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Showing posts with label Calman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Calman. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

What awaits Scotland after a No vote

This was my hasty (I was on my way to hospital ) reply to an article criticising the No campaign - Aren’t we already losing Scotland

I’ve left un-edited (but re-formatted and typo-corrected) In the cold light of today, James Forsyth’s comment weren’t exactly “touting” devo max and more powers – his piece was bit more considered than that – but it gave me the opportunity to say what I wanted. US opinion matters!

Comments [One comment]

  • Peter Curran says:

    December 3, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    James Forsyth’s comment touts the “jam tomorrow” of more powers to the Scottish Parliament after a No vote, delivered through one of the many variants discussed in the run up to the Edinburgh Agreement on the referendum – devo max, devo plus, devo something or other.

    The realities of the situation are these -

    The only mechanism by which more powers can be delivered, now or after a No vote, is The Scotland Act. It has already delivered a dribble of powers after the Calman Commission. The Scotland Act leaves absolute control with the Westminster Parliament over Scotland’s devolved powers: it created the devolved Parliament, it has the power to vary its powers by adding to them or subtracting them. It has the power to end devolution and dissolve the Parliament by vote in which non-Scottish MPs massively outnumber the 59 Scots.

  • In other words, until and unless it votes for full independence, Scotland is wholly dependent on the grace and favour of the British Parliament for its Parliament and any powers it has.

  • There are powerful voices in the Commons and the unelectd Lords who have always bitterly opposed the creation of a Scottish Parliament, regarding devolution as the thin edge of a wedge that would end the Union. There are a growing number of voices in England, notably the local authorities who bitterly resent what they see as Scotland privileged status in the Barnett Formula

  • There are strong voices, encapsulated by The West Lothian Question – coined by a Scot, Tam Dalyell – that questions the ability of Scots MPs to influence English legislation on purely English matters by their votes in Westminster, while English MPs cannot influence devolved matter in the Scottish Parliament. There are moves to reduce the number of Scottish MPs in Westminster. There is growing resentment in England and Wales about what they see as Scotland’s privileged position under devolution.

  • To grant more powers to Scotland after a No vote, or even promise them before one would be greeted with outrage by the English electorate and the Welsh Labour voters. It would be political suicide in the 2015 UK general election for any party that promised or committed such powers.

  • The Scottish electorate do not trust the UK on promises of more powers after a No vote in a referendum, because they have already reneged on just such a promise in 1979 after a referendum – they have form!

    But the decisive argument for Scots is that, had the UK Parliament and government any intentions to consider or grant more powers, they would not have opposed the second question in the Scottish referendum addressing the wish for devo max within UK revealed in poll after poll.

    Alex Salmond and the SNP government were willing to consider such a question and option, offering a middle road between independence and the status quo. The resolute opposition to the 2nd question – a deal breaker for the Edinburgh Agreement – by David Cameron and all the UK Better Together parties – told the Scottish electorate all they needed to know – that a No vote, far from producing more powers, was almost certain to produce a clawback of powers and a £4 billion reduction in the Barnett Formula.

    The Scottish electorate know that a No vote, in addition to attracting the astonishment and thinly veiled contempt of the world for a nation that rejected its chance to be independent, would result in either devo zero or devo minus.

    Only independence will deliver to Scotland and the Scottish people the freedom they need to determine their future in this uncertain world and the challenging times ahead.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A reminder from the Brown/Calman era –March 2009 - of what will happen to us if we lose the referendum in 2014

The Scottish unionists are singing a different, siren song these days, panicked by the re-election - with an overall majority - of the SNP and now the referendum agreement - singing a song of new powers, of devo this and devo that. They’re lying in their teeth – here’s what awaits a Scotland that rejects independence in 2014 -
The Calman threat to Scottish freedom from nuclear power – and weapons (March 2009 blog)

Two things come together today in an insidious coupling - an article by Gordon Brown in the Observer entitled "We are about to take the war against terror to a new level"

and

the news in the Scotsman from Tom Peterkin, Scottish Political Editor, that the Calman Commission wants to partially reverse devolution by clawing back powers from Holyrood to Westminster, including the power of the Scottish Government to veto nuclear development.

The ostensible reason for this is the belief that the UK's energy needs can only be met by building new nuclear plants in Scotland. If this were the sole reason, it would be bad enough, exposing nakedly what the Union really means for Scotland. But the real reason is the link between civil nuclear power and the nuclear weapons industry. I covered this is some detail here on the 20th of February and I wrote to the Herald on the 21st in response to an Alf Young article.

The Gordon Brown article in today's Observer is an exercise in naked paranoia, or more accurately, an attempt to induce paranoia in the electorate by a failing Prime Minister and a failing government. One paragraph alone should send a chill down the spine of any Scot concerned for freedom.

“As the threats we face are changing rapidly, we can never assume that the established way of doing things will be enough. We will always make the necessary changes, whether through greater investment, changes to our laws or reforms to the way we do things, to ensure that Britain is protected.” GORDON BROWN

Here is my online posting to the Observer today (22 Mar 200() on the article -

Moridura
22 Mar 09, 1:03am
We lived through thirty years of IRA terror directed at our shores without resorting to the attack on our liberties that Brown has mounted. Every ruler whose coat hangs upon a shaky nail needs an enemy to deflect attention away from his inadequacies, and the more shadowy and amorphous that enemy is the better.
Does Al Quaeda exist? Of course it does, as a loose grouping of terrorist cells, but not as the mighty global entity portrayed by Brown and his ilk. Does terror exist? Of course it does. Has it comes to our shores? Undeniably, but we brought it on ourselves - in all its full, inhumane, undemocratic horror - by our own ill-considered and inhumane actions in Iraq.
People have died and are still dying to serve the overweening ambition, lust for power and vanity of Blair and Brown.
I have never voted Tory, and I voted Labour all of my life up until 2003, but Maggie and her cabinet were the targets of a terrorist attack in Brighton, yet this did not stampede her into panic reactions. I detested Maggie, and much that she stood for, but she was not a coward, and was more of a leader than vacillating, terrified Brown will ever be.
As a Scot, I have an option, and I have taken it, by joining the Scottish National Party. As I speak, the Calman Commission, a Unionist front, is trying to claw back to Westminster the powers the Scottish Government currently has over civil nuclear development. Since The Deadly Nuclear Twins of civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry are joined at the hip, the purpose of this is all too clear. It has little to do with global warming and a lot to do with WMDs.
England, wake up to what this failing regime is trying to do as it desperately tries to survive.
I have also posted on the Scotsman online comment to the Peterkin article as follows -
This must be stopped, by legal, constitutional means, and there must be public, legal demonstrations against any clawing back of powers. This is the insidious workings of the military/industrial complex, and we should have expected it. They were never going to let a little thing like democracy or the wishes of the Scottish people get in the way of their war machine.
There must be an outcry, and soon. I have been postponing my decision to rejoin CND after many years, but my cheque will be in the post on Monday.
I have written of the Deadly Nuclear Twins to the Scottish press and in my blog of 20th February 2009.
This must be stopped. They want to further pollute our country and deprive us of the right to veto further nuclear development.

Here is my Herald letter of 21st February 2009 in full - it was edited in some aspects in the Letters page of the Herald.

Dear Sir,
Alf Young (20th Feb) advances the case for nuclear power in Scotland, and criticises the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear. I am one of the very large number of Scots who, in 2007, abandoned my previous political allegiance (Labour) and transferred my vote and my commitment to the SNP. A major factor in that decision was precisely the fact of the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear power. In spite of my strong commitment to an independent Scotland for many other reasons, I would resign my membership of the party instantly if that commitment ever wavered, however, I am sure that will not happen.
I will not rehearse the arguments against nuclear power generation versus alternative sources of energy in relation to the global warming priorities, for the simple reason that I would rather accept the energy deficit and all that goes with it – although I do not believe that this will happen – because of the link between the civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry. Every advocate of civil nuclear power generation I have read, heard, or met personally is either an advocate of nuclear weapons, nuclear defence policies and the so-called ‘nuclear deterrent’, or, frankly, must be naive, and unaware or badly informed about this insidious linking of the civil and military aspects.
The facts are these, and in setting them out, I would remind readers of the famous quote by American senator, Daniel Patrick Moynahan – “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts ...”
Any country that has nuclear power has the undeniable potential to make nuclear weapons. This is why the West is making such a fuss over Iran’s nuclear programme, and was the ostensible reason for invading Iraq. The UK is a massive exporter of nuclear technology and uranium enrichment processes, and this is at the core (forgive me) of nuclear weapons production. If the UK abandoned this deadly trade and never built another nuclear power station it would be taking a major step towards reducing international tension, nuclear proliferation and creating a safer planet.
The International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) is charged with investigating the regular, and sinister, transfer of nuclear material between civil and military stockpiles, but its powers are limited, and by the UK government’s own admission, its acceptance of inspection was not intended to provide an assurance that such material would not be used for defence purposes. In any case, the notorious ‘national security reasons’, the final refuge of totalitarian, militaristic governments everywhere, can be uses to stop the inspections at any time. In America, in Britain and in France, where one might assume that there were safe and secure procedure, unaccountable and unexplained discrepancies exist on plutonium. It is not just Russia that has problems of the theft and smuggling of nuclear material, not to mention inadequate and permeable storage arrangements.
I am a grandfather, and this status provides a special focus, a special viewpoint. I may not live long enough to experience the appalling consequences of our present nuclear obsession, but my children may, and my granddaughter almost certainly will. I was born in the 1930s, the decade of an unprecedented rise in militarism, and the lead-up to war. I sat in 1945 in the Park Cinema in Glasgow (formerly The Marne Cinema) as watched with fascinated horror the dropping of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and its appalling aftermath. I grew up in the 1950s with the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over my world. I followed with apprehension the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, when that threat became real and immediate. I don’t want my beloved granddaughter to have to live her life under this radioactive cloud.
The nuclear power industry and the nuclear arms industry are conjoined twins, locked forever in a deadly embrace, and cannot be separated. You can’t have one without the other. Until homo sapiens evolves into a greater maturity, the world can afford neither nuclear power generation nor nuclear arms. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to reject these deadly twins. Alf Young used the word ‘meltdown’ in the title of his article. I hope it does not prove prophetic in a context other than the one he intended.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Alex Salmond on Calman–and Mundell has trouble with the numbers–again …

Alex Salmond offers a careful, considered critique of the Calman tax proposals, their weaknesses and speaks of his wish to find a way to improve them. This is a statesman – and an economist – speaking, with the interests of Scotland and the Scottish people at heart.



David Mundell, under Gordon Brewer's questioning, waffles frantically about Calman, and displays an almost total inability to come to grips with the numbers and hard facts. Instead, he relies on political generalities and attacks on the SNP.



This is Moore's man in the Scottish Office. He had high hopes of being Scottish Secretary under a Cameron Government (as the Scottish Tories' sole MP, there was little choice!) but the coalition, plus perhaps a little local difficulty with his election expenses (those pesky numbers again, David!) put paid to that.

He had to watch two young LibDems fill the post he had coveted - first Danny Alexander and now Michael Moore.

Not that numeracy - or anything much else - is required of a Scottish Secretary - only blind loyalty to the Union and the willingness to be Westminster's man in Scotland instead of Scotland's man in Westminster.

Colonial governors never did require much between their ears, only the ability to salute the Union Jack.

The last three incumbents of this ignoble role - Murphy, Alexander and now Moore - have filled the role in the way required by their UK bosses. Scots expects nothing from the office of Scottish Secretary, and nothing is what they get, except regular protestations of loyalty to the Union.

.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Professor John Curtice, Calman, the SNP, LibDems and "parrot talk"

NEWSNIGHT SCOTLAND REPORTER:

Will it, do you think, blow the SNP out of the water as Robert Brown” (LibDEM MSP) “ has suggested?”

PROF. JOHN CURTICE:

No - the truth is – that bill that is published tomorrow – is in fact the true legacy of the Nationalist victory in 2007. The nationalists haven’t been able to get that referendum bill through, but their victory in 2007 forced the Labour Party in particular to re-think its attitude towards devolution, to work together with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to produce this proposal that the Coalition is now putting forward. So, the SNP will undoubtedly put out a lot of criticism about this, but the truth is, they are probably principally responsible for this proposal at least getting as far as the statute book.”

Robert Brown, normally a nice, reasonable man (weren’t all the LibDems once!), was clearly rattled by this analysis and by the SNP’s spokesman, Alisdair Allan, MSP’s perfectly reasonable comment. After acknowledging that the proposals were designed to strengthen the UK, he dismissed Alisdair Allan’s wish for fiscal autonomy as “parrot talk”.

There is parrot talk here, Robert Brown, but from you, not Alisdair Allan – Unionist parrot talk from a member of a party that is currently betraying every promise it made to the electorate, and betraying Scotland in the process.

The Tories were opposed to Scotland's independence - Labour was equivocal, and only agreed to it to protect their Scottish power base - the LibDems are federalists - they regard Scotland, not as a nation, but as a region of the UK.

Only the SNP have always been fully committed to a Scottish Parliament and to full fiscal autonomy - and independence.


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sunday, Sunday and the gentlemen of the Scottish press

Let’s start with a couple of laughs, because there’s not many to come …

The long-running lethal farce called ‘The Coalition’s War against Terror in Afghanistan’ descends even further into the absurd as a top Taliban honcho, Akhtar Mohammed Mansour meets President Karzai and top Nato commanders. This is it, the tipping point, when the tide will turn, the West will be vindicated, the light at the end of the long dark tunnel of death and futility shines brightly, and Western values and culture will at last prevail in this benighted land.

The secret negotiations take place, the Mullah is feted, and leaves carrying oodles of goodwill cash. The world will soon be safe for democracy, Nato/US style.

But there’s bad news for Barack Obama and David Cameron. The Mullah wasn’t the Mullah after all, but The Conman from Quetta (in Pakistan) – a grocer - and he has simply vanished with the cash. The real Taliban fall about laughing in their hideouts in the mountains, Karzai, safe amidst his own mountains of coalition cash, shrugs philosophically, and the American military commanders utter unprintable - and most unchristian - oaths as they reflect on their future career prospects.

The Sunday Herald’s Tom Gordon, scratching around for anti-SNP stories to fill the gaps left by the dearth of real journalism at the Herald and the Sunday Herald - twin house organs of the Labour Party in Scotland - lights on the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill and a ‘story’ about the sybaritic highlife enjoyed by Scotland’s prisoners, already lying on beds of down, attended by maidens bearing grapes, soothed by soft music as they revel in the luxuries of incarceration in Scotland’s jails.

They are going to get flat screen TVs with built-in DVD players. This is bad enough, but – shock, horror – the Freeview tuners will be able to access the many porn channels now available. Why does this matter? Why will it be a gift to Richard Baker, Labour’s justice spokesperson, starved of raw meat since the Megrahi release?

Delicacy inhibits me from being too explicit, especially on a Sunday morning – let me just say that, for those with a long memory, it has something to do with rhyming slang and a film maker from the heyday of British filmmaking – J. Arthur Rank. I look forward with keen anticipation to Richard Baker putting his little mouth in gear at precisely the same moment that he puts his brain in neutral on this most sensitive of subjects. Perhaps he will link his indignant assault with the dangers of prisoners going blind. I think we should be told …

Bill Aitken, MSP has predictably already sounded off on this weighty matter – there is never a shortage of Tory rent-a-mouths to comment on justice matters.

Of course, the cold facts of the matter are safely tucked away at the end of the article, remote from the rabble-rousing and misleading headline and opening nonsense, something that has now become the Herald’s signature style, seamlessly replacing the objective investigative political journalism that used to characterise one of the world’s oldest English language newspapers. When Labour and the Union are threatened, anything is admissible.

TVs have been the norm in Scottish prison cells since 1999: this is simply an upgrade from CRT sets to the new, cheap flat screens with built-in DVDs as a routine inclusion. But with that money, Labour and the Tories could have bought whips, birches, thumbscrews, pincers, tongs, perhaps even budget-priced racks! It’s an outrage!

FISCAL MATTERS

The strange ways of the Sunday Herald with hard news is demonstrated clearly today over fiscal matters – the tartan tax row and the Calman proposals – or what’s left of them.

Contrast the approach taken by Scotland on Sunday with the Sunday Herald -

SoS lead article today -

‘Retreat’ on new Scots tax powerstwo levies not included in next Scotland Bill

Eddie Barnes’ opening paragraph encapsulates what has happened -

Two tax powers that were destined to be handed to MSPs will not now appear in ground-breaking new laws designed to create a stronger Scottish Parliament.”

On page two, Barnes develops the theme under the sub-header Scotland Bill to leave out key Tax powers. The tax powers are “less ambitious than first proposed”. The SNP position and comments is fairly and objectively reported, with the Party claiming that the proposals fall far short of what is needed, that they are half-baked and damaging to the Scottish economy.

In other words, this  is Calman minus – a hollow and ominous echo of Tavish Scott’s vainglorious posturing about Calman Plus.

But in the Sunday Herald? Buried away at the bottom of page four, we have a small headline Bill to give Holyrood new income tax powers, and a couple of hundred words which grudgingly include the following, by Tom Gordon Scottish political editor.

The Scotland Bill will omit several Calman ideas. including devolving the aggregates levy, which could raise £50 million a year, and air passenger duty, which could raise £100m.”

Well, not a lot on this fundamental issue for Scotland, Tom, but then you had to save your energies for a full-blown attack on the SNP and John Swinney (backed up by a Leader article) – The Week it all went wrong on page 20. Here, our heroically objective political editor, in what is an opinion article in the guise of political analysis, devotes an entire page to a non-issue – the tartan tax – and the attempt at the political lynching of a decent man of high integrity that disgraced our Parliament last week.

Here are a few choice examples of Tom Gordon’s objective journalism and political analysis -

After what I can only describe as a faintly contemptible lead-in referring the John Swinney’s three-week old son, Gordon opens with -

Within 48 hours, he would be denounced and vilified, and within a week he would be forced into a grovelling apology at  Holyrood.”

You got it right about the denunciation and vilification, Tom – a sad hysteria that Patrick Harvie had the good grace to try to offset by  his genuine tribute to the Finance Minister, as he belatedly realised that he had become part of a political lynch mob. Describing John Swinney’s dignified and clear apology as ‘grovelling’ is a patent distortion of the facts, as anyone who watched and heard it knows. (I have the clip and I will post it on YouTube).

First Iain Gray, in probably his finest turn as Labour Leader, accused Swinney …”

If that was his finest turn, God preserve us from his worst performance.

In the last column, there is a long list of what the Sunday Herald sees as the sins of the SNP government, then this, from Tom Gordon -

Suddenly the gilt is peeling off the administration, and the opposition sees it.

‘This raise the whole issue of competence,’ sighed one senior SNP source. ‘It all came across as shabby. We’re supposed to have a team you can trust, but they were keeping people in the dark’ “

Ah, the ubiquitous ‘unnamed source’, Tom. What would your brand of political reporting be without it.

Well, two can play that game, Tom …

My unnamed source Holyrood Unionist opposition politician says “Even by our standards of desperately trying to marginalise the government elected by the Scottish people, regardless of their real needs, this was a new low in gutter politics – an attempt at the political assassination of a good man with the interests of Scotland and the Scottish people at his heart.



CALMAN

Let’s look back in time for a moment and remind ourselves just what the Calman Commission was. Here’s what I said way back in the summer of 2009 -

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Playing Unionist politics with Calman

The Calman Commission, an invention of the Unionist Opposition Parties in Holyrood, specifically set up to strengthen the Union and frustrate the progress of the Scottish People towards full independence, has made its report.

Anyone who doubted the thrust of the Calman Report only had to look at who commissioned it (the Unionist Opposition Parties) and the composition of the Commission itself.

Its fifteen members included -

Two Knights

Five Lords

One MBE

Three CBEs

One OBE

The three non-ennobled, knighted or gonged members included -

A youth activist and former member of the Scottish Youth Parliament

A professor of Islamic studies from Glasgow University

The Chief Executive of the Telegraph Media Group

 

CONSULANTS

I do go on a bit about the monumental waste of scarce taxpayers’ money by government on consultants. Well, I made my living for about twelve years as a freelance management consultant and trainer, and before that, as a senior manager and director, negotiated with consultants, so I’ve seen the game from both sides of the table.

But nobody in government seems to want to listen. I wonder why …

Today, the trams project is in trouble over consultants, and TIE says that they underestimated their consulting budget spending by a factor of 25 times. Yes, well …

Here’s a little fact to chew over -

The average industrial wage is somewhere around £21k, and that is also the watershed at which the pay freeze for public sector workers commences. Let’s allow a little licence and call it about £400 a week.

About the lowest day rate a consultant will charge these days is £500 a dayyes, a day … This would be the low end of individual freelance consulting rates, with £750 probably being more typical, and £1200/1500 quite common. But charge-out rates for the large consulting firms can easily be double these figures or even more, with £1000 a day being very much the low end.

Reflect on this. The bottom end trainers and consultants earn in a day one and a quarter times the average industrial wage. So their weekly earnings are six and a quarter times those public service workers who by current wage restraint figure highly enough paid to have their earning frozen, with no increases – in the national interest. And that’s the bottom end of consulting rates.

But the big consulting firms charge from twice to four or five times that as day rates, giving a multiplier on the £21k public service worker of twelve and a half to twenty five times their earnings.

Consultants and consulting firms can – and will – legitimately argue that they have overheads – office, pensions, holiday, other costs and benefits – and that not every day is a fee earning day. This is true, but it is grossly overstated. A generous allowance to cover all employee benefits would be 20/25% for an individual freelance consultant.  There is cold calling and marketing when no fee is being earned, and this does bear on the freelance. But they do very nicely, thank you, in spite of it all …

A net working, fee earning year of about 150 delivery days (as against say, a working year of  about 230 days for an employed person) would deliver £75,000 gross. Not bad for many of those at that end of the market, given their experience, qualifications and skills base. Most freelances would gross from £100k to £150k per annum , some much more, especially if they can get long periods of continuous fee-earning days from large public service organisations.

As for the big boys – well, the holy grail for them is to bill more fee days per consultant than there actually are in the working year – a holy grail that is regularly found, but rarely acknowledged. And many of them do not in fact maintain large numbers of salaried consultants on the payroll – they sub-contract out to freelances, but charge the client often as much as three times the day rate being paid to the freelance. (I myself have worked for many large organisations on exactly this basis.)

It’s called the fee law of thirds – the day rate paid by the client represents something like three times the rate they would have to pay to hire someone with equivalent qualifications and skills to do the job in-house, including all overheads.

What am I arguing for? Not for stopping the use of consultants – there are many ethical, competent and capable consultants and consulting firms, delivering value and charging reasonable fees. But there is also gross incompetence in resourcing consultants, in the failure to use competitive tendering, in the negotiation of fee and in the management of consulting contracts and delivery. If private industry is guilty of this, hell mend them – they should know better. But when government does it, it’s our money – our taxes – and it has to stop.

There are other malpractices in the use of consultants, some of them bordering on corruption – the use of consulting contracts as political patronage, of cronyism, of revolving doors, of jobs for the favoured boys – and girls.

But they are a matter for the National Audit Office and where appropriate for the polis!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Alex Salmond on Scottish tax powers

The undernoted was published by the SNP today, and includes a letter to the Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore, by the First Minister today – the highlights in colour of certain passages are mine, and were not in the original document.

Salmond puts UK straight on Scottish tax power

2010-11-19

Alex Salmond has set the UK Government straight over the tax powers available to the Scottish Parliament.  In a public letter to the Scottish Secretary Mr Salmond responds to a series of inaccurate claims from the Scottish secretary about the future of the 3p tax power.

The SNP has always made clear that the current tartan tax is an unfair and regressive tax.

The full letter is below:

LETTER FROM THE FIRST MINISTER – ALEX SALMOND TO THE UK GOVERNMENT 19t Nov 2010

Your letter of 18 November about the Scottish variable rate of income tax (SVR) is a travesty of the position. The reality is as follows.

The then Scottish Executive paid the UK Government £12 million in 2000 to add SVR functionality to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) tax collection systems. Thereafter, an annual fee of £50,000 was paid.

HMRC said in 2007 that additional work was needed to maintain the readiness of the IT system, and in summer 2008 made clear that they would be installing a new IT platform. Scottish Government officials attempted to elicit information on what this meant for Scotland and the functionality of the 3p tax power.

We were finally asked on 28 July this year to pay over the sum of £7 million to HMRC for this purpose. Why nowhere in your letter did you mention this.demand?

Anyone proposing paying this £7 million to HMRC would need to explain where the equivalent cuts would be made in Scottish public spending.

And even if we had paid it - at a time when Scotland is on the receiving end of massive cuts to our budget from your government - the SVR under the new system could not have been implemented until 2012/13: another key point which you failed to mention.

In any case, at that stage it seemed an academic debate because the SVR itself is set to be replaced under any version of the legislation which you intend to introduce in the next few weeks.

On 20 August, Scottish Government officials offered talks with HMRC on the issue of the SVR - an offer which has not been responded to. The first we have heard from the UK government on the matter since 20 August is your letter of yesterday.

It is clearly unacceptable that Scotland should be asked to pay, again, for something which millions of pounds have previously been paid for. If HMRC choose to replace their IT systems, that is clearly a matter for them. However, anyone would expect them in specifying their new systems to replicate the functionality of the old.

No Scottish administration has used the 3p tax power, none of the main parties in Scotland advocate using it now, and it is intended to be overtaken by the Tory/Lib Dem Calman financial proposals - flawed measures which, had they been established for the start of the current spending review, would have resulted in the Scottish Budget being £900 million lower in 2009/10.

The real issue, therefore, would appear to be about the future.

You stated - as did Danny Alexander in his letter to me of 20 October this year about the Spending Review settlement - that: "it is an established principle that the costs of devolution should be met from the Scottish Budget."

This is not the case - in fact, the opposite is true.

HM Treasury's recently-updated Statement of Funding Policy states at paragraph 3.2.8 that:

"Where decisions of United Kingdom departments or agencies lead to additional costs for any of the devolved administrations, where other arrangements do not exist automatically to adjust for such extra costs, the body whose decision leads to the additional cost will meet that cost."

The clear impression can only be that your letter was not about the cost of financial powers that are going to be superseded, but rather about establishing a precedent for the Scottish Government paying to install and administer the Calman tax proposals - which unlike the SVR will require to be used every year.

Given the huge pressures on the Scottish public purse because of your government's spending cuts - and the further threat to our budget from the Calman proposals themselves - we need answers to these key questions as a matter of urgency:

How much is the UK Government intending to ask the Scottish Government to pay for the Calman tax powers - measures which could reduce Scotland's budget, as indicated above?

When do you propose asking the Scottish Government, and therefore the Scottish people, to pay?

Exactly when would these financial powers be capable of being implemented?

A copy of this letter goes like yours to Annabel Goldie MSP, Iain Gray MSP, Margo MacDonald MSP, Tavish Scott MSP and Patrick Harvie MSP, and David Gauke MP, and also to the leaders of the Scottish parties at Westminster: Angus Robertson MP, Ann McKechin MP, and David Mundell MP. I am also sending copies to John Swinney and Fiona Hyslop.

Given that you released your letter to the media, I am also releasing this.

ALEX SALMOND