The Red Paper Collective welcomes aspects of the Smith Commission:
- the maintenance and indexing the Barnett formula to take account of the newly devolved areas which supports the principle progressive redistribution within the UK;
- powers over some benefits like the ‘bedroom tax’ (under-occupancy penalty) and disability benefits, which can pave the way for an end to blatant injustices in both these areas;
- powers to enable public sector companies to bid for rail franchises which could at long last provide the basis of a publicly owned rail system in Scotland;
- an increase in borrowing powers commensurate with greater tax raising, which could allow the Scottish government to end the iniquitous use of PFI/PPP.
We believe that the power over income tax (which does not include unearned income) should be used to bring about better and more Scottish and locally provided services such as health, education and social care. It is therefore regrettable that the Commission made no attempt to address the undermining of local democracy by enshrining powers of local government especially over the right to raising income and local economic development.
Indeed there are no significant new powers for economic development. In light of this austerity will continue and intensify unless policies at UK level (as impacted by the EU, for example EuroPlus Pact) are changed.
As the Red Paper Collective has argued for the past three years, it is how these power are used that will determine whether they are progressive or not.
We note that The SNP government programme announced yesterday contained no proposals for income redistribution via tax and postponed implementation of any policies to end the council tax freeze for implementation in 2017-18.