The Scottish variable rate, ‘Labour sources’ and confidentiality

A couple of remarks I made in front of (and also outside) the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee on Wednesday appear to have caused some excitement in the Scottish press – see a short piece from Thursday’s Scotsman here and a longer story from the Herald here.  It seems to be news to some that the Scottish variable rate wasn’t meant to be used, and that people knew this at the time.  I don’t know why; I’ve said this on quite a few occasions, in most detail in writing in my post from November 2010 on ‘The Uselessness of the Scottish Variable Rate’ (available HERE).

It’s sad that an unnamed ‘Labour source’ is quoted by the Herald as claiming that I ‘didn’t perform well at the committee’.  This sounds rather like sour grapes because what I’m saying doesn’t appear to suit Labour at the present time.  After all, my mark of 48 per cent for the Scotland bill’s financial provisions is on the basis not of a preferred alternative to the bill, but what would be needed for the bill to deliver the Calman proposals effectively.  Readers can make their own minds up about how well I performed by looking at the transcript or recording of the session.  Being taken by surprise isn’t a good way to secure a good performance, though, if that was what the ‘source’ wanted.  I don’t know why ‘Labour sources’ are so petty – Michael Moore said to me outside that my sort of informed discussion of what goes on was very valuable, even when I was critical of what government does.

But it’s simply amusing that the same person chooses to accuse me of ‘not having the bottle to name names’, when she or he prefers to remain anonymous themselves.  For the record, it’s not a question of ‘bottle’, but of respecting the terms on which I obtained information.  I received this information privately, on terms that mean I can’t attribute it to my source.  I take part in a wide range of private discussions and activities which have involved politicians from all parts of the UK, and pretty much all major parties. I’m sure journalists, if not ‘Labour sources’, understand what confidentiality means in those circumstances, and why it’s necessary.  Those who speak to me already know that when they speak to me privately, I will respect their confidence.  My silence about this now should just confirm it.

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5 Comments

Filed under Devolution finance, General, Labour, Media issues, Scotland, Westminster

5 responses to “The Scottish variable rate, ‘Labour sources’ and confidentiality

  1. cynicalHighlander

    ‘not having the bottle to name names’,

    “For reasons of national security” should be enough as that’s what they use.

  2. ratzo

    I watched the session online, (and also the one following, where the committee discussed it with Michael Moore). It was rather distasteful.

    My overall impression was of an aggressive chair and a weak committee, oddly nervous and defensive about the Bill itself, but principally concerned in case the session should turn out to be an unstable media event.

    For that apparent reason Alan Trent and the two economists were on the receiving end of a fair amount of pointless derision and truculence. It was not really constructive or edifying, and not helpful at all in establishing clarity about some rather serious points. Ian McLean was treated with notable respect by comparison (except at one point where he appeared to be going off script about borrowing and was addressed sharply by the Chair).

    As it was proceeding I was inevitably reminded of the disreputable process at Holyrood that was so tainted by the behaviour of the excitable Wendy Alexander.

    Another unavoidable impression was of the sheer intellectual weakness of the politicians on the panel, with possibly the exception of the (more experienced) chair.

    It was actually quite painful to watch the committee members struggling to follow an explanation through more than two steps. Time and again they simply failed to follow what was said and the discussion went round in circles, or just drifted into inconclusive silence. It was notable how they were visibly relieved and the mood lifted when the chair preferred to talk about blog rhetoric, or letters to the press. It looked very much as though they were not intelligent or informed enough to participate meaningfully in the process. The prize for sheer feebleness must surely go to Lindsay Roy, who was silent as the grave throughout the full three and half hours of both sessions, except for once when he said something juvenile about his brain hurting.

    The sense that the main purpose of the first session was control was obvious by comparison with the session with Michael Moore that followed, where the aura of fright had vanished and much of the comment was less self-conscious.

  3. Jeff Jones

    Depressing interview in today’s Western Mail in which the First Minister confirms that he does not support any tax raising powers for the Welsh Assembly. He goes on to say that in his opinion the referendum on March 3rd will be the last in his political life time. Sadly in Wales we seem to have a political class that wants the status and as they see it the power of full lawmaking but do not want the responsibity and therefore increased accountability of tax raising powers.

  4. Jeff Jones

    Read the transcript Alan. Keep up the good work. Common sense would indicate that it was never meant to be used because no politician has even suggested as far as I can see that it should be used. They all like the idea as you have put it of being members of ‘elective spending agencies’. They love handing out the free goods and any problems will always be the fault of whoever is in power in Westminster. In Wales it looks from an article in the Western Mail last Monday which asked AMs what they would do with full lawmaking powers that we are going to have laws which place ‘duties’ on other public bodies. One AM even wanted to restrict the design of Welsh children’s clothes and another wanted a ban on adverts for’unhealthy food’. Of course, how you define ‘unhealthy food’ perhaps we should leave to the courts and the lawyers who are going to have a field day if we have poorly drafted legislation from the Assembly.

  5. Pingback: The currency of an independent Scotland: just how ‘independent’ would an independent Scotland be? « Devolution Matters

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