An interesting exchange right at the very end of an evidence session to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee at the Scottish Parliament this week.
A panel of pro-independence business people had just been talking up what they saw as the potential of independence. One of them was Jim McColl, one of Alex Salmond’s key business and economic advisers.
Convener Murdo Fraser took the bull by the horns:
The Convener: I have a final question for Mr McColl. You sound a bit like a reluctant yes voter, because you said that further devolution was your preferred model. If a substantial package of further devolution was on offer from the unionist parties, might you be tempted to vote for that instead of independence?
Jim McColl: I am interested in the fiscal powers. Rupert Soames said that if the Government reduces the corporation tax rate it has to put something else up. That is nonsense. The Irish corporation tax rate is 12.5 per cent, and the Irish Government takes 40 per cent more in corporation tax, in absolute terms, than we take. Rupert Soames obviously did not do the economics 101 course at university.
Marie Macklin talked about how reducing some taxes stimulates the economy and leads to more tax being taken in. I want us to have the powers to vary tax rates. I would need to see what was on offer. If that was on offer, then fine, I would consider it.
So, if there was a decent enough proposal for further devolution, he might be amenable to voting to stay in the UK.
Like I say, an interesting development and a challenge that those of us who want to see a Federal UK should grab enthusiastically.