Scottish independence: Better Together should emphasise increased social welfare powers, parliamentary group says

Catherine Neilan
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Scotland would be Better Together if the campaign focused on social welfare (Source: Getty)
The Better Together campaign should focus on the greater powers it would give Scotland over social welfare as part of its 11th-hour devo max offer, a new report has said.
Although the All Party Parliamentary Taxation Group – or APPTG for short – recognised that the Westminster leaders have not given specifics on what exactly devo max would constitute, it pointed out that the biggest area of potential change would be control over social welfare.
Currently, Scotland is only responsible for around a quarter of spend in this area, but the APPTG estimates it could rise to 75 per cent “without jeopardising the UK's social union”.
In a report responding to the dexo max suggestion, the APPTG said:
There is extensive scope for a truly radical increase in the taxation powers for which Scotland can take over responsibility.
Scotland is already in charge of spending on healthcare and education, and is not expected to take on responsibility for defence, international affairs and so on, it added, concluding:
More powers over the welfare state are thus the primary way in which the ‘Better Together’ campaign can meaningfully offer Scotland greater responsibility over public spending.
Instead of a block grant, a needs-based “equalising” grant should be brought in “to supplement the Scottish Parliament's increased responsibilty for raising revenue to fund its public expenditure.
Need is based on number of children; number of older people; ethnicity; income poverty; ill health; population sparsity and a London weighting.
The aim would be to cater to the needs of both regions and individuals for particular services and policy areas, with the intention to achieve regional prosperity, in the form of a steady rate of growth and development.
Negotiations over changes should not just be between the SNP Scottish Government and Scottish Labour, but include Scottish Socialists, Greens, and the radical independence movement for ‘Yes’, Scottish Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for ‘No’, as well as trade unions, religious groups, and other civil society organisations, the report says.
Other devolved authorities - Wales, Northern Ireland, and local government - should also be allowed to contribute to the consultations.
The report goes on to dub Scottish independence as envisioned by the Yes campaign to be “best characterised as ‘double dependence’, as from the fiscal perspective, the effect of both a union
with UK pound and EU membership is to significantly constrain an independent Scotland’s room for manoeuvre”.
It added:
Any formal Scotland-RUK understanding on the use of UK£ would include tight budget balance rules, and would leave Scotland without its own lender of last resort or financial regulator, putting it at the mercy of the trajectory of RUK monetary policy.
As a result, the report concluded:
At its most radical, the proposal for federal ‘devo max’ for Scotland after a ‘No’ vote matches the level of fiscal autonomy Scotland would have under the current vision of independence after a ‘Yes’ vote.

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