(744) WENDY’S CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION = GORDON’S DEVOLUTION REVIEW
Back in December 2007 the Scottish Parliament passed a motion to set up a constitutional commission to consider greater powers for itself within the framework of devolution. The idea, put forward by Wendy Alexander as leader of the Scottish Labour Party, was backed by all the other parties in the Scottish Parliament except the SNP (a minority Government, if you remember). On 17 February 2008 the Prime Minister Gordon Brown backed the idea, although the commission has now become a review of devolution in which Whitehall (and presumably Westminster) will be involved. Mr Brown said:
There is an issue about the financial responsibility of an executive or an administration that has £30bn to spend but doesn’t have any responsibility for raising [that]. In any other devolved administration in the world, there is usually a financial responsibility that requires not only the spending of money by the administration but also its responsibility to take seriously how it raises money. Now the question is, just as local government has to raise some of its money through council tax, just as many other areas in the world where there are devolved administrations have to raise money through assigned taxation, is there a case for doing so?
The Prime Minister’s emphasis on finance was noted by SNP Cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon: If what Gordon Brown is talking about is less than full financial independence for the Scottish Parliament, then what we might have is a Trojan Horse for cutting the budget of the Scottish Parliament. Scots Law News has the distinct impression, by the way, that the present system of devolution and its finance was set up by a UK Labour Government in which Mr Brown was Chancellor, and that no-one in Labour raised these kind of issues he is now talking about while his was the biggest party in the Scottish Parliament.