We should thank every Scottish person we see because, whether the vote is for or against independence, it has spawned a plethora of ideas and studies about how Whitehall can be downsized.
Although Mr Pickles has claimed the DCLG’s move into the Home Office will save over £200m, my dream is that in 10 years’ time the whole of the civil service will fit in a semi.
Scotland will see more devolution even if its voters do not back independence. Its councils are already arguing that Scotland has the most centralist state in the world (surely some mistake as they are voting on whether to leave the most centralised!) and have recently published a report arguing that they should be allowed to raise at least half their revenue from local taxes.
Why just Scotland? There are more people living in some English regions than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. My dream sees more power and revenue raising devolved in all regions, with double devolution down to local authorities. It would unlock innovation and differentiation, unleashing competition to attract talent and business.
Some fear this would unleash profligate spending and high taxation. It would not for three main reasons. First, we are responsible. Second, councillors wouldn’t survive binge tax and spend. Finally, and most importantly, competition between areas to attract talented people and businesses would drive up the quality and efficiency of services and keep taxes down. People want to live in nice clean places and send their kids to good schools.
Tax is critical. For example, why are Google and Microsoft based in Ireland? For some time now business tax has been 12.5% in Ireland. This has forced us to reduce our corporation tax from 33% to 21%. I am sure the same principle would apply if business rates were entirely devolved.
We all want vibrant local economies and to encourage inward investment so we can keep business rates low. In fact I would love to be able to offer taxation incentives for companies willing to move to my council area.
I can dream, but I think it is now a dream whose day is dawning. Thank you Scotland.
The one thing he won’t comment on is his identity…