In March, Her Majesty’s Treasury published an analysis that estimated that funding available to Scotland under full fiscal autonomy would be £7.7 billion lower in 2015-16 compared with the current arrangements. The assessment made by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that deficit reaching £9.7 billion in 2019-20.
The Secretary of State and his Tory friends have an ideological fixation with austerity, but is he surprised that the nationalist ideology of a self-identifying left-wing party such as the Scottish National party leads it to advocate full fiscal autonomy, which would lead not just to austerity but to “austerity-max”?
I agree with part of the hon. Gentleman’s analysis, but he will be aware that it is now not clear what the SNP is asking for. I welcome the fact that it will be able to table amendments in relation to full fiscal autonomy during the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill. My suspicion, however, is that it is asking for something it does not really want, and that it will complain when it does not get it.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that to reduce poverty in Scotland and indeed in the rest of the UK we need full employment? Would not the worse thing be to have an SNP Government in the United Kingdom with no understanding of fiscal responsibility, which would result in mass unemployment and mass poverty?
I am not clear whether my hon. Friend is suggesting that the SNP take over the Government of the UK, although that may be one of Miss Sturgeon’s aspirations—we do not know. It is for the people of Scotland to choose their own Government, but the SNP’s policies are clearly now for higher taxation and we need to know what that tax will be.
The Scottish Secretary is absolutely wrong about full fiscal autonomy. It does not lead to a reduction in tax yield. Surely he would agree that if we were to use the flexibility in the tax code to grow the economy and increase tax yield, that would be a good thing.
Given that the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that full fiscal autonomy would result in a near £10 billion black hole in Scotland’s finances, and that, as the Secretary of State said, the Scottish National party Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) has called it a disaster—perhaps we should lock him in the gents—is it not clear that it would not lead to a stronger Scotland or promote fairness and social justice? However, given the Scottish Government’s reluctance to accept the impartial IFS’s figures, will the Secretary of State back Labour’s amendment to the Scotland Bill to provide a full and independent report on the implications of full fiscal autonomy?