It’s come to our attention that despite all of our hard work transcribing interviews with Unionist politicians, some of our stupider readers still – incredibly – aren’t 100% clear on certain aspects of the policy alternatives the UK parties will be offering the Scottish electorate in hope of persuading them to vote No in 2014.
One such issue is Labour’s preliminary proposal to devolve income tax entirely to the Scottish Parliament, which is backed by Johann Lamont but strongly opposed by many of the party’s Westminster MPs.
Fortunately, an interview on last night’s Scotland Tonight with former Labour leader Gordon Brown eliminated any possible remaining doubts, with the sort of direct, straight-speaking approach for which the ex-Prime Minister was justly renowned.
The show’s interviewer Bernard Ponsonby had just asked whether Scots would be absolutely clear, before the referendum, on what extra devolution powers Labour would be offering in the event of a No vote, particularly in respect of the income-tax policy.
After a bit of introductory waffle, just after the four-minute mark Brown got right to the meat of the matter.
GORDON BROWN: The consistency of our position is this – that we believe in the maximum devolution possible while pooling and sharing resources across the United Kingdom.
We’re not going to go for Tory policies or SNP policies of fiscal autonomy. What we’re going to go for is how we can pool and share resources across the United Kingdom in a way that at the same time allows us to have the maximum devolution, so that Scottish parliamentarians can make decisions about Scottish social policy and Scottish economic policy as well.
BERNARD PONSONBY: Is [Johann Lamont’s plan to devolve income tax completely] something, as it’s crystallised, in its draft form, something that you would back?
BROWN: Well, it makes a distinction between fiscal autonomy and fiscal equalisation. I mean, if it were to lead to Scotland having to raise all its revenues without any equalisation of resources across the United Kingdom, then I for one would not like that.
But if it means that we are equalising at a fiscal level across the United Kingdom, while giving freedom to set income tax rates at a greater level in Scotland, then I have no problems with it. It depends –
PONSONBY: Do you support the proposal as it’s currently drafted?
BROWN: Well, the proposal is for debate, and I’m happy with the proposal, but I think the proposal is going to go out for consultation, and it’s going to be understood in the context of whether you support fiscal autonomy, which I oppose, and which would lead us effectively to breaking up the Union, or whether you support fiscal equalisation, which is that we pool and share our resources – all our resources, across the United Kingdom – for the benefit of everyone, and in particular for the benefit of the poorer regions and nations of the United Kingdom, who should get more help from right across the United Kingdom.
Now for Heaven’s sake, readers – how much clearer do you want it than that?
(If in fact you gave up weeping halfway through the awful, robotic, randomly-generated buzzword mashup, we think that the Rt. Hon. Member for Kirkcaldy’s view is that he’s in favour of devolving income tax, but ONLY if it’s done in order to increase taxes in Scotland and divert the money to poorer regions* in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, thereby bringing about “fiscal equalisation”. Sounds like a vote-winner to us.)
*As Scotland is the wealthiest region in the UK except for South-East England, any “equalisation” would see money flow out of it and into the other three nations.