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Calman Commission

Volume 508: debated on Wednesday 7 April 2010

We remain committed to taking forward the proposals outlined in our White Paper on Calman. We will bring forward a Bill early in the next Session of Parliament to implement these recommendations.

The Calman commission proposals to make the Scottish Parliament more responsible for its financial decision making offer the possibilities of improving democratic accountability in Scotland and also strengthening the Union. Will my right hon. Friend commit himself to introducing the proposals on financial accountability as part of that package?

The Scottish Parliament is one of the great democratic innovations and constitutional changes of recent decades, but the Government and the Calman commission believe that there is an in-built weakness in its architecture, in that it is responsible for spending money but not for raising enough of it. The envisaged radical reforms will give it much more power, and in future the ultimate decision about how much money the Scottish Parliament and Government will spend will be for the Scottish Parliament, which will have to make an annual decision on tax rates in Scotland. That is a fair, sustainable and radical approach, and it is an important part of having a stronger Scotland inside a proud United Kingdom.

Although some form of constitutional reform is certainly necessary, does the Secretary of State agree that the best future for all the people of Scotland is to ensure that the country is not an isolated, small entity but part of a strong and prosperous United Kingdom?

I do not agree with the hon. Lady on all matters, of course, but she is right on this one. All of us who love Scotland and are patriotic about our country know that it is a fantastic place to live and bring up a family, and that it has a phenomenal history. However, it is part of our future and destiny to ensure that a proud Scotland remains an equal part of the United Kingdom. That is not just my view, but the view of the majority of people all across Scotland.

The Secretary of State is absolutely right that there is a commonality of purpose between Labour and Conservatives—they both want to bring cuts to Scotland. We were promised action on the Calman proposals back in the Queen’s Speech in November, but since then we have heard nothing, zilch, not a peep. Is it not the case that the Government have no intention of bringing forward his proposals, and that they would prefer to introduce cuts rather than Calman to Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman makes his point with his characteristically good manners and great sense of humour. This is the latest attempt on this matter by a political party, the SNP, that no one in Scotland takes seriously. It is using desperate tactics, but the only thing that Scotland would get by voting SNP in the general election would be a Tory Government. That is because the SNP brought Mrs. Thatcher to power and is desperate to remove this Labour Government as well. The moment that the party decided to prop up a Tory Government was the moment that it surrendered the right to speak for Scotland.