The Odious Smith Commission 244

From the warm embrace of passionate citizen activism, Scotland’s future passed to the cold hands of hardened political hacks in closeted rooms. It is a physical impossibility that all 14,000 submissions from the public received by mid-October were even read, led alone properly considered. I am willing to bet most were not even opened.

No, this was the very worst kind of deal-making by callous political operatives, where party interests came first, second and last. I do not give a fig for the result. Income tax devolution is of minimal use if other major taxes are set from London and most income still comes from a Westminster “grant”. Revenue from oil and whisky will still be treated in government accounts as “UK” rather than arising in Scotland. It is far short of the quasi Federal powers which No voters were promised and the Lib Dems pretend to believe in.

Actually, I do not give a fig for the Smith Commission. I want to live in a country where the Westminster establishment does not send our children to fight and die in illegal wars, and which does not harbour weapons of mass destruction. I want a country where governance is decided by citizens and not cooked up the way of this sordid, sordid deal.

That is not to say we should not take advantage of any minor opportunities for increasing social fairness in Scotland that may accrue. But given the continued Westminster stranglehold on overall funding levels, they will be minor indeed.

Nor will I disdain the amusement afforded by the total intellectual mess into which the Labour Party has landed itself. If non-Scottish MPs in Westminster cannot vote on Scottish levels of income tax, it would be absolutely wrong for Scottish MPs to vote on English, Welsh or Northern Irish levels of income tax. That is unanswerable, yet the Labour Party cannot bring itself to acknowledge it. This should be fun.

For those wanting a detailed analysis, we have the excellent Stuart Campbell.

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244 thoughts on “The Odious Smith Commission

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  • Mary

    I want to live in a country where the Westminster establishment does not send our children to fight and die in illegal wars, and which does not harbour weapons of mass destruction. I want a country where governance is decided by citizens and not cooked up the way of this sordid, sordid deal.

    Hear, Hear Craig.

  • Courtenay Barnett


    Commissions of Inquiry are often times exercises in selective spin. The inquiry to which you referred reflects the same general process that was occasioned in the Turks and Caicos Islands under Sir Robin Auld.

    Most interesting was his avoidance of directly pointing an accusing at a certain highly placed Treasurer in Cameron’s Conservative party.

    But the events after the Inquiry are as disturbing as what happened before the Inquiry took place….read on….

    “For the UK it is all about the money, the money…not justice

    More than five years after the suspension of the TCI constitution, it is now clear that the United Kingdom’s excursion into TCI’s internal affairs is more about finding lucrative employment for retired and semi-retired British civil servants, policemen, and lawyers, than cleaning up corruption. Readers might think that conclusion is cynical, and it may be, but all I ask is that you give me five minutes as the evidence could not be more compelling.

    First, if the UK Government wanted to clean up corruption in the TCI, it could not have done a worse job. The best solution would have been to send a few Scotland Yard detectives to the TCI, posing as investors, to confirm that bribes were being solicited or, as the SIPT suggests, demanded by Ministers as the price to play. If that was done, and if there was rampant and systemic corruption as Auld has suggested, irrefutable evidence of the SIPT’s allegations could have been easily recorded, putting the FCO’s case beyond all doubt, and charges and trials could have been brought and completed within a year, avoiding the need for expensive and protracted investigations and prosecutions, by retired and semi-retired former British civil servants, all while living it up in five star beachfront resorts at the TCI taxpayer’s expense.

    Second, what we got instead is a bizarre show in the form of a Commission of Inquiry (“COI”), held at a five star beachfront resort, and presided over by retired British judge Sir Robin Auld, along with a cast of other British characters. While that exercise was entertaining, it was very expensive entertainment, it shut the country down for months, with Government being distracted and dysfunctional for several months before the COI and for many months afterwards. Likewise with many member of the community. Even worse yet, it put Auld’s subjects on alert that they were the targets of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). If the FCO wanted to catch criminals, and tackle corruption, that was the worse way to do so, but don’t draw any conclusions yet.

    Third, following Auld’s COI, UK law firm Edwards Wildman was engaged to recover assets, for which it has charged the TCI more than $13M, to collect just over $19.5M in cash. That firm now attends international conferences on corruption, bragging about the hundreds of acres it has recovered for the people of the TCI, describing its efforts as one of the most extensive asset recovery programs in the world. What it fails to mention is that despite ‘the extensive scope of its work’, it has left untouched the largest allegations of misappropriation of public assets in the history of the TCI, involving contracts in the hundreds of millions and land in the thousands of acres. You don’t need to be too imaginative to guess that the lucky recipient of that myopia just happens to be a powerful and politically connected British subject, with tentacles reaching to the highest levels of the UK’s conservative party.

    Fourth, in addition to Edwards Wildman’s TCI gravy train, Helen Garlic, a semi retired former employee in the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), was also hired by the FCO in 2009. She had been ‘sacked’ by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006, over an expensive two-year investigation, which the UK Government forced her to shut down. In August 2009, after languishing in private practice for three years, but more or less behaving, the FCO returned the favour, and asked Garlic to quote on heading up criminal investigations and possible prosecutions of Auld’s COI subjects, a financial opportunity she jumped on, quoting six million dollars for a two year contract. Once engaged, with no effective oversight, Garlic’s joyride has gone from madness to even greater madness, with her hiring dozens of retired, white, former officers of London’s MET, along with a half dozen or so white English lawyers. What started out as a two year engagement, with a trove of evidence handed to her SIPT by Auld, and given to him by the very persons Garlic was investigating, more than five years and fifty million dollars later, has turned into a fleecing of the TCI taxpayer.

    Fifth, as for the FCO’s seriousness about fighting corruption, the SIPT has been consistently side tracked by matters outside their remit, including ponzi schemes and stamp duty prosecutions, all while on the public’s purse. Finally, and we suggest that it is now safe to draw conclusions, even when attending to its corruption investigations, shockingly, white anglo saxon developers Garlic says paid bribes have consistently been the recipients of backroom deals involving the sale of Get Out of Jail Cards. In all but one case the expats Garlic says paid bribes have gotten off entirely free, with at least three well known cases of persons she says paid bribes now actively involved in promoting local businesses, with several key persons sitting at the very top of the local tourism industry.

    After more than five years, with trials no where in sight, Garlic’s shambolic investigations have turned out to be more of a racket than part of a criminal justice system. Unlike The Auld Show, the SIPT’s investigations are not just painful to watch, they are offensive to the TCI’s sense of right and wrong, and Garlic’s SIPT has brought the entire TCI judicial system into disrepute. Large swathes of the public now believe that even the judiciary is a joke, at best blindly overseeing a rigged criminal justice system, and at worst being the handmaiden of a prosecutor who has written and is implementing the selective enforcement of this country’s criminal laws. In 2009 Garlic SIPT was welcomed to these Islands by a large segment of the community like a rock star, more than five years later she is the target of picketers, with even her defendants’ most ardent enemies distancing themselves from what has been a disgraceful abuse of investigative authority and a shameful lining of her pockets at the taxpayer’s expense.

    This might have all been dismissed as gross incompetence and sloppiness if Garlic’s SIPT had indulged in a two year investigation, as originally contracted, but what we have here is a lavishly funded investigation that is more than half a decade in the works, that was given a head start, involving dozens of senior UK police officers, that have cost TCI taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. My view, to put it bluntly, is that this fleecing of the the TCI public, while turning a blind eye to the biggest incidences of corruption, is an egregious form corruption in itself. Yes, corruption. I also have a theory, which is that it is also a clever scheme pushed by Garlic’s SIPT to keep their gravy train rolling, permitted because of the UK’s stated policy of exporting its legal services, its long standing desire to reward washed up and/or retired British civil servants and technocrats, and its indifference to corruption that benefits anglo saxon Britons. If you think my views are far off the mark, just Google “UK Legal Services on the International Stage: Underpinning growth and stability”, or conveniently clink the link below. You only need to read the first page.

    While more than two centuries have past since the U.K. abolished slavery, the people of the Caribbean are still treated as chattels for the financial benefit of the English, with hypocritical lip service to rule of law, justice, and other grand ideals, but can you say Ka-Ching? It is all about the money, the money, not justice.

    John Thompson “

  • fred

    “I’m behind the eight-ball here. Poll taxes, bedroom taxes et al. Isn’t this more important?”

    The Nationalists were hoping that Westminster wouldn’t give Scotland tax raising powers like they said they would so they would have an excuse to keep harping on about another neverendum.

  • Vronsky

    Stu Campbell isn’t entirely a one-man band, but he’s very nearly so. It’s utterly staggering that the only objective, fact-checking journalism in this country today is produced by a former computer games reviewer, funded by begging.

  • Republicofscotland

    So they’re offering Holyrood the bare minimum, and depending who’s in government at the time, Holyrood may not even get that. Combine that with the useless tax powers, that will see cash taken from the block grant to match the tax powers, and the whole scenario seems like a ruse.

    Add in the unionist press, who’s front page headlines claim its a win win for Scotland, and the deception is complete.

    This will let David Cameron off the hook and allow him to concentrate on his EVEL plan (English Votes for English laws).

    still not convinced, check this out.

  • Republicofscotland

    I welcome all new powers – and pay tribute to Lord Smith – but 70% of our taxes and 85% of welfare staying at Westminster not real home rule

    Income tax will remain a shared tax’. So not 100% devolution as spun by Westminster parties.


    The First Minister is definitely not impressed.

  • Kempe

    Holyrood has had the power to vary the rate of income tax by up to 3p in the Pound since 1999. Why has it never used it?

  • Republicofscotland

    The Scotland Act 1998 granted the Scottish Parliament the power to vary income tax by +/- 3p in every pound. This power is often referred to as the tartan tax, a phrase first used by Conservative financier and politician Michael Forsyth as a way of attacking the power.

    Using the idea of ‘tartan’ to get across the idea that it would be an extra tax on Scots alone. However, the phrase “tartan tax” would only correctly apply if the tax were varied upwards – no phrase has yet been suggested if the tax were varied downwards. To date, the Scottish Parliament has chosen not to utilise its tax-varying powers.

    Kempe the SVR only applied to Scotland, I imagine the tax wasn’t used because it wouldn’t be fair to tax Scots more than the rest of the UK, nor would it be helpful to lower it and receive less income.

    In my opinion you need all the levers of power, in order to implement a viable plan whilst in government, not just the odd one here and there.

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)


    I pay tribute – of course – to the vehemence of your post, which I attribute at least in part to your wish to play a political rôle in Scotland in the future. A wish which is entirely legitimate and to which I have absolutely no objection – unlike some of your erstwhile admirers on here.

    But there are two small details which leave me a little puzzled and you might wish to come back to them. Both are contained in your:

    “Revenue from oil and whisky will still be treated in government accounts as “UK” rather than arising in Scotland. It is far short of the quasi Federal powers which No voters were promised”

    1/. When you say “It is far short of the quasi Federal powers which No voters were promised”, can you remind me who was promising exactly what (perhaps together with a link to a reliable source)?

    I myself don’t recall anyone promising “Federal powers” although perhaps someone did promise “quasi Federal powers” – whatever you mean by that somewhat “elastic” term?

    2/. When you mention “revenue” from oil and whisky, are you talking about excise duties and PET? Even if Scotland were to be part of a “federal” system (see 1/. above), would that give it the right to retain excise duties and PET? Are you, in that connection, conversant with the financial arrangements obtaining between the federal and state levels in that acme of federal states, Germany?


    By the way, I am not impressed by the link you give, which certainly does not live up to its “detailed analysis” billing. Unless I’ve missed something, it remains silent on oil and whisky revenues, preferring to spend a lot of time bemoaning the unfairness of Scotland being allowed to keep the first 10 percentage points of VAT raised there but having the block grant cut by an equivalent amount. Why, exactly, is that “unfair”?

  • John Goss

    I can only echo Mary’s emboldened first comment, which is a fair assessment of how a real country should be governed.

    One thing to remember is that this anyway is only a proposal and according to a spokeman on the BBC this commission’s report is just the framework and there the details need to be ironed out. There are elections to come. What face will the report have after the elections? I wish Scotland well with its pursuit of real independence. Hopefully it will be better for the people of Scotland than the way the Independence of America from the Crown turned out for native Americans.

    Today is American Thanksgiving Day. Thanks for what? Genocide? My friends in the US, Ben et al, please spare a thought and prayer for those native Americans wiped out in the history of your nation, and those being wiped out in your name today. And enjoy your meal.

  • Ben the Inquisitor

    John; Happy Thanksgiving. I means that as sincerely as the history of symbiotics, where white illegal immigrants responded to natives showing their own generosity with gifts for the table, was both the beginning and end of cooperation.

    As Calvin Coolidge reportedly said; “The Great White Father sends greetings to his red brothers. Now you stinkin’ redskins get off my land.”

  • jimnarlene

    It’s a pig in a poke and a millstone round the Scottish Governments neck, these new administrative duties will be diluted still further, as and when Westminster gets round to debating them.

  • Republicofscotland

    “and which does not harbour weapons of mass destruction.”

    Unfortunately Craig two more nuclear submarines are to be based at Faslane, HMS Triumph and HMS Talent, and with over 300 nuclear safety incident at Faslane, yes thats right 300,it would seem that the odds of a major incident, can only go one way and that’s up.

    SEPA the (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) have no recourse to investigate these incident as the MoD takes priority, over such matters.

    Glasgow Scotland largest city is only roughly 30 odd miles from Faslane, a “Ground Zero” incident or something of a similar nature would be catastrophic for Scotland as a whole.

    We need independence to remove these offensive, and odious weapons from Scottish soil.

  • Kempe

    ” I imagine the tax wasn’t used because it wouldn’t be fair to tax Scots more than the rest of the UK, nor would it be helpful to lower it and receive less income. ”

    Then what’s the point of Holyrood having any tax raising powers at all?

    I’d have thought a lower rate of income tax would’ve been a boost to the independence vote and let’s not forget that Holyrood has frozen council tax seven years in a row even though that has meant reduced income, cuts in services and redundancies.

  • Resident Dissident

    “Revenue from oil and whisky will still be treated in government accounts as “UK” rather than arising in Scotland.”

    Perhaps that should be because most of the tax revenues on oil and whisky are collected from those consuming the products. If Scotland were to be independent then it would have to sell those products at world prices to the rest of the UK – if it wanted to remain a member of the European Free Trade Area (which is a condition of being a member of EU) and even the English Europhobes don’t propose leaving in the event of us leaving the EU and wouldn’t be able to charge export duties. The rest of UK would then be free to charge whatever consumption taxes on the products that it felt fit and keep the Revenue for itself. If this is the basis the SNP produced its budget projections for an independent Scotland then heaven help Scotland should it ever become independent.

    I also another day another gratuitous and unnecessary insult from Craig to the Smith Commission – but please carry on such behaviour never wins votes.

  • guano



    I pay tribute – of course – ”

    Looks like this little shit-stirrer who has been annoying the rest of us for so long has now decided to bite the hand that feeds him.

    Such is bollock-tics

  • Ishmael

    Could say this if off topic, but it’s not.

    As the TRAITORS in this country follow US policy from lands end to Lands End to John O’Groats. Fact is Independence WILL be a benefit to both peoples. But they crap on people and then claim they fight for justice, on the constant lookout for any dissidents that show any chance of working for ordinary people.

    Scum, when it’s obvious people behind the scenes are pulling the stings I don’t know what else to call it but a dictatorial totalitarian state.

  • Ishmael

    It’s increasingly obvious that law in this country is simply another tool for shutting down democracy and mantaining injustice.

  • CanSpeccy

    Scum, indeed, Ishmael, whatever it is you’re talking about.

    But as for Guano, aka Bird Droppings, objecting to shit, I’m puzzled. Also, I really don’t understand his vicious attack on Habbabkuk. I thought the “I pay tribute — of course —” was a rather nice diplomatic way to raise a legitimate question. But Guano, apparently cannot stand anyone saying anything that he doesn’t already believe.

    What I find about this discussion of tax matters is that it is totally beyond me and perhaps, therefore, beyond your average Scotch voter. Is there not a danger that by debating such obscure matters a lot of Scots will just say, “Och, stuff it. We’re going to vote Ukip and get the buggers out.”

    But in May, it’s true, the Scotch Nats may win some Westminster seats on which they will sit like stuffed dummies of whom no one takes the slightest notice. After a couple of further elections they’ll just fade away like the Bloc Quebequois in Ottawa, to be replaced by whatever the best bet against the Tories happens to be, i.e., UKIP pretty certainly.

  • Graham

    “I want a country where governance is decided by citizens and not cooked up the way of this sordid, sordid deal.”

    That’ll be the country where your sainted would-be leader Mr Salmond was bought up years ago, lock, stock and whisky barrel, by that nice Mr Murdoch and by the so-friendly Chinese government, those people-power-respecting folk. You don’t think those pandas were a random Christmas present do you? Oh, and I almost forgot about that paragon of virtue, Mr Trump, and his ‘golf resort’…

    No doubt Murdoch dropped ‘the cause’ like a hot brick when the results came in – you know he never backs a perceived loser – though equally doubtless, he’s sticking vaguely to the line in at least one of his Scottish papers ‘cos enough ‘Yessers’ buy it and make him money. The Chinese still want the oil and anyone with a semblance of power in Holyrood (as well as everywhere else) will have to dance to whatever tune they care to play. Your citizen’s democracy has as much chance of happening in an independent Scotland as I have of dancing a lead at the Bolshoi.

    Face it, your side lost. And also face it, even if they’d won it *would* still be the same old, same old. Power politics, multinational tax-dodging and dodgy backroom deals don’t stop at Berwick.

  • Willie Hogg

    Residents Dissident Craig speaks of Revenue not Tax revenue though I suspect he means the latter. However, the UK balance of payments is greatly supported by the revenue produced by oil and whisky and not the tax. Also, alcohol duty is collected at source.

  • nevermind

    Sorry o/t, but I think we all want to live in a country were free speech is possible and respected. Not at UEA tonight.

    Some infantile students at UEA Norwich have decided they don’t like invited UKIP candidates speaking on campus and rounding the education of students in debate and experience, so they put up a FB campaign and got over a thousand students to sign up to ‘ban UKIP’ from speaking.

    They had been invited by the political society, and weren’t it for the self aggrandising Ms Sulil and her forceful demands, these students could have made their own minds up on UKIPs far off ideas.

    Tonight UEA’s administration has pulled the event until further notice, postponed, and it stinks of PC fascism.

    I don’t like UKIP and would have loved to read an article written by these students were they comprehensively trashed the candidates policies and arguments, which I know is not very bright, instead this little Labour wannabe has provided UKIP with plenty of local and national publicity for the next three days, in a marginal constituency Labours Clive Lewis will have to win.

    “This is my comment to the story yet to appear.

    As a European who has been actively campaigning and demonstrating, age 15, against the nationalist right wingers having their cosy meetings protected by the police in Germany, but by Krishna, they had the right to speak up, even when I opposed them.
    Many people don’t believe in banning people, because it reflects badly on oneself, one’s own ability to debate and defeat the argument, life as it happens, something which seems to be totally lacking at UEA, in this crop of self aggrandising students as well as in the administration caving in to their FB demands. As a former UEA student there I feel disgusted by such undemocratic mob behaviour. How dare does Ms Sulil enforce her preferred ideas of politics on those students who might have wanted to listen and debate on what the whole political spectrum has to offer.

    I duly expect an apology from the Political society and Ms Sulil for her undemocratic ultimatum and proposal of mob violence on campus, and much much more publicity for UKIP thanks to her infantile behaviour, she has undermined Labours cause in this marginal seat by being a daft oaf.”

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Agreed re UKIP @ UEA, Nevermind. We were deploring the proposal to ban controversial (ie, nudge, nudge, beardie Muslim types) from campuses a few threads ago. On the grounds of freedom to express one’s opinion, as I recall. Same rules apply here.

    Timea Suli, an international public policy and public management student,…

    Not quite an Oxford PPE, but the general trend is clear. Internship with the EU, eh? Telling, that. Bright, pushy, has probably read ‘A Journey’ without being sick….

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