Welcome to my Blog

It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Polishambles

The latest twist in the 'Polishambles' that is the new centralised police force was played out at the Justice Committee this week.  Chief Constable Stephen House said he is "struggling" with Vic Emery, the chairman of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), over who should have day-to-day control over human resources and finance. Steve House believes they should be under his supervision while Vic Emery believes they should remain closer to the SPA structure.

Steve House told the Justice Committee about "grey areas" in governance and ambiguities in the Police And Fire Reform Act, including "a gobsmacking major problem" where the Act does not appear to give him control over police support staff. The two men said they have taken their own legal advice to discern what their roles and responsibilities would be.

I watched this 'Polishambles' with a wry smile. My Mum always told me that it isn't polite to say, "I told you so", but there are occasions when I can't resist and this is one of them. With any legislation UNISON is involved in I usually start with an issues schedule. This lists all the possible difficulties that we will need to raise with officials, ministers and MSPs. Right at the top of my schedule with this Bill was the respective roles of the SPA and Chief Constable and who would be the employer of Police Staffs. It was plainly obvious that the structure was going to create difficulties and the position of Police Staffs in particular was unclear at best.

Contrary to Vic Emery's insulting assertion about Police Staff just being 'staff'' until he hands them over, they have a clear statutory definition in s26 of the Act. They also transfer to the new organisation with their existing status. What isn't in dispute is that they are employed by the SPA (s26(2)(a)). The confusion arises because the same section of the Act also gives the Chief Constable the power to make appointments, and more importantly, s17(3) gives him the power to direct Police Staff. There are others, but you get the idea. If ever there was a recipe for confusion and mixed accountability this it is.

The real structural problem goes wider than the status of Police Staff. Creating the SPA and the PSS was always going to cause problems. What the Scottish Government should have done is to create a unitary organisation that the Chief Constable reported to. Other governance arrangements could be put in place for forensic services to create the perceived need for separation. A national joint board would also save £millions in VAT, as we also pointed out. It is a well understood structure with roles and responsibilities clearly defined. Of course it would also mean slightly less opportunity for political direction from the Cabinet Secretary!

Having botched the legislation the Scottish Government needs to resolve the mess they created. While we have had our our differences with Steve House over his views on civilianisation, it simply isn't credible to ask him to run the service when key functions are directed elsewhere.

The wider lesson for government is that it is better to listen more carefully to the views of those who understand the services they are reorganising. 'I told you so' may give a certain level of satisfaction, but I would rather we didn't get into this 'Polishambles' in the first place.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

More centralisation?

Kenny MacAskill, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, has decided to open up the question of local government reorganisation when speaking at a policing conference last week. He said the move was “inevitable” following the merger of eight regional police forces and fire brigades into single national bodies.


In response to a question MacAskill replied: “These things are inevitable. Scotland has to address these things and we have to take wider stakeholders with us. Where the police are, where they have gone, I think some of my colleagues will look to learn from. The status quo is not tenable. It was not tenable in the police and it’s not going to be tenable in other forms of public life.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government tried to cool the speculation: "Our approach to reforming Scotland's public services involves all relevant partners working across organisational boundaries to deliver services which best meet people's needs. This does not rely on wholesale structural reorganisation. It is about ensuring services are consistently well designed and delivered by the right people to the right people. We are in favour of closer service integration where this will improve outcomes for local people and ensure longer term financial sustainability.”

Translated, this appears to mean that while there will not be a formal reorganisation, structural change can happen by stealth. In a previous blog I have highlighted the growing tendency towards centralisation. Police, fire, care integration, better regulation and ring fenced funding are just a few examples.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) warned that structural reform was a “costly diversion” from providing better services. Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: "Fiddling with boundaries doesn't address the major challenges of climate change, demographic changes and big pockets of poverty. The SNP need to rule out mergers and centralisation and focus on the major challenges that Scotland faces."

As the Christie Commission and many others have pointed out Scotland is the least democratic country in Europe with the largest population per lowest tier of local government. Similar countries have far more councils including Norway (430), Finland (336) and Denmark (98). The Jimmy Reid Foundation report – The Silent Crisis: Failure and Revival in Local Democracy in Scotland – examines the impact this disparity has had on Scottish democracy and on voting turnout.

The Liberal Democrat’s Home and Community Rule Commission also covers these issues and like others they are suggesting a smaller tier of councils built around real communities. A less well known Christie Commission proposal was consideration of single purpose councils, something the islands have been looking at seriously.

Whatever your view of local government structures there is an urgent need to stand up for local democracy. Further centralisation should be resisted. UNISON Scotland is planning to open up this debate early next year with a consultation paper and a detailed study of the options. We will be encouraging the defence of strong local government before it is too late.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Immigration rules


The UK Government has introduced new immigration rules with effect from 9 July 2012. These changes will affect non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) nationals applying to enter or remain in the UK under the family migration route. It means that people earning less than £18,600 are unable to get visas for partners from non-EU countries. British citizens who previously would have been granted a spousal visa are forced to choose between ending their relationship, splitting up their family or attempting to live abroad.

In addition, from October 2013, all applicants for settlement have to pass the Life in the UK Test and present an English language speaking and listening qualification. This is particularly challenging for very elderly relatives. Scottish examples of this have included a hospital consultant who is leaving the NHS to work abroad, in order to care for his mother.

The Independent newspaper gives other examples. Don Flynn, director of the Migrants' Rights Network said: "Being able to start a family in your own country should not be subject to the amount of money somebody earns. These measures create a two-tier system: those who are rich enough to live with whom they choose and those deemed to be too poor to live with somebody from abroad."

Scottish Labour MP Ann McKechin has been campaigning on this issue at Westminster and has been collecting a range of Scottish case studies. We have also had a couple of requests for advice from UNISON members who are concerned that they will be impacted by these new rules. These examples show how the rules are not only unfair on the individuals concerned, but also impact on our public services in ways that may not have been intended. For example, NHS Lothian this week quoted immigration rules as one of the causes of paediatric doctor shortages that may result in ward closures.

It is a common misconception that immigration rules only apply to foreigners. But these rules affect British citizens and often leave them in an impossible position. There have already been legal challenges and we can expect more. The government should have an urgent rethink.





Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Auditors highlight police staff cuts


A report published today by the Accounts Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS) highlights the appalling waste of resources inherent in a process that takes police officers off the streets to backfill police civilian staff at a greater cost. As we have warned many times, Best Value is being sacrificed to a cosmetic political target.

The Justice Committee report on the Police and Fire Reform Bill said:

“260. A large number of witnesses believe that there needs to be a balanced workforce, with duties being undertaken by the most appropriate person regardless of whether that be a police officer or a civilian member of staff.214 Mr Watson said—

“In five or six years, we will be sitting round a table like this with Audit Scotland, who will say that the situation is ridiculous because we are paying police officers, at great cost, to do jobs that they are not qualified to do. We should not wait until then. Let us take the opportunity of the establishment of a new police force to consider the right balance between police officers and civilians.”215

Well I was wrong in one respect. It only took HMICS and Audit Scotland a few months to point this out!

As the report says:

“112. Police staff numbers will continue to be put under pressure as forces face real-term budget cuts while trying to maintain police officer numbers at or above the Scottish Government’s minimum of 17,234. It is important that the Police Service of Scotland undertakes strategic workforce planning to ensure that it makes best use of its people resources in a sustainable way, with functions carried out by people with the right skills, knowledge and experience. There are some indications that police staff posts are being covered by police officers in the short term, but at a time of continued financial pressures there is a risk that this is not an efficient and sustainable use of resources if adopted longer term.

And of course we know that if the Scottish Government continues to direct the new Scottish Police Authority on police numbers, it will continue.

What is also new in this report is the focus on police overtime to cover police staff posts.

“110. The reduction in police staff numbers in 2011/12 has been accompanied by an increase in police staff overtime expenditure across Scotland. Between 2007/08 and 2010/11, the proportion of police staff overtime expenditure, as a proportion of the overall police staff salary budget, fell year-on-year from 3.0 to 1.4 per cent. However, during the last financial year overtime rose slightly to 1.7 per cent of the police staff payroll, with all but Fife Constabulary and Lothian and Borders police experiencing growing overtime expenditure during 2011/12. Decisions to cut police staff numbers to reduce costs must take into account any indirect additional costs when calculating the likely savings which can be realised.”

I have seen a report in one police area that states the costs of backfilling police officers into custody centres has already exceeded £250,000.

This report confirms not only that police officers are backfilling police staff jobs at greater cost, but expensive police overtime is increasing to plug the gaps. It also supports UNISON's call for strategic workforce planning to avoid this appalling waste of scarce resources. The SPA and Chief Constable must be allowed to apply the statutory duty of Best Value without political interference.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Scottish Living Wage Bill


I was in parliament this morning at a meeting to discuss John Park MSP's members Bill on the Scottish Living Wage. The main aims of the Bill are set out the consultation paper:

"The main objective of the Bill is to increase the number of workers in Scotland who are paid the Living Wage. This consultation seeks views on two approaches which could be pursued independently, in their own right, or together as a package, namely delivering the Living Wage through the public sector procurement processes, and/or by promoting the Living Wage so as to encourage employers, in all sectors, into paying their lowest paid workers the Living Wage."

I have previously dealt with the procurement aspects of the living wage. In my view this should be incorporated into the forthcoming Procurement Bill. The only blockage is the ill advised letter from Alex Neil MSP to the EU Commission. It is possible to get around this by legislating on different grounds as we have explained in our response to the Scottish Government consultation.

The second part of John Park's Bill is equally important and has perhaps received less attention.

"The general duty on Scottish Ministers to promote the Living Wage will be essential in providing the momentum needed to increase the number of people being paid the Living Wage."

This involves a strategic plan and reporting to Parliament following consultation with appropriate interests. This would not only put a political focus on the Scottish Living Wage, but it would also ensure it was consider by officials when drawing up other plans and proposals.

A key element of this is the creation of a Living Wage Unit. They would not only promote the issue internally would would be an important source of advice externally. For example, procurement is a complex area and public bodies need guidance and support in drawing up contracts. In addition the London experience shows that the benefits to the private sector can be promoted through a unit that can demonstrate a strong business case for the Scottish Living Wage. The best way to do this is probably to create a stand alone Commission reporting to Parliament together with some resource within the appropriate government department. That provides the necessary independence while ensuring that government gets the support it needs to ensure they actually deliver on the ministerial duty.

UNISON Scotland strongly supports this member's Bill and hopes it can attract cross party support. There has been good progress with the Scottish Living Wage in the public sector, much more than elsewhere in the UK. The next stage is to spread the social and economic benefits to the private and voluntary sectors. That is the main purpose of this excellent Bill.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Relational State

IPPR have published a booklet, 'The relational state: How recognising the importance of human relationships could revolutionise the role of the state.' The aim of this collection of essays is to examine the concept of the 'relational state', claiming that this is a new perspective on the role of public services.

The starting point for these ideas is dissatisfaction with the 'New Public Management' (NPM) model that dominated New Labour thinking, driven by targets and markets.

"A ‘targets and terror’ approach can be effective in addressing terrible performance, but it is poorly suited to supporting excellence, because it hampers flexible responses to local demand and constrains innovation and creativity. Command and control techniques have also led to the growth of expansive monitoring, inspection and auditing processes, which are a drain on time and money."


This approach was far less prevalent in Scotland, but elements of it have crept into management thinking. In this booklet some authors argue that the edges need to be smoothed off NPM and its core methods redirected towards different, more relational, goals. Others mount the case for more fundamental change, affecting both the aims and practices of public services and the state. However, there is a consensus on the need for human relationships to be given greater priority as a goal of policy and in the design and operation of public services, which challenges a strict adherence to egalitarian goals and state-led agency above all others.


Public service reform in Scotland is obsessed with outcomes. There are limitations to this approach as well;

“Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the focus on delivering measurable outcomes has neglected the importance of human relationships. It risks reducing the complexity and texture of human experience to a simple number, leading to policies and services that do not address the core of a problem. Targeting only the outcome forgets that the way people are treated matters too – it underplays the role of relationships in improving people’s lives. A purely outcomes-focused mode also involves certain people – invariably elites of various forms – deciding for others what they should choose to value.”


The relational state inevitably puts a focus on localism and the booklet does not duck the tension between equality and localism. On the one hand, devolving power and responsibility to local authorities, service providers, frontline professionals or citizen-users is seen as necessary to create the conditions for relational activity. On the other hand, this rubs up against the countervailing instinct to seek to advance more equal outcomes or opportunities of various kinds. Greater scope for variation and contingency opens up the risk of ‘postcode lotteries’ and a ‘race to the bottom’.


I suspect to many public service staff the ‘relational state’ will sound very woolly with the risk that it will lead to a patchwork of service delivery more akin to the 19th Century before local government. It also assumes that service users all want this level of engagement with all services. As one of the authors puts it;

“This turns on a basic question of whether voters want a government that tries to solve their problems for them, or one which gives them power over their own lives. Does the public want outcomes delivered for them or space in which to foster the relationships that matter to them?”


I suspect the answer is that they want both, but not for every service. In some services there is a strong case for co-production, in others it is simply an issue of service delivery. Relational practice is also already present in some services.


While I found much to disagree with in this booklet, it is a useful contribution to the debate around public service reform in Scotland. Parts also chime with UNISON Scotland’s approach to reform based on building services from the bottom up. As the authors admit, this book marks the beginning of a debate, not the end.



Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Freedom of Information Bill


Back in Parliament today to brief MSPs ahead of tomorrow's debate on the Freedom of Information Bill. Openness and transparency in public life is the hallmark of a democratic society and Scotland has been slipping behind in FoI best practice for some years.

Our key concern is to get the scope of FoI extended to all those organisations that deliver public services. The growth of arms length organisations from councils, private and voluntary sector contractors means that there are two tier standards for the public right to know. If your service comes from a public sector provider you have the right to information. If the very same service comes from a private or voluntary sector provider, you don't. That cannot be right and needs to be changed.

I illustrated our case with our extensive FoI work on PPP/PFI. After a long battle we got much of the documentation, but not all. For example, Scottish Water and the government say key documents can't be found. However, I doubt if the contractors for the problematic sewage plants have lost their copy. This matters because as a result of our research we discovered that the taxpayer spent £2.1bn more on PFI schemes than they would have done if these projects had used conventional finance. And it's not just an historical issue. The Scottish Government has a current £2.5bn PPP/PFI programme.

Credit to Carole Ewart and the Scottish Freedom of Information Campaign for all their work on this issue. There is cross party support on this issue and Willie Rennie MSP chaired today's event. We don't always agree with the Lib Dem's these days, but they have a consistently positive record on FoI.

I do hope that the new minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, takes a fresh look at the government's position on this issue. They claim to support some extension to the scope of FoI, but have done nothing about it. We have had three different consultations in recent years. Now, I am not surprisingly a big fan of consultation, but we are all consulted out on this issue. Now is the time for action.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Talent of public sector staff


I was in Parliament this morning giving evidence at the Petitions Committee on a petition from Unreasonable Learners, 'Harnessing the undoubted talent of Public Sector Staff'. The Petition:

"Calls on the Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to review the considerable research into the thinking that underpins the approach to managing the contribution from staff that has been undertaken over the past decades and compare this with the assumptions that underpins existing management practice; and subsequently to use the findings to ensure that it harnesses the talent of its staff."

The petitioners believe that there is a inordinate waste in our public sector, caused by the command and control culture, i.e. our society believes we need leaders to provide direction and they should then be supported by scrutiny methods to ensure we comply. However, they state that there has been extensive research over the past decades that is pushing us toward structures that are based on—
  • A  belief in people;
  • The need to understand and re-design the complex systems that characterise our society;
  • A recognition that the driving force for progress will not come from central direction but from innovative people at the work face.
There is a very good booklet explaining this approach at the Unreasonable Learners website.

This approach very much ties in with UNISON's view that public service reform should be built from the bottom up, rather than by management consultants centralising services with their Blue Peter, "here is one I prepared earlier" method. I illustrated the point with an example of a local authority that had centralised housing benefits. The staff involved in the enquiry point told me that they used to be able to deal with 80% of queries first time. Now they deal with about 20% and the rest are sent to a call centre. The staff in the call centre spend most of their time dealing with what John Seddon (systems thinking) calls, 'failure demand'. Examples like this led to the Christie Commission recommendations.

As most public services are delivered by people there needs to be a much greater recognition of workforce issues in government plans. Most current reforms give the impression that workforce issues are a last minute add on - not central to the reform. Workforce reform appears to be rooted in 'heroic leadership' models that are simply not suited for the enabling approaches needed to break public services out of their different silos. In my experience many public and private sector leaders talk a good game on systems thinking, but don't really get it in practice.

I also argued that we need a workforce framework across our public services that underpins reform. An approach that enables public service staff to design, with service users, innovative new ways of delivering services.

It was agreed that the group brought together by the Petitions Committee this morning would attempt to produce a paper on how this different approach could be promoted. Developing a different management culture in Scottish public services. A big task, but we have to change direction quickly if we are going to deliver meaningful reform.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Stagnation lies ahead


I was in London today at the UNISON bargaining seminar. I have valued the TUC economist Richard Exell's posts on the Touchstone blog, so I was keen to hear his presentation.

With his trademark graphs he showed that we are in the slowest recovery from recession for 125 years, yes that's the 1880's! This is because household spending is still depressed, trade is negative and investment is low. No surprises there, but I hadn't realised that household spending started to decline well before the crash, in 2005. The causes are clearly linked to negative wage growth. In Richard's view we may not get back to 2009 levels until 2021. So this longest recovery from recession is set to run and run.

While there has been an increase in employment, most of this is part-time work and self-employment. Hardly the best time to be starting a business and he pointed to the many workers who have invested their redundancy payments, only to lose it all. A more relevant statistic is the ratio of unemployed people to job vacancies. This shot up from just over 2-1 to nearly 6-1in 2008 and has remained stubbornly at that level ever since.

Not much joy in the city forecasts either. Modest growth at best, unemployment remaining at current levels and borrowing levels broadly unchanged. Even the IMF forecasts have been downgraded.

His conclusion was that the second dip may be ending, but stagnation lies ahead. This is due to real wages remaining depressed. With government policy rooted in public service cuts and wage freezes, there is little cause for optimism.  

Monday, 5 November 2012

Scottish Living Wage campaign


Today is the start of Living Wage Week. This opportunity to promote the Scottish Living Wage got off to a good start with the announcement that the current rate of £7.20 per hour is to rise to £7.45.

The Scottish Living Wage campaign supported by UNISON Scotland has a number of events planned for this week. There has been good political support as well with Ed Miliband's speech today. This follows yesterday's Observer piece by Dave Prentis and David Miliband. We also have an excellent Fair Wage campaign by the Scottish Youth Parliament.

The Scottish Living Wage is good news for workers as they get higher wages that also improves health and job motivation. It’s good for employers because it reduces turnover, improves productivity and attracts better staff through reputational gain. The wider community benefits through lower benefit cost, less stress on the NHS and cash into the local economy.

The Institute of Fiscal studies has calculated sub-living wage employers cost the taxpayer £6bn a year in in-work benefits alone. The indirect cost on poverty is around £25bn a year.
In contrast the cost to employers is minimal at around 1% of wage bill. Even in the retail sector it is only 5%. As a recent study of the London Living Wage shows, even that can be recouped through decreased turnover and better productivity. I don't often, if ever, quote Boris Johnson positively but he say, “I believe that paying decent wages reduces staff turnover and produces a more motivated and productive workforce”.

There has been good progress in extending the Scottish Living Wage across the public sector. The Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and most councils now pay this rate. The next stage is to persuade the Scottish Government to take further action including in the forthcoming Procurement Bill to promote the Scottish Living Wage including:

Use the Procurement Reform Bill to amend the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2006 to require that the living wage is a part of any contracting authorities bid for a public sector contract.
Seek to influence the European Commission to remove any perceived barriers in EU Directives that prevent the inclusion of the living wage in procurement.
Establish a Living Wage Unit to advise on, promote and oversee the living wage in the public sector and in procurement.
In partnership with stakeholders, develop and produce a Code of Practice on promoting the living wage in procurement.

Scottish Labour MSP, John Park is also consulting on his private members bill that seeks to achieve the above objectives.

Government’s at UK and Scottish levels also need to recognise the broader economic case for an increase in real wages. The shift in incomes from workers to the very rich is a key cause of the longest and deepest recession in a generation. Low paid staff spend more of their income locally.

While we have made good progress in achieving the Scottish Living Wage in the public sector, nearly one in four Scots are still earning below that level. So more action is needed to extend the considerable benefits across Scotland.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Procurement and tax dodging

Today, I submitted UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Government's consultation on the proposed Procurement Reform Bill.

Procurement is not the most exciting issue I have to deal with, but it is one of the most important. We should view it as an opportunity to ensure that annual procurement spending of nearly £11 billion in Scotland is used to deliver important social, economic and environmental benefits, including improved protections for workers.

The consultation proposals are, to put it generously, very modest. 'Business friendly' appears to be the theme with the wider benefits marginalised.

So today we have focussed on just one of our more radical proposals. Scotland should ban companies involved in tax dodging from public contracts.


It is entirely wrong that companies seeking to avoid paying their fair share of tax should be awarded public contracts. We think this is an important opportunity to do what some European cities such as Helsinki and Paris are already doing, in acting against companies using tax havens. Our message to the Scottish Government is that they should adopt a tax justice approach, finding ways, with appropriate legal advice, to bar companies involved in tax dodging from being eligible to bid. As SNP and Labour MP's at Westminster have supported this approach, we are hoping for something of a cross party consensus on this issue.

Recently public outrage has focused on big-name companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks paying miniscule amounts of tax. But it is much more widespread as the Tax Justice Network has highlighted and I have covered in past blog posts. Richard Murphy is the UK's leading expert on these issues and he welcomed our initiative on his blog today.

Many companies investing in PPP/PFI projects are registered in tax havens and as the Scottish Government has the biggest PPP/PFI programme in Europe, this sort of measure could help change tax dodging companies approach to paying tax.

So let's send a very clear message - if you want contracts funded by the taxpayer, you have to pay tax like the rest of us.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Public Service Pensions Bill


My work over the past two days has been focused on pensions, following the second reading of the UK Public Service Pension Bill on Monday 29 October 2012.

UNISON has a range of concerns over this Bill, although my efforts have been concentrated on the specifically Scottish aspects as they impact on the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) in Scotland. And to correct some mischievous briefings, we did not ask MPs to vote against the Bill. Our concerns can and should be addressed at the Committee Stage.

Primary pension legislation is a reserved issue mainly covered by the UK Superannuation Act 1972. This is largely enabling legislation that allows the Scottish Parliament to design schemes by regulation that meets Scottish requirements. In practice the NHS scheme closely follows England because changes to the scheme require Treasury approval. No such approval is required for the Scottish LGPS because it is funded in Scotland and that remains unchanged in this Bill.  

However, the Bill prescribes key elements of all schemes and that will apply to the Scottish LGPS for the first time. All of these matters are currently decided in Scotland and therefore significantly undermine the current and future Scottish LGPS agreement. If the Bill goes through unchanged the Scottish Parliament will be required to bring the LGPS into line with agreements reached in England on key issues. These may not reflect Scottish circumstances and constitute an unwarranted interference by the Treasury in Scottish provisions. 

UNISON has taken legal advice that this legislation requires the approval of the Scottish Parliament through a Legislative Consent Motion (Sewell convention). Surprisingly, the Scottish Government has not taken action on this issue to defend the prerogative of the Scottish Parliament. Officials have advised ministers that Sewell motion is not required. However, thanks to a question tabled by Cathy Jamieson MP, the Treasury has now confirmed that a Sewell motion is required. We suspect that this is only on fairly narrow grounds, but it opens the door for Scottish Ministers to demand that the Bill is amended to retain the current powers of the Scottish Parliament on this issue. 

While this is undoubtedly a power grab by the Treasury, we do not accept that Scottish Ministers are powerless to act. The big boy did it and we ran away - wont wash here.