The controversial Economist article

Home truths about home rule

Scotland has regressed into an inward-looking, slightly chip-on-shoulder, slightly Anglophobic country with no clear sense of direction.

I think the controversial bit is where they suggest that it wasn’t all of those things before devolution.

If Jack McConnell’s angry, you know it must be right.

Update: Having read it all now, I think it’s not a bad article. Interesting that it should come up at the same time as there has been a little bit of chatter about next year’s election prospects. Incidentally, MatGB added his views on it yesterday. The Economist article, though, is looking at it from a slightly more long-term perspective. Given that everybody’s been saying that things are looking bad for Labour, hence good for the SNP, it’s interesting to see The Economist describe the SNP as still the big loser from devolution.

I liked this bit of the article:

The strongest factor that prevents politicians’ minds from turning to the size of the state, however, is the fact that they do not have to raise the money to pay for it, or even the 60% of government spending they are responsible for. Over £20 billion simply drops into their hands every year from Whitehall, providing total public spending per Scot of £7,597 (in 2004-05)…

Holyrood’s politicians can hardly be blamed for this. The block grant gives them the money, and they spend it. They do not overspend; and if they are too lavish on one item they must be stricter on another. They do not, however, suffer the discipline of having to raise their revenue themselves: they are like teenagers on an allowance. And they have no incentive to promote economic growth through taxation.

The case for abolishing the block grant and giving Holyrood tax-raising powers is increasingly being made, most recently by a Liberal Democrat commission under the parliament first’s presiding officer, David Steel. Its report, drawing on the experience of other countries, is a happy exception to the parties’ generally dull introspection and poverty of thought. But most Scots, if the opinion polls are right, would be pleased to see tax-raising (and some other powers) brought home.

Beforehand I wasn’t sure about the need for more fiscal autonomy. But that is quite a convincing argument.

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