Coffee House

The Tories’ tax pledge could see them recover in Scotland

2 June 2014

Today’s announcement that the UK Tory party is backing the full devolution of income tax to Holyrood, and will commit to that in its 2015 manifesto, is hugely significant. It means that both coalition parties now support some tax competition between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

By contrast, Ed Miliband has made clear that he will never sign off on any devolution deal that allows Scotland to undercut the rest of the UK on tax. Instead, he wants a system where the Scots could only choose to have the same tax rates as the rest of the UK or higher ones.


This difference raises the possibility that if independence is defeated in the referendum, the SNP, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats could come together to strike a deal on more tax powers for Holyrood. Labour opposing this deal would dramatically alter the contours of Scottish political debate.

As Alex Massie argues, today it is far easier to see what the purpose of the Scottish Tories is. Whether this translates into more seats remains to be seen, but they now have a coherent intellectual position and an increasingly impressive leader. Combine that with how the independence referendum will shake the kaleidoscope of Scottish politics and the decline of the Liberal Democrats, and you can see how the Tories might finally recover in Scotland.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • Englishanarchist

    Well let’s hope that this all becomes irrelevant due to a positive vote in the independence referendum, so that England and Scotland can exist as friendly neighbours rather than uncomfortable bedfellows.

  • Treebrain

    A very sad and pathetic attempt to bribe voters in Scotland!

    As with so many other issues, whether gay ‘marriage’ or mass immigration or anything else, his rich, privileged and special life means he cannot comprehend let alone understand ordinary British people.

    He is hardly alone in that, the metropolitan chattering classes that make up ‘the political class’ like Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg are equally clueless.

    One is the grandson of an illegal immigrant while the other is only half-British with a foreign wife?

    Little wonder that they fail to understand the concerns of ordinary British people?

  • girondas

    “The Tories’ tax pledge could see them recover in Scotland”

    I didn’t realise that politics was so easy.

  • HookesLaw

    The logic of devolution is to give revenue raising powers … and also deficit running responsibilities too. How would that work in practice? I don’t believe that income tax is the best mechanism for revenue raising. But then what is?

    • Jambo25

      Corporation taxes and some form of oil production tax to Scotland would help. Oh, they’re not on offer. I wonder why?

  • Peter Thomson

    I have a problem with this. Last September Ruth told Scotland they would get no further devolved powers on a NO vote and this was a line in the sand that was not for negotiation.

    Lord Forsyth has publicly rubbished the Strathearn report as unworkable and devisive. To those Scots with a couple of functioning synapses or more, there is no difference between this offering and Labour’s ‘jam tomorrow’ offering.

    The Tories actual position has not changed in the slightest – Forsyth represents the true face of Toryism – vote No and Scotland gets nothing, the rest of the fluff doing the rounds of the London studios is just window dressing, bought by a fawning yet ignorant London based media, sold to the English reader and watcher, hiding from them a fiscal and political storm they are not allowed to see coming – the cowardice of the modern British Establishment writ large.

  • MichtyMe

    If the tories crave popularity perhaps the devolution of taxation of offshore hydrocarbon extraction should be considered. In other jurisdictions, USA Canada, oil revenues go to the provinces and states, the citizens of Alaska even get a cheque from their administration rather than usual arrangement elsewhere.

  • SilentHunter


    So the choice is “vote Tory and we “might” give you fully devolved taxation powers” . . . or . . . “vote for Independence and definitely get it”.

    Hmmm? . . . Tricky.

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      I’m beginning to see a pattern in Tory strategy here…

  • Kitty MLB

    I hate to say this but what on earth are the Conservatives
    Playing at….I’m somewhat speechless.

    • Craig

      It’s called self preservation. If the Scots go then the following happens, 10% economy loss! balance of payments goes in the red, Moody’s downgrade again, UN Security Council seat goes, No nuclear deterrent, likelihood of EU Exit, diminished role in NATO, reduced EU rebates, subsidies and grants, interest rate increase, cost of borrowing increase, calls for devolution from regions in England, debt increases, deficit doesn’t reduce . The Scots are going to go , it’s just a case of when and trying to hold it off as long as possible

      • HookesLaw


        • Peter Thomson

          Nope – its what the British Establishment is kacking its breeks over – no Scotland, no Trident, no £1.7 trillion plus oil and gas asset, 35% of Sterling’s foreign exchange gone and many more fiscal and economic impacts on the rUK economy if there is no currency union and a weakened rUK fiscal position that all the casino gambling in the City of London will not cover.

          Worst of all rUK reduced to just another middle sized European nation with a rubbished military unable to meet its current NATO commitments in full hanging onto the tattered remnants of empire with a Commonwealth it long gave up on to get into bed with the USA.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            The very last thing on Earth that we want is a currency union. Who in their right mind would provide an open-ended underwriting commitment to a foreign country in the hands of leftist parties to issue as much debt as they like for as long as they like without reference to the UK Treasury. That would be a towering act of insanity and has thankfully been precluded by George Osborne et al. We are already committed to underwriting all of the existing national debt whether or not Scotland takes its per capita share and which Salmond has, disgracefully, threatened to walk away from. Why would we want to increase that commitment. Also, if the UK is going to become an economic basket case without revenues from Scotland, why would you want to join us in a currency union? By all means continue to use Strerling but no thank you with regard to a CU. We will just have to rub along without one

            • Jambo25

              I don’t want to join you in a currency union. I’d like to see a Scottish currency for as long as it takes us to get into the Euro, I regard the £ as a soft currency.

              • Inverted Meniscus

                Then tell all your mates assuming you have some. I like the cheap shot about Sterling being a soft currency. Without fiscal and monetary union the euro will forever remain vulnerable and its members constantly propping up the weaker members such as Greece etc. The very suggestion that a History teacher knows anything about forex be it soft, hard or whatever is absolutely hilarious.

                • Jambo25

                  So soft that the Euro has appreciated against the £ by about 20%-30% since its launch. What has been the history of the £ against the $ and Swiss Franc over the past 40 or so years oh might Forex expert?

                • Inverted Meniscus

                  The dollar is the World’s reserve currency and is supported bt the largest economy on Earth while the Swiss exercise a degree of fiscal and monetary restraint impossible in economies blighted by regular bouts of leftist governments. So yes, as any schoolboy might observe, Steling has depreciated against these currencies but that does not make Sterling a ‘soft’ currency. Indeed, on the basis that we have had record low interest rates for 6 years, Sterling has remained relatively firm. Do you understand the relationship between interest rates and exchange rates? I suspect not but you might find it useful to understand when Germany is setting your interest rates as opposed to Westminster where, despite the outright lies of the SNP, Scotland actually gets disproportionate influence in the setting of fiscal and monetary policy.

                • Jambo25

                  I studied Economics, amongst other things, at university, worked in the Secretariat of the old Board of Trade and have a sibling who is a fairly senior manager in banking. I’ve also strangely enough got a pal who is a Forex dealer so I know at least as much as you. I suspect I know more than you as I know that there is no national/regional representation on those committees and other bodies tasked with setting fiscal and monetary policy. That is set in the interests of London and the South East.

                • Inverted Meniscus

                  I’ve got a friend who is a forex dealer – what a pathetic claim to knowledge and insight. Oh and the usual sprinkling of lies and dishonesty about everything being done for the benefit of a London and the South East.

                • Jambo25

                  There isn’t any national/regional representation on the BoE or Treasury committees that deal with fiscal and monetary policy though. So you were what is known as wrong.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Who do plan to get to fly those 10 Typhoons by the way? You have no pilots and it takes 7 years to train them.

        • Jambo25

          I doubt all of the things Craig warns about would happen but some of them certainly would. Borrowing costs would certainly rise and it is likely that there would be small knock on effects on the balance of payments and other metrics. The general influence of rUK would fall and I think there would be a period of flux in the rUK political and constitutional structure.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            We are the UK you people do not get to change the name of our country.

            • Jambo25

              I couldn’t give a flying toss what you think as you are merely a not very bright boor. I try to remain polite but in your case I will make an exception.

              • Inverted Meniscus

                I just love drawing out your utter hypocrisy you dimwit.

                • Jambo25

                  You are, of course, still wrong on the substantive point above.

                • Inverted Meniscus

                  You make a substantive point – that is funny. I’ve got a mate who is a forex trader and that makes me an expert – priceles, absolutely priceless. That old lad is how you make a complete fool of yourself.

                • Jambo25

                  So you cannot deny the facts I put down so you revert to puerile insults. About par for the course for you.

                • Inverted Meniscus

                  How can I possibly engage with an idiot who thinks that having a mate who is a forex dealer makes him a forex expert? Think about it for a minute and try not to be quite so stupid in future. Oh and saying something is a fact does not make it a fact. Whenever I have asked you or any of the other SNP psychopaths why a CU would be good for the UK all I get is a tissue of lies and obfuscation. You are simply too stupid and dishonest to waste time wth coherent argument.

                • Jambo25

                  Thanks for confirming my last point. Puerile personal insults are the last refuge of the intellectually defeated.

                • Inverted Meniscus

                  I will not engage with an habitually dishonest cybernat.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        What an incredible series of delusions. Do you honestly believe that England, Wales and Northern Ireland survive solely at the behest of Scotland? Why, if all you say is true, is Salmond so desperate to enter into a currency union with a country which will fall into permanent economic despair and international isolation? Is it because he is a generous beneficent individual with a sense of charity towards a soon to be ‘Third World’ neighbour? No it is because he knows that without UK Treasury support the cost of borrowing in the public debt markets will rise for Scotland because it is an untested entity in the international debt markets. That would lead to increased mortgage and debt costs for the Scottish electorate and they will not like that. Oh and on the question of defence; who is going to fly those ten Typhoons that he wants for the Scottish airforce?

        • HJ777

          Yes – he does honestly believe those things, hard though it may be to believe that anyone can be so deluded.

          You don’t have to be sane to use a keyboard, you know.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Agreed. I despair at these cybernat nutters.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Possibly the most stupid idea yet by the Tories. Salmond wiil have a field day cutting Income tax below what the UK can afford. Then god help the party in power at Westminster!

    Furthermore once tax policy is devolved there is absolutely no justification why Scots MPs can vote on English issues. Gets the SCOTS OUT!

    • BigAl

      What rubbish

  • Jeanne Tomlin

    Promises are easy to make and easy to break. Jam tomorrow…

  • Man in a Shed

    Devolution is a one way street to separation. This is just the Tories selling the UK, and especiallyEngland, out in the hoped of extending a few life long politician’s political careers.

  • FrancisHorner

    Well this will spice up the West Lothian question nicely – Scottish MPs get to influence (and depending on the balance of power, decide) English, Welsh & Northern Irish income tax rates but not vice versa.

  • Colin

    “The Tories’ tax pledge could see them recover in Scotland”.

    Unlikely. Anyone who is minded to vote Tory, in Scotland, is already doing so. Unless salmond’s much trumpeted mass immigration programme includes millions of middle aged, golf club members, dressed in blazers and slacks, the baw’s still up in the slates, as they say in Minishant. Dream on.

  • Hello

    “Instead, he wants a system where the Scots could only choose to have the same tax rates as the rest of the UK or higher ones”

    It’s just extraordinary, isn’t it. Is Miliband a Tory stooge, or is he really that dim?

    • LadyDingDong


    • Inverted Meniscus

      Yes, he really is that dim.

  • Blindsideflanker

    “The Tories’ tax pledge could see them recover in Scotland”

    And bomb in England, for it will just highlight the discriminatory constitutional arrangement that English people have to live under .

    Remember the Conservative 2010 manifesto…

    “Labour have refused to address the so-called
    ‘West Lothian Question’: the unfair situation
    of Scottish mPs voting on matters which
    are devolved. a Conservative government will
    introduce new rules so that legislation referring
    specifically to England, or to England and
    Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent
    of mPs representing constituencies of those countries.”

    As they have found time to give loads of constitutional goodies to all sorts of people never mentioned in their election manifesto, they have failed to honour their promise to English people.

    • Andy

      I agree. The Scots should get nothing at all until and unless England gets its own Parliament.

  • CraigStrachan

    I think the Tories are very likely to gain Westminster seats in 2015, in the afterglow of a big, braw Naw. John Lamont is already virtually certain to win Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, and today’s announcement puts seats like Perth, Angus, and maybe even Banff & Buchan and Moray into play.

    • Jambo25

      Aye, right.

      • CraigStrachan

        Time will tell, and not very much time at that.

    • Smithersjones2013

      They might win a handful in Scotland but such a stupid idea will cost them tens of seats in England if they ain’t careful

      • Jambo25

        They might win one extra seat in Scotland. I think that’s it.

    • FrancisHorner

      The idea that a seat like Angus could be bought back into the reach of the Tories by something like this is simply laughable. The Tory councillors, who are the local face of the party, have been utterly useless in both opposition and in power and have driven away all but the most die-hard supporters leaving nothing to build on. A depressingly familiar story in much of Scotland.

      • CraigStrachan

        Well, the Tories have increased their vote in each of the last three elections in Angus and are firmly in second place for 2015, which will be taking place in the wake of the clear rejection of the SNP’s signature policy in the referendum.

        • FrancisHorner

          You can only go back two elections because of the major boundary changes. The share of the vote went up by just over 1% in from 2005 to 2010 – trouble is that the SNP’s majority over the Tories more than doubled (to 8.6%) – that’s a huge amount of ground to recover without a credible local operation.

          • CraigStrachan

            It’s the credibility of the SNP’s offer for 2015 that I’m puzzling over. How do they run as the pro-independence party just a few short months after independence has been rejected by the Scottish people? And if they can’t plausibly offer independence…what can they offer?

            • FrancisHorner

              It’s a fair point, but they do seem to be able to separate the two things to a remarkably high degree. There is a significant part of their support at Scottish Parliament elections (maybe to a lesser extent Westminster elections) who reckon that an SNP government is a better bet than a Labour one (that’s the choice on offer) and vote accordingly.

              It’s very hard to separate out, but the correlation between YES voters and SNP voters won’t be as strong as many think; with numerous supporters of other parties voting YES and a significant proportion of SNP voters voting NO.

              The LibDems have shown that you can (re)gain ground by building on effective local representation, but there is no sign of the Scottish Tory party even trying to emulate that.

              • CraigStrachan

                Well, one thing that is not on offer in the 2015 Westminster election is an SNP government.

                And I’m not sure the Lib Dems offer such a good example to emulate, lately.

            • Rossspeak

              Because wee Alex can point to the benefits of “devo max” that he has extracted from Westminster – and fought bravely for Independence and will, sadly, respect the wishes of the Scottish Electorate who have voted to stay part of the UK. A Hero either way.
              In the meantime , Miliballs keep the Scottish Labour MP’s at Westminster, (thanks Alex) – and the English get bugger all.
              Great strategy Cameron – I am sure you will gain credit for your foresight.

              • CraigStrachan

                I’m not at all convinced Alex remains as First Minister and SNP convenor after the No vote.

            • Jambo25

              The same way they’ve run over the past few elections. ‘Vote for us and we’ll be more efficient at Holyrood and put Scottish interests first at Westminster.’

              • CraigStrachan

                What would be the outstanding example of the SNP “putting Scottish interests first at Westminster” in this parliament?

                • Jambo25

                  I’m not saying they do. Like most minority parties they have, except under special circumstances, little opportunity to do much in the Commons. What is important, however, is public perception.

                • CraigStrachan

                  I agree the SNP MPs don’t do much of anything. Maybe that’s why Scots will want to send a few members of the governing party to Westminster in 2015?

                • Jambo25

                  If you can find any evidence of that (I presume by “governing party” you mean the Tories) then publish it.

                • CraigStrachan

                  Well, the Tory vote did rise, modestly, at the Euro elections. Add another year’s economic growth, and the resounding popular rejection of the SNP’s single distinctive policy in September, and I think the Tories are well-placed to advance in Scotland in 2015. But the proof will be in the puddin.

                • Jambo25

                  The Tory vote is scraping along at or near 17%. That’s as good as it gets.

                • CraigStrachan

                  That’s the Tory floor. The SNP are at their ceiling of just under 30%. I expect the No vote will raise that floor, and lower that ceiling – if not bring it crashing down.

        • Peter Thomson

          The SFU are pointing out to their membership just how Westminster is robbing them blind over EU farming subsidies. If my experience of farming Tories in SW Scotland is anything to go for – they will be voting UKIP such is their disgust with your lot.

          • DWWolds

            If my experience of talking to people who farm in the Borders is anything to go by that is not correct.

            • CraigStrachan

              It certsinly didn’t seem to be the case in the Euro elections.

  • George Laird

    Dear All

    Dear God!

    Another saying is, ‘in the name of the wee man’.

    This will not help the Scottish Conservatives.

    So, you get your taxes set by someone else in a different location.

    As the Germans says…. Nein!

    Just think, all those working class Scots who sat around thinking, if only the Scottish Conservatives devolved income tax we would vote for them.

    Anyone remember the slapping scene in Airplane?

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird
    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

    • Ronnie Strachan

      I think you should stick to campaigning for human rights because you political nous seems to be lacking – and why the need for a German reference in a question which is nothing to do with Germany is a bit baffling. it is not too long ago when the Conservatives held a strong portfolio of Scottish seats and they will do so in future. Scotland is badly in need of strong representation from the right as a real alternative to the depressing and misery inducing left wing Labour and SNP offering

Can't find your Web ID? Click here