Opposition parties join forces over Calman

18 Jun 09
Labour and the other pro-Union parties in Scotland have joined up to push for far-reaching changes in the powers of the Scottish Parliament, including unprecedented control over taxation.
By David Scott in Edinburgh

Labour and the other pro-Union parties in Scotland have joined up to push for far-reaching changes in the powers of the Scottish Parliament, including unprecedented control over taxation.

Along with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, Labour will participate in a steering group that will meet within weeks to take forward the work of the Calman Commission, chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman.

The move follows the commission’s recommendation, in a report published on June 15, that the Holyrood Parliament be given substantially increased powers over income tax. Such a move would change the current UK tax system and raise the possibility of Scotland setting a different tax rate to England.

But First Minister Alex Salmond – whose Scottish National Party declined to participate in the Calman inquiry – described the proposals as being ‘fundamentally weak and flawed’.
Salmond attempted to yoke Calman to his independence referendum plans, for which he needs support in the Scottish Parliament, by offering to include a question on the proposals. A white paper on the referendum is due on November 30 – St Andrew’s Day.

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie accused Salmond of ‘cynical opportunism’. She said: ‘It is an attempt to play politics with the serious recommendations of the Calman Commission.’

Under the Calman plans, the basic and higher rates of income tax levied by the UK government in Scotland would be cut by 10p in the pound. MSPs would be given the power to set their own ‘Scottish rate’. The proceeds would be kept in Scotland.

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