Monday, November 20, 2006


The news that Jack McConnell is willing to stand up to the treasury in support of corporation tax cuts is the best news for the Scottish economy for years. I never thought he had it in him.

This is certainly a great turnaround. For 3 years I tried to get the Scottish Liberal Democrats to at least discuss such a proposal & was eventually expelled, the party Executive having unanimously endorsed a report on me saying that such a proposal was "too right wing" to even think about (the founders of the original Liberal Party who were followers of Adam Smith must be spinning in their graves).

Last year, after the SNP came out for cutting corporations tax, the Scotsman published a letter from me (letter 25/3/5) saying the SNP were now "easily the most economically competent party in Britain"

Ireland's success in going from 2/3rds our standard of living in 1989 to 40% better off is astounding & more noticeable in Scotland than Westminster.

Nonetheless this almost complete reversal of Holyrood political opinion shows how, by trying the job, our politicians are growing from posturing ex-councilors to real leaders.

However to achieve Ireland's growth rate we need not just low corporation tax but also to reduce the regulatory thicket, particularly on house building, as they did.

On top of this news we have another report that Labour's Scottish manifesto will contain a promise that nuclear must be part of the mix.

Labour's glossy final manifesto policy document, agreed by ministers, MSPs and senior activists, is almost mocking. "No political party can be taken seriously on climate change if it refuses out of hand to consider any source of energy generation that is carbon free, such as renewable energy or nuclear."

Nice to see Scottish Labour trying to be taken seriously.

Seriously. Taking this together with McConnell's decision to go for corporation tax reductions if Northern Ireland gets them we are looking at, an at least nominally, sensible Labour party.

Lets not go too far - after all these aren't promises but just offers to look at, they are also made in a pre-election period when cynicism is justified & finally we have the experience of Jack's previous promise just before the last election, that economic growth would his "number one priority" followed by a full term of doing almost nothing. Also we should note that support of corporation tax cuts can mean no more than a token cut & that Labour's national nuclear plans still involve spending about 5 years deciding whether French & American reactors can be licensed as workable & Hunterston & Torness suitable as sites for new reactors despite the obvious fact that they have been doing so for decades. Since Hunterson is due to close in 2011 & it takes 4 years to build a reactor we obviously cannot spend an extra 5 on paperwork.

Nonetheless it is clear that we are seeing an enormous shift in the Scottish "political class" & that there is now, at least if manifestos are to be trusted, a large majority for classic liberal economic growth policies & if those SNP supporters opposed to blackouts say so, also for nuclear power.

If we can match Ireland's growth with cuts in corporation tax & regulations we can exceed it if we also build enough economical reliable nuclear electricity.

The difficulty will be keeping them to more than token acts after the election & of course moving "respectable" political opinion on our other policies.

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