Is Independence Possible in an Interdependent World? Scotland vs. the UK's Participation in the European Economy
Many commentators have criticised the strategy used to finance regional governments such as the Scottish Parliament – both the block grant system and the limited amount of fiscal autonomy devised in the Scotland Act of 2012. This lecture sets out to identify what level of autonomy or independence would best suit a regional economy in a currency union, and also the institutional changes needed to sustain those arrangements. Our argument is developed along three lines. First, we set out the advantages of a fiscal federalism framework and the institutions needed to support it, but which the Euro-zone currently lacks. The second is to elaborate a model of fiscal federalism where comprehensive powers of taxation and spending are devolved (an independent Scotland and the UK remain constituent members of the EU and European economy). Third, we evaluate the main arguments for the breakup of nations or economic unions with Scotland and the UK as leading examples. We note that greater autonomy may not result in increases in long run economic growth rate, but it does imply that enhancing the fiscal competence and responsibility of regional governments would result in productivity gains and hence higher levels of GDP per head. That means the population is permanently richer than before, even if ultimately their incomes continue to grow at the same rate. It turns out that these improvements can be achieved through devolved tax powers, but not through devolved spending powers or shared taxes.
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