'I think when people are looking at the Olympics in 2012 - Britain, home of football, where football was invented, which we gave to the world - I think people would be very surprised if there is an Olympic tournament in football and we are not part of it.'

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Cathy Jamieson has proposed an alternative plan:

"One option could be a home nations football tournament with the winners representing the UK at the Olympics."

Jamieson added: "Team GB should include a football team but not at the expense of Scotland's football team. It would be wrong to gamble with the identity of Scotland's team."

A new leader for the Scottish Lib Dems

Stephen Glenn (Linlithgow, Lib Dems): What next for the Liberal Democrats in Scotland? They're no longer in a coalition administration but just part of the opposition to an SNP minority government. It's a dangerous position with the Tories strengthening and Labour weakening.

Three candidates have stepped forward to fill the void left by Nicol Stephen's resignation as leader, by the end of next week one of them will be leader. Tavish Scott, a close ally of Stephen, is seen by many as the continuity candidate. Ross Finnie, served eight years in the cabinet when the party was in coalition with Labour after the Scottish Parliament was created. He says the party needs to find its 'narrative' again. Mike Rumbles, who chaired the Holyrood's Standard's Committee for four years, sees a radical path ahead.

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