Legal Business

Be wary of vaulting ambition as competition ramps up in Scotland

An interesting battle is raging in Scotland on levels large and small. In early May, the Scottish National Party (SNP) swept to victory in 56 of the 59 seats available to it in the General Election and party leader Nicola Sturgeon pressed prime minister David Cameron to revisit the draft legislation on devolving more powers to Holyrood. Bolstered by a suddenly soaring national profile, the SNP leader claimed the proposed reforms were not in the spirit of the Smith Commission’s recommendations following the referendum on independence last year. Entente cordiale persists, but there’s an undercurrent of tension on both sides as the 300-year-old union has never looked under more pressure.

This tussle will continue for some time yet as, although the SNP hasn’t pushed for a second independence referendum, that threat will never be far from the table. The UK government might take a more phlegmatic approach and give the SNP exactly what it is asking for… and more. Cameron has been reportedly pressed by some senior Tories to call Sturgeon’s bluff and put full fiscal autonomy on the table, believing the SNP may baulk as that would leave the Scots on the hook for budget collection and cuts as well as spending, potentially leaving the Scots government with an £8bn hole in its budget.