10 Sep 2014

#Indyref: five questions for Cameron, Miliband and Clegg

I don’t know whether I will bump in to the Westminster party leaders in Scotland today — but this is what I would ask if I did. And when I say ask, there are many deep and detailed subsidiary questions that would arise from the answers.

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But I think it we have to be clear that unless there is a list of bullet points to answer question number one, the Scottish people are being asked to vote ‘No’ on a promise that is unclear. So…

1. What is the detailed offer on fiscal devolution for Scotland?

2. What will happen to the block grant to Scotland if it raises its own taxes

3. What is your proposal on Scottish MPs voting in Westminster over devolved issues?

4. Can you get your backbench MPs to enact this offer, unamended, by April 2015?

5. What is your plan to stem market turbulence in the wake of a Yes vote, or indeed a vote so close that there is continued uncertainty?

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7 reader comments

  1. Kate Axford says:

    Great questions but maybe Salmond could be asked the first one as well. Like most people down here(and I suspect in Scotland ) I have no idea what his fiscal policy is. I know he has promised to spend a lot but he hasn,t talked much about levels of taxation or long term borrowing strategies. You said on the News last night, it,s time both sides ditched the rhetoric and used their heads. Totally agree.

  2. Harry Blackbarry says:

    Within the fiscal arrangements the most important question for me concerns pensions. At the first Darling/Salmond debate, it was clear that Alex Salmond didn’t understand the funding arrangements for the UK’s state pension – it is a pay as you go scheme with the current NI contributions paying for current pensions. Some people seem to think that their NI contributions are somehow saved and used for their pensions when they retire.

    In Scotland there is an imbalance between workers paying NI and contributors and I’ve seen figures suggesting that an extra one million workers paying NI will be required for Scotland to fund its own pensions. Is this yet another use for the oil money or will what’s left of the UK be expected to pay?

  3. Neil says:

    Absolutely right Paul, this is a weak attempt at a bribe and they’re ignoring simple questions like the 5 you’ve identified. Shame you’re one of the few journalists with the intelligence to actually ask these things, I hope you get a chance!

  4. JayPee says:

    My guesses at their answers:

    1. There isn’t one.

    2. This is Westminster’s Trojan Horse, aimed at abolishing the Barnett Formula without actually doing so. As oil tax revenues decline, so the justification for a favourable fiscal transfer via Barnett disappears. The offer of additional tax raising powers to Scotland is simply a way of getting, basically, the SNP to slit its own throat over time. Now independence maybe does the same thing, but at least independence leaves all tough decisions on tax/spending etc to be decided in Scotland. Your Qu 2 is THE key one in my view. It impacts on the responses to others, in particular Qu 5. An answer to 2 that is attractive in Scotland will be deeply unattractive everywhere else.

    3. I’d ask this in a slightly different way, namely what happens to Scottish MPs now? If there is a Yes vote, how can any Scottish MP continue to sit in HoC? Ultimately they are conflicted on all matters post-19 September. Even if a compromise allows them to sit until May 2015, there is clearly a case for not electing any at next year’s Westminster GE. That is certainly preferable to delaying that election until 2016. The other alternative is to repeal the Fixed Term Election Act, and have a GE now, again without any Scottish representation. Some body needs to ratify any separation agreement on behalf of rUK. That body cannot included Scottish representatives.

    4. No chance. Per 2 above, why would any MP ex-Scotland vote for a solution that enshrines a favourable fiscal settlement in perpetuity on Scotland? I think a key supplementary question to ask here as well is whether the party leaders intend to put any proposed settlement with Scotland to a referendum of voters in rUK for approval. That applies both to the pitch they are making today, ie to maintain the UK, or for any settlement agreement post a Yes vote. Either way, they are both momentous constitutional changes bigger, I would suggest, than leaving the EU for which a referendum promise has already been made.

    5. I’ve already got a few bets on with people about this! I reckon we would see Mark Carney on TV round about 7am reaffirming BoE’s commitment to monetary stability across the whole UK until the date of independence blah blah blah, and stating that BoE will make available unlimited levels of liquidity to UK banks. Then Osbourne will appear to state unequivocally that there will be no currency union with iScotland. He will be closely followed by Balls, both before 7.30am. Alexander won’t appear for LibDems, as he’ll be too busy writing his resignation letter, given he represents a Scottish constituency. Finally, my outside bet for Friday’s breakfast news: RBS will announce they are redomiciling to England.

    For the record, I do live in Scotland and will be voting No, but only because Salmond’s vision is delusional. This referendum is about who should be responsible for taking some tough decisions here. If Salmond is genuine in his intention to “sterlingise”, then I fear a deep and prolonged recession. I genuinely cannot understand why he is now promoting the only currency option that his own fiscal commission rejected as being clearly not in iScotland’s best interests. That’s one for you to ask him if you see him.

  5. david horsham says:

    Good questions. I would also like to see someone ask some English MPs, especially in the South East if they will confirm they will support the proposals when they are put to the House of Commons. I am doubtful they will and I don’t think they would want to go on record saying they would even before the referendum as it would be unpopular with their constituents.

  6. Anti matter David Cameron says:

    1)No details, we are trying to get back control of the narrative, we don’t have any plans, we get back control of the narrative first then we work out policy.. dur.

    2)We will probably say something vague which suggests we will guarantee a top up so the quantum of available spend will not decrease but without any details

    3)We will suggest a gentleman’s agreement that they abstain when appropriate as their discretion and personal integrity dictates…….

    4) yes

    5) We love market uncertainty drivers in our control, gives us another chance to tip off our mates at FOREX before we make an announcement.

  7. anon says:

    the key is asking the right question, (if) they have asked these questions then presumably they would have the answers already, so might your follow up question be will you tell us now or later? that is if the questions have been considered?

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