Sturgeon has won an unmistakeable mandate for ‘change’, but what for that ‘change’ should take is a political hot-potato.
56 out of 59 MPs at Westminster, a majority government in Holyrood & public support verging on 50% isn’t to be sniffed at. And consider, the SNP have achieved this despite being in power for eight long years. They’ve found the Scots political sweet spot, and the voters are loving Sturgeon’s delicate caress.
The sweet spot: Scots want a party to ‘speak for Scotland’, in a context of anti-Westminster emotions
The caress: the SNP promise to deliver full fiscal autonomy, a policy capable of uniting both ‘yes’ and ‘no voters from the indyref
For many Conservatives, this has left us in a dilemma. But why that should be is dumbfounding for me. As Lord Forsyth has said, why not just have an outside independent body do a paper on FFA? Have it outline the pros & cons, then go into Holyrood 2016 on a platform of ‘is this what you really want?’
When Lord Forsyth calls FFA a ‘pig and in a poke’, he has a valid factual basis underpinning. FFA, so goes the available data, would cost Scotland between £7-9bns. Scotland runs a deficit between what it spends per head, and what it taises in tax. The reason why the disparity between tax & spending has become so huge in recent decades is obvious.
Barnett functions to redistribute income tax (etc) across the whole UK, so there has never been a particular impetus; even under devolution; to worry about whether Scotland in isolation to the wider UK balances spending from its available tax base. Couple this with Holyrood, a parliament which is almost solely concerned with debating how to best spend money.
Thus, the way forward is clear. And it’d shake my fellow Scots away from that political ‘sweet spot’ very quickly. If the Conservatives actually commissioned such a paper, and it outlined in explicit detail these fiscal mismatches…and then offered the SNP FFA…
Put it this way, there is reason the SNP have been so silent and taciturn to engage right now. The Conservative right is pushing Cameron to do just as Forsyth calls for. Offer the SNP full fiscal autonomy. The last thing the SNP want, given their anti-austerity positioning, is to actually get FFA. That’d mean cuts, tax increases, balancing books. In short, the complete opposite of ‘anti-austerity’.
So why doesn’t Cameron not just expose Sturgeons pig in a poke? Why not just offer the SNP precisely what they want? Because FFA, if delivered, will expose the big lie at the heart of the SNP agenda: they’re anti-austerity but demand a constitutional reform which’d force austerity x10 upon Scotland.