I FIND it ironic that Alyn Smith’s article “Scotland needs the power to solve energy issues” (Nov 1) makes the undoubted case for us to be independent yet the route to independence approved at the recent SNP conference makes the likelihood of Westminster devolving energy to the Scottish Parliament, or independence anytime soon, a dream which will never die, but a dream compromised by the actions of the SNP which amount to Scotland accepting its status as a sub-culture of the UK based on the consent of the UK Government.

Even if Alyn is content to perpetuate this sub-culture, one would expect that as a lawyer, he would have taken the time to examine what the Scottish Parliament could do under the devolution settlement to address the cost-of-living crisis. The mitigations so far are welcome but modest, while a little more imagination and thought would have opened his mind to the opportunities which the Scotland Act provides.

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While energy policy is reserved to Westminster, the ability to tax the heritable assets and interests of the energy distributors is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Heritable assets and interests include pipes, cables, pylons, and every sort of erection attached to, or which runs under, through or over the ground, notwithstanding that the ground is not owned by the distributors.

I note that under the Non-domestic Rates (Scotland) Act 2020 these heritable assets are not rated. The terms of reference of the Barclay Report on Non-domestic Rates 2017 inexplicably excluded rating these assets or expanding the overall tax take from commercial rates. No reason is given.

Mains gas and electricity cables and pipes in Scotland are estimated to be 165,000km. If they were flat-rated at £37 per metre that would raise around £6 billion for the Scottish Government and/or local authorities which could be reimbursed to the three million domestic and business consumers, wiping out most, if not all, of their mains energy costs. In other words, the Scottish Government has the power to deliver free mains energy, all paid for by the energy companies.

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Given the vast excess profits made by the parent companies of these distributors and the fact that Scotland is a net exporter of energy, they will be well able to afford these rates. Such payments would be deducted from their gross income, thus their liability for taxes reserved to the UK would be considerably reduced. If they obtained Ofgem consent to increase their charges to consumers, then the Scottish Government could simply increase the rate per metre which the distributors had to pay.

Here is a proposal which does not require the consent of the UK Government, benefits all households and businesses, is simple to devise and manage and would deliver for the Scottish Government electoral success at a scale which will propel us on to independence. Any attempt by the UK Government to interfere in this initiative would be the best recruiting sergeant the Yes movement could wish for.

Graeme McCormick

MORE devolution will solve nothing. Ask one question: Does devolving [x power] measurably reduce the dominance afforded the British state by the Union? If the answer is yes, or even maybe, then [x power] is NOT going to be devolved. EVER!

Or, if it is devolved, it will be partial and piecemeal and purposely contrived to cause difficulties for the Scottish Government.

Devolution does not work to Scotland’s benefit. If it did, it would never have happened. Devolution was long ago weaponised as just another means of keeping Scotland under the heel of the Union.

Peter A Bell
via thenational.scot