Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Calman welcome but still a lot of work to do to improve devolution!

The Calman Commission report makes many recommendations that will ensure devolution works better for the people of Scotland.

For example, it was terrific to see the Commission take forward David Cameron's suggestion that Ministers from Westminster should appear before the Scottish Parliament and, in particular, that the Scottish Secretary should appear before a Scottish Parliament committee immediately after the Queen's Speech in order to explain the impact Westminster's legislative programme will have on Scotland.

It is also good to see the Conservative Party committing itself to taking a long hard look at implementation of the Calman Commission's recommendations, including those relating to tax raising powers, through involvement on a cross party steering group.

Moves to make the Scottish Parliament accountable for the money it spends, by making it responsible for taxes that directly contribute to at least a proportion of its budget, will go some way to addressing allegations of subsidy from England and will ensure MSPs are held to account for their decisions at the ballot box. Implementation of devolution of tax raising powers must, however, mean the Scottish Parliament is forced to take the element of fiscal responsibility devolved to it by compelling it to use such powers. After all it has had powers over taxation for the past 10 years and has failed to use its ability to vary income tax up or down 3%.

A large number of questions about how devolved tax powers can be implemented remain to be addressed and that is why it is right for the Conservative Party to be involved in a cross party steering group to see which of the Calman Commission's proposals can practically be adopted.

The Calman Commission has been a very worthwhile review of devolution after 10 years. I believe we should make devolution work for the people of Scotland in the way they clearly believed it would when they voted for it back in 1998.

If devolution is not to prove to have been a series of stepping stones on the way to an Independent Scotland the application of recommendations put forward by this Commission must be carefully thought through and some may have to be discounted to protect and maintain the United Kingdom as a social and economic union through which we benefit no matter where we live. I am proud to be British and want to see devolution work properly for future generations.

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