22 February 2010

Calman Trouble Vol. 42

Monday morning’s vengeful fug has set in (along with a dusting of spring snow, to put me in festive fettle) and the afternoon promises to be busy. Well knowing that all my readers are great enthusiasts for the cavilling detail of the United Kingdom’s constitutional structure and implicated funding mechanisms, I thought I’d send you all scurrying off to peruse a report written by Professors Drew Scott and Andrew Hughes-Hallett, on “The UK Government’s proposals for the future financing of devolved government in Scotland: an economic assessment”.

Published on the Reform Scotland website, the document “offers a critical appraisal of the proposals published by the UK Government in November 2009 to reform the arrangements for funding the devolved administration in Scotland.” Or to make the link more obvious, the funding proposals emanating from the Calman Commission on Scottish Devolution. Professor Scott is employed in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law but is an economist by training, while Professor Hughes-Hallett is a macro-economist who was previously based in Scotland but now works at George Mason University in Virginia and is a member of the Scottish Government’s Council of Economic Advisors. Even if, like me, you are not an economist, the paper is broadly comprehensible. The sharpness of its critique has generated some gum-tightening headlines for enthusiastic Unionists (wherever they might be hiding), including "Calman commission reform will cause ‘financial black hole’" from the Times.


  1. The Calman's proposals were all one great big bear trap layered carefully to fog the issue they hoped, for years.

    The economic one was crafted by Professor Anton Muscatelli, who was "the independent expert group chair" and curiously enough Prof Hughes-Hallett was also a member of the group.

    I note that Prof Muscatelli is now Principal and VC at Glasgow University and no longer has to commute from his home in the suburbs of Glasgow to Edinburgh each day.

    I wonder if this group did their homework sums at the time or am I being too Machiavellian?

  2. The 'Independent Expert Group' indeed. For footloose enthusiasts with time weighing heavily on their hands, their learned productions can still be consulted among the Calman Commission's papers...


    Actually, something you mentioned raised a point in my mind worth exploring a little more. In the comments following a recent article about free votes, assisted dying and the construction of an amoral, administrative 'political normality', Ratzo left a comment mentioning the "post-Weberian managerialist abyss of instrumental reason".

    It now occurs to me that Calman and its presumptions embodies precisely this sort of process - attempting to suppress normativity and philosophy in our self governance, relying on the justifying values of the administrative, 'rational' reform and 'expert' opinion. Maybe something to be expanded on at a little more length later.


    On your final point Bugger, my rule of thumb is never to chalk up to conscious malice and planning that which is more probably the consequence of accidental mendacity.

  3. or incompetence?