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Showing posts with label Michael Forsyth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Forsyth. Show all posts

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Full fiscal Autonomy - and all that stuff ...

Full fiscal autonomy (FFA) – or as SNP would now have it, full fiscal responsibility (FFR) is now the Westminster unionist politician’s favourite topic with which to bait SNP MPs. In this, they are ably assisted by the media, with The Daily Politics’ Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn acting as straight man/woman to the likes of a sneering, sniggering Michael Forsyth, as in this clip.

It never seems to have entered their heads to have a look at what it means, or more specifically, what it meant in the context of the independence referendum and what it means now in the context of a NO win on  September 18th 2014, the Smith Commission proposals and the SNP’s astonishing electoral triumph in the general election on May 7th 2015.

But why do the hard thinking and the hard work when it’s more fun to assist Westminster unionists - especially failed Scottish politicians who are now unelected Lords - to giggle and gurn, shouting “Cowardy custard! You wanted it in 2011 through to 2014 – you wanted it after The Vow. Had you won the Referendum, you claimed you would have been fully independent on March 24th 2016. Why don’t you want it now, immediately! When do you want it? Tell us, tell us …”

Let me do the work for them – unpaid and unsung as always – offering a service to democracy and to rich media pundits, sundry Lords and politicians, a gift from a simple old Scottish voter, a humble Glesca slum boy – pause to brush away a sentimental tear … (VOICE OFF: “Oh, **** off, Peter!”)

FULL FISCAL AUTONOMY

Independence confers full fiscal autonomy automatically – well, it would, wouldn’t it? But what is it?

Had we (the YES component of Scotland’s electorate) won the referendum, it would have come with everything else that full independence brings – full autonomy on every aspect of the governance of Scotland, with all the benefits and risks that independence brings.

The nub of the present argument and the childish Bullingdon Boys farce being enacted in a forum near you hinges on a key question – asked superficially but without any wish to receive a detailed answer. The question is -

What is the difference between full fiscal autonomy as it would have resulted from a YES vote in September 2014 and full fiscal autonomy in the June 2015 context of a historical NO vote and and SNP landslide on May 7th 2015?

What is it? It’s setting and raising our own taxes – all of them – and spending the money thus raised as we see fit.

In the context of the independence referendum - and the context of the Scottish, UK, European and global economy circa Sept 2014 - had we won a YES vote, negotiations – wide-ranging, complex negotiations on every aspect of Scotland independence, including fiscal autonomy would have commenced, with both rUk and Scottish negotiating teams, backed by experts and advisors from the civil service and academia, bargaining on a huge range on inter-locking and inter-dependent issues, defining the nature of the post-independence relationship between Scotland and rUK and, after a heads of agreement was reached in April/May 2016, then devising complex plans to implement that negotiated agreement.

By definition, those plans and their implementation processes (although realistically the Treasury and the Civil Service would have to some degree prepared the ground in parallel with the negotiations) could not have properly started until final agreement was reached in the spring of 2016. The full implementation of the plans would continue for possibly years after Independence Day 24th March 2016.

Of course, bang in the middle of those negotiations, we would have had the general election campaign of April/May 2015, with Parliament prorogued, no government, and major, unpredictable – and a badly predicted(!) outcome.

But we would have dealt with it. After all, countries declare UDI, gain independence by bloody or velvet  revolutions or other means,  still manage to survive - so we’d have been OK, even with the oil price collapse. We’d have had a currency union or we wouldn’t, and then have had our own currency under one of  the Fiscal Commission viable alternative options – plans B,C,D and E of blessed memory – which may well still be relevant after 2016!

What’s different now, in June 2015? Well, even to a boneheaded or disingenuous unionist anxious to make a superficial point, there are three key differences -

1. We lost the Referendum, and FFA would not be implemented in the context of Scotland being an independent nation.

2. It’s not 2011 or even 2014 – the economic situation and the global economy has changed – crude oil price have nosedived, a EU Referendum looms, with Brexit as possibility.

3. The general election result was predicted by no one, and Scotland is a dramatically different place politically than in September 2014.

In other words, Scotland, the UK, Europe and the world have changed, and only fools hang on to plans that events have made out-dated. So what does FFA mean in the June 2015 context?

FFA post-June 2015 – implementation and timeframe

Instead of getting the  block grant (the proportion of our taxes UK deigns to return to us) from the UK Exchequer as at present, the Scottish Parliament would receive all taxation levied in Scotland and be responsible for most of its spending in accordance with its own priorities.

Scotland would pay  to the UK government Scotland's share of the cost of providing defined UK-wide services, including defence spending and conduct of foreign affairs. In other words, it would be Scottish fiscal autonomy, but not full political independence. It would still be controlled by rUK in significant areas.

That would involve a negotiating agenda with significantly different priorities from the same negotiations as part of an independence mandate, as would have been the case in a different outcome to September 18th 2014 – and those negotiations would have had radically different dynamics even if the economic situation, the global economy and the price of crude oil had remained the same or risen.

So even if the new Tory government, with their shaky majority and divided party and confusion over Brexit, human rights and immigration policy, were to offer full fiscal autonomy tomorrow, there would have to be a lengthy period of negotiation about the exact nature of its terms and  implementation.

Of course they have no intention of doing any such thing, and while it’s tempting to call their bluff and say “We’ll have it, right now, thank you ..”, that would be a nonsensical response, and just about as infantile as the wee Laird o’ Drumlean’s schoolboy posturing on Daily Politics today.

So away and birl in yer kilt, Michael Forsyth, and if ye birl fast enough, yer wee heid might wind up in that portion of yer anatomy where it’s best fitted tae be,  oot o’ mischief’s way …

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Jim Sillars and Michael Forsyth grilled by young Scots – and Glenn Campbell

Neither Jim Sillars nor Michael Forsyth are representative of the core positions of YES and No.

They in fact hold certain core views in common, e.g. on Europe and on currency, and this led to Jim Sillars having to avoid making the easy point  that independence isn’t the main threat to our EU membership - the UK government is.

Forsyth confined himself to repeating key Better Together soundbytes, but this could not conceal the gaping contradictions on his position on tax, on EU, on currency and on Scotland's ability to go it alone.

It ended in an atmosphere of consensus on the Margo dictum - "We're all still Scots after the vote", but a sour note was then injected by a No voter in the audience, who raised anti-English fears, which she laid at the door of YES. The Better Together young ‘uns have got the lingo off pat!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

La règle du jeu – Michael Moore and the independence negotiations

It’s easy to cast Michael Moore as a villain, the arch-enemy of the YES Campaign, the current Scottish Secretary whose predecessors had a remarkably consistent record in acting against the interests of Scots, with the honourable exception of Tom Johnson, probably the only Scottish Secretary who conceived of the role as Scotland’s man in the UK instead of the other way round.

I have done my share of teasing and criticising Michael Moore, but have radically revised my view of him after analysing in close detail his responses to Iain Davidson’s Select Committee and his performance in the negotiations with Nicola Sturgeon over the referendum deal. I have no doubt whatsoever that this Northern Ireland-born son of a British Army chaplain is a committed unionist in his heart, and intellectually as a Liberal Democrat, and that he is totally opposed to Scotland’s independence and will campaign vigorously against it.

But he is also what the independence debate desperately needs right now – a pragmatic realist with a sound grasp of the principles  of negotiation, and a budding diplomat of the highest order. (His destiny in the UK or rUK should be the Foreign Office, where he would do a better job than the pompously  inadequate William Hague.)

Having managed to upset Davidson’s Commons Committee by refusing to play their dirty little game, he has now repeated the trick with the Lords’ committee, which also has thinly concealed anti-independence motives. So far, I only have press reports to go on, but the signs are encouraging -  Michael Moore savaged by Unionist peers over EU row

What enraged the unelected Lords was Moore’s argument that that there was no need to engage in a dialogue with the European Commission because a considerable body of information was already in the public domain- including EC President Barroso’s letter to the Committee - suggesting Scotland, as a new member state, might have to reapply and negotiate its membership.

In reply to an increasingly frustrated Michael Forsyth – who one of these days is going to birl uncontrollably and fly up his kilt into his own orifice, such is his exasperation at the prospect of Scotland’s independence – Michael Moore offered the following gnomic reply, which baffled the parcel of Lords, but brought a knowing smile to the faces of experienced negotiators -

Michael Moore: "There will be elements of this which are, to put it mildly, inelegant in terms of how well-informed people can be at the time of that vote. But short of doing that pre-negotiation, which as the UK Government I don't think it's our place to do, I believe we cannot resolve some of those issues."

Moore, in this and other revealing remarks, displays an real understanding of the dynamics and tactics of the pre-negotiation phase of negotiation, especially one that is going to be conducted in under a media searchlight and in a atmosphere of fevered and often highly ill-informed speculation and comment. He seems to have acquired a sophisticated understanding of such matters, matters that most politicians and media commentators are involved with throughout their entire careers without ever grasping their essence. Either he has an innate grasp of the fundamentals, or has had formative experiences in politics and government that shaped him, or – perhaps and/or – he is being advised by someone who can tell shit from Shinola.

These are qualities and skills that will be vital in the run-up to 2014 and in the negotiations that follow a YES vote. But relaxing in the knowledge that the Scottish Government negotiators will have a worthy opponent who understands La règle du jeuwith a nod to a great filmmaker, Jean Renoir – nationalists must also brace themselves to face a formidable opponent, one they must treat with wary respect.

Michael Moore will be, I hope, the last incumbent of the post of Scottish Secretary, but I entertain the hope that he will acquit himself honourably, in the spirit of the great Tom Johnson, lose with honour and with the respect of nationalists, and go on to a long and successful career wherever he choses to pursue it. For my part, I would like to seem him join in building the new Scotland after independence.

Sadly, if the Forsyths of this world have their way, he will be eclipsed or supplanted by some bumbling but highly vocal primitive Tory placeman, and the negotiations will be a bitter experience with a negative fallout.