The Scottish Conservatives have announced that Former CBI Scotland director, Iain McMillan CBE, is to lead a new independent Commission for Competitive and Fair Taxation in Scotland.
The commission will examine how best the Scottish Parliament should use existing and new tax powers to boost economic growth in Scotland.
It will also make recommendations on public sector spending so Scotland can have a competitive tax system and the funding to support vital public services.
The six-member Commission will be completed by award-winning business journalist Bill Jamieson, former Scottish Enterprise chief executive Jack Perry CBE, ex-chairman of Barr Construction Tony Rush, leading economist Dr Andrew Lilico and tax expert Rhona Irving.
They will be advised by Scotland’s leading public finance expert, Professor Arthur Midwinter.
The decision to set up the commission follows the Smith Agreement last year which – following on from the Calman Commission – will ensure that around a half of all Scottish Government spending will soon come from taxes raised directly in Scotland.
The Scottish Conservatives announced last October that it had decided to set up a commission to study how best these new taxes should be used to boost economic growth in Scotland.
As well as studying the new range of tax powers, the commission will also examine existing taxes, including council tax and business rates.
The commission will meet entirely independently of the Scottish Conservative party and report back before the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016.
Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, says: ‘Huge new powers over taxation are coming to Holyrood and I want a clear plan for how those powers can be best used to encourage enterprise, fund public services and give taxpayers a fair break.
‘The independent Commission for Competitive and Fair Taxation in Scotland brings together some of the best minds in Scottish public life to examine how we take forward these new tax powers.
‘It will be completely independent from the Conservative party and they will have free rein to make recommendations as they wish. My only aim here is to ensure they have one ambitious goal – to find a way forward which helps to make Scotland the most dynamic place to work and live in Europe.
‘To do that, we need to start thinking big
‘As the new tax powers come to the parliament, we need to send out a big, bold message through our political choices that we are up for creating an enterprise culture that will keep and attract talent, create jobs and so help pay for our public services.
‘We have so much going for us already – a wonderful landscape, great people and a can-do society.
‘I want a young tech entrepreneur living in Bathgate, Brighton, Bologne or Bourbon to look at Scotland and think – that’s the place to be and stay.
‘We’re in a competitive international market for people and ideas and we have to grab that opportunity.
‘I’m delighted that Iain McMillan has agreed to chair the commission. As a former member of the Calman Commission and the last director of CBI Scotland he is in a unique position to understand how we use new tax powers to boost enterprise in Scotland.
‘His fellow commission members bring huge experience and knowledge, and show that we want to bring the best minds to bear on how we take Scotland forward.
‘I hope businesses, think-tanks, public bodies and other political parties will all engage with the commission in the coming months.
‘The Scottish Conservatives want to find a plan which puts the interests of taxpayers at the heart of the new Scotland. This commission will help us in that vital task.’
Head of the commission, Iain McMillan, says: ‘I am delighted that Ruth Davidson has asked me to chair this new and independent commission.
‘After the Calman and Smith proposals on tax become available to the Scottish Parliament, Scotland will raise more than half of its devolved public spending compared to less than 10 per cent now.
‘So, it will be vital that the Scottish Government and parliament get our future tax levels right in order to retain and attract entrepreneurial talent, build an entrepreneurial and wealthy Scotland while funding adequately our public services.
‘If tax is too high, it could lead to the destruction of Scotland’s economic proposition to ourselves and the outside world as an enterprising and rewarding economy.
‘Too low, and the funding of our vital public services could be put at risk.
‘“I am looking forward to working with my commission colleagues and l hope very much that our work will serve as a useful contribution to this important debate.’
The Commission’s remit
Following both the Calman and Smith Commission proposals, extensive new taxation powers are set to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, including the power to set all income tax rates and bands.
In addition, the existing powers held by devolved authorities in Scotland – over local government taxation and business rates – have not been reviewed since devolution, and now require fresh examination.
The Scottish Conservative Party has therefore decided to set up an “Independent Commission for Competitive and Fair Taxation in Scotland” to examine these existing and new taxation powers with the aim of assessing how best they can be used to promote Scotland’s economy and competitiveness.
The Commission will be independent of the Scottish Conservatives and seek to find balance between a taxation system which achieves that objective while ensuring strong and sustainable public services and a regime which is fair to the taxpayer.
To this end, the Commission will also examine spending in Scottish and local government.
It will report back before the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 and provide recommendations.
Potted biographies of Commission members
The make up of this commission if very interesting and potentially exciting. It is not exclusive Conservative, with the eminent Professor Arthur Midwinter a former adviser to the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Group. And Dr Andrew Lilico’s biography could hardy be full of more surprises.
This does look like a group of experts spread widely over a range of necessary disciplines and experience – who look as if their brainstorming and working-up sessions will be a lot of fun.
Iain McMillan is one of Scotland’s most respected public figures, retiring from his post as Director of CBI Scotland last year after holding the key business post for nearly twenty years.
He is the author and co-author of a number of publications on public policy relating to business and economics.
He is also chairman of the University of Strathclyde Business School’s Advisory Board, chairman of Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland, chairman of the Scottish North American Business Council and a trustee of The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.
And in 2009, Iain was appointed by Her Majesty The Queen to be Honorary Air Commodore of 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
He was educated at Bearsden Academy and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland; Fellow of the Association of International Accountants; Companion of the Chartered Management Institute; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; and Fellow of the Scottish Qualifications Authority. In 2003, Iain was awarded the CBE for services to lifelong learning in Scotland.
Bill Jamieson was executive editor of The Scotsman for 11 years, regularly writing about finance, economics, politics and current affairs. He was also the economics columnist for sister title Scotland on Sunday and prior to that was economics editor of The Sunday Telegraph for seven years.
He has been a regular contributor to the Spectator Business magazine and City AM and frequently commentates on business and economics affairs for BBC Scotland. In 2009 he won both Business Journalist of the Year and Journalist of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards British Economy and Scotland’s Ten Tomorrows. He collected Campaign of the Year Award for The Scotsman for its series of articles on the Lloyds-HBOS merger. Since stepping down from The Scotsman, he has established Scott-Buzz, the one-stop business news website aiming provide a daily update and comment on Scottish economic and business data.
Rhona Irving is a leading tax expert and was Tax Partner at PwC until her retirement last year. Rhona has made a significant contribution to business and the development of public policy in Scotland in a number of roles including membership of the CBI Scotland Council.
Jack Perry is the former chief executive of Scottish Enterprise. Prior to this he was the managing partner of Ernst & Young in Glasgow and Regional Industry Leader for Scotland and Northern Ireland for Ernst & Young’s Technology & Communications practice.
Educated at both the University of Glasgow and Strathclyde, he is a science graduate as well as a chartered accountant and a United States certified public accountant. From 2001 to 2003, Jack took office as chairman of CBI Scotland, having been a member of the CBI Scotland Council since 1996. And in 2009, he retired from Scottish Enterprise to pursue a career as an independent non-executive board member and adviser. He was awarded a CBE in the 2010 New Year Honours List.
Tony Rush is former chairman of construction group Barr Ltd, the Paisley-based construction company.
Born into a family of house builders in Derbyshire, Tony changed the way Barr Ltd operated, by splitting the business into four operational units.
Dr Andrew Lilico
Andrew Lilico is an economist with Europe Economics, and chairman of the IEA Shadow Monetary Policy Committee. He’s also been a mathematical chemist, an opera singer, a philosopher and computer programmer.
One of Europe’s top experts on the economic impact of financial regulation, he led the teams doing the European Parliament’s assessment of the impact of the Financial Services Action Plan, the European Commission’s assessment of the costs of complying with financial regulation, and the Financial Service Authority’s assessment of the benefits of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. He is a regular commentator on economic issues on BBC television and radio, and on Sky, Bloomberg and CNBC Europe.
Professor Arthur Midwinter
Arthur Midwinter is an associate professor in the Institute of Public Sector Accounting Research in the University of Edinburgh. He is also a former Professor of Politics at University of Strathclyde, where he was Dean of Arts and Social Sciences.
From 2002 to 2007, he was budget adviser to the Scottish Parliament and from 2007 to March 2011 he was an advisor to the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Group.
Arthur does financial consultancy work for a range of public sector bodies and professional associations.