Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, the former Scottish Secretary, has given an interview today in which he states that those considering giving further powers to the Scottish Parliament are "off their heads".
The backdrop to his comments is the ongoing discussion of this very matter by the Calman Commission, whose first report is to be issued shortly.
The Commission – which is backed by the three main unionist parties in Scotland – has the following remit:
"To review the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 in the light of
experience and to recommend any changes to the present constitutional
arrangements that would enable the Scottish Parliament to serve the
people of Scotland better, improve the financial accountability of the
Scottish Parliament, and continue to secure the position of Scotland
within the United Kingdom."
Among the proposals it could make would be to give Scotland greater powers over taxation, a suggestion to which Lord Forsyth gives short shrift:
“I think it’s amazing when the house is on fire that people are
wondering if it might be a good idea to raise more taxes in Scotland."
When it was put to him that this could mean the Scottish Parliament having power to reduce taxes north of the border, he expressed incredulity at this ever happening.
The Scottish Parliament already has the abilitiy to vary the basic rate of income tax by 3p in the pound. But given that it has not yet used even that power, is it fanciful to be thinking in terms of passing yet more responsibilities to Holyrood?
Or is it that more significant powers are required if devolution arrangements are to be meaningful, since current powers only allow politicians to tinker at the edges?
Should Conservatives be thinking about making Scotland fiscally autonomous or do you believe that would be a step too far on the road to separation?