Sorry, folks, but it looks like we’re going to have to do this all over again. In the light of last night’s bizarre revelations about Scottish Labour’s shambolic “Devo Nano” proposals, even the barest semblance of coherence in the party’s plans has disintegrated, with Coatbridge MP Tom Clarke flatly contradicting the form letters sent out by numerous other MPs and MSPs over the last few days.
So once more we may have to ask you to drop your elected member another wee line and see if we can’t get this properly cleared up once and for all.
There seems to be considerable confusion still surrounding the recommendations of Scottish Labour’s Devolution Commission.
Various representatives of the party, including the leader Ms Lamont, former finance spokesman Richard Baker MSP and former government minister Tom Clarke MP, have made what appear to be flatly contradictory statements regarding the plans.
In the light of this uncertainty, I wonder if you could be so kind as to definitively give me the party’s official position on the following matters:
1. Ms Lamont stated on “Newsnight Scotland” on the 18th of March, with regard to the top rate of tax:
“The power we’ve got is not to cut below what the UK rate is, so the UK rate is set and then we can’t cut below that.”
However, Mr Baker and many other MPs and MSPs subsequently sent constituents a letter unequivocally stating that:
“The Scottish Parliament could, using the powers of the Scotland Act 2012, and our extension to their scope, choose to lower income tax, below the UK level, across all income tax bands.”
That states unambiguously that the top rate, and other rates, COULD be cut below the UK level, contrary to Ms Lamont’s assertion. However, he was then contradicted by Tom Clarke MP, who in another letter to a constituent wrote:
“Given these plans outline the Labour Party’s thinking on this issue and our commitment to a stronger Scottish Parliament the actual implementation planning would be conducted in more detail at a later date. A likely solution will be that the income tax bands will be individually variable by 15 pence above the UK base rates but not below them.”
Can you please clarify for me whether:
(a) the Devolution Commission recommended that Scotland SHOULD be able to vary Scottish income tax rates below the UK levels;
(b) the Devolution Commission recommended that Scotland SHOULD NOT be able to vary Scottish income tax rates below UK levels;
(c) the Devolution Commission made no recommendation with regard to the issue?
If the answer is (c), can you tell me when – even approximately – Labour intends to arrive at such a decision and communicate its position to the Scottish public? Specifically, is this likely to be before or after the independence referendum on the 18th of September?
2. Mr Clarke’s letter also made reference to a limit of 15p on the amount to which Scottish tax rates could be set higher than UK rates. This limit is not mentioned in the Devolution Commission’s report.
So far as I am able to ascertain, the Scotland Act 2012 – which is currently due to come into effect in 2015/16 with regard to taxation – places no such upper limit on the rates which may be set by the Scottish Parliament.
That being the case, can you confirm that:
(a) It is indeed your plan to impose such a limit;
(b) That this would represent a substantial decrease in the theoretical possible range of taxation rates available to the Scottish Parliament compared to the powers due to be delivered by the Scotland Act 2012?
If I’m mistaken in my understanding of the Scotland Act 2012, could you direct me to the relevant passage/clause in said document where the limit is specified? Or has Mr Clarke misinterpreted Labour’s policy?
3. Finally, can you tell me whether it is the position of Scottish Labour that, in the specific situation that it were it to be elected as the Scottish Government in 2016 and a Labour government had also been elected to the UK Parliament in Westminster in 2015, it would be the party’s intention to maintain parity between Scotland and the UK with regard to all tax rates?
Thank you for your attention.
We’ll get to the bottom of this yet, readers.