Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Sunday, 6 December 2009

Forsyth: Calman call for more Holyrood powers 'crazy'

Lord Forsyth
Lord Forsyth said the plans would hurt Scotland

The Conservatives' last Scottish secretary has branded plans to beef up Holyrood's powers under the Calman review of devolution "crazy".

Lord Forsyth said the UK government-backed proposals, including more tax powers, could cost Scotland billions at a time of economic uncertainty.

The peer also urged Gordon Brown to stage an independence referendum ballot at the next UK election.

Lord Forsyth argued the people would vote against independence.

The current Scottish secretary, Jim Murphy, has endorsed several proposals put forward by the Calman Commission, which was established with Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat backing.

The question would be, 'do you want to remain part of the United Kingdom? Yes or no?
Lord Forsyth

These include cutting income tax by 10p in Scotland and reducing the Treasury block grant, leaving it to Holyrood to make up the difference.

As well as other taxes, Holyrood would be given new powers on capital borrowing, with Scotland having to repay the cash through increasing tax.

But Lord Forsyth, who served as Scottish secretary before Labour's 1997 election victory, told BBC Scotland's Politics Show: "I know there's a great consensus about the Calman Commission report among the unionists in the Scottish Parliament.

"I think these proposals are crazy."

Spending squeeze

He explained: "The Calman report says that we should move to a needs-based system of funding.

"When we looked at this in the House of Lords in the select committee, we reckoned it would result in Scotland losing about £3bn at the moment - on top of the existing reductions in public expenditure that will come because of our situation. How's that gap going to be plugged?

"If the answer is, it's going to be plugged by putting up taxes in Scotland so we have a tax gradient north and south of the border when we're trying to re-build our economy, it's a very silly question to ask."

Lord Forsyth went on to say the Prime Minister should stage an independence referendum, which he said would settle the case for the Union for the next generation.

He said: "The question would be, 'do you want to remain part of the United Kingdom? Yes or no?'.

"Gordon Brown should put that question on a ballot paper at the same time as people choose their MPs at the next election."

The Scottish government wants to stage an independence referendum in 2010, but so far lacks enough parliamentary support for it.

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