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.