Platform: 2016 to be year of significant political decisions

David Mundell MP hopes to put the laws handing over full control of Scottish earned income tax to Holyrood into action in 2017 rather than 2018. Picture: TSPL
David Mundell MP hopes to put the laws handing over full control of Scottish earned income tax to Holyrood into action in 2017 rather than 2018. Picture: TSPL
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AN SNP victory in the Holyrood elections this year is guaranteed but the outcome of the EU referendum is more uncertain, says Alex Orr

Barring some disaster of cataclysmic proportions, the SNP is destined to win the next Holyrood elections in May 2016, with an outright majority if polls are to be believed.

For Scotland the key number in the political pantheon is “45”. The SNP won 45 per cent of the constituency vote in the 2011 Holyrood elections and 45 per cent in last September’s independence referendum.

The key to deliver more seats will be for the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to convince some of those who voted No and are concerned about a potential second independence referendum to put their cross in the SNP box.

The challenge in Scottish politics is now no longer between left and right, but between those who voted Yes and No in the referendum.

The really novel aspect of this election, however, is that for the first time since the first Holyrood elections in 1999, political parties will have to set out revenue-raising plans to match their spending plans. Scottish Secretary David Mundell MP hopes to put the laws handing over full control of Scottish earned income tax to Holyrood into action in 2017 rather than 2018. Scottish politicians will be responsible for setting taxes to raise about a quarter (around £10.6 billion) of what they spend (£43bn).

The Scottish Conservatives have become devoted tax devolution enthusiasts, now that the traditional Tory offering of cutting taxes is open to them. The other parties will also have to come forward with their own fiscal proposals.

That said, there is little chance of the Tories being in, or close to power in Holyrood, although don’t be surprised if they gain a few percentage points and seats. Labour is still in total disarray, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn leading to a steady decline in popularity.

While an SNP victory can be determined with a degree of certainty, the outcome of the big political decision facing the UK, the EU Referendum, is a little more uncertain, with support now neck and neck between “inners” and “outers”.

Prime Minister Cameron has pledged that the referendum will take place before the end of 2017, and this is now predicted to take place next year, based on a likely positive outcome from the European Council in February. If those concerned want to secure an “in” vote they need to start campaigning now, as 2016 could indeed be a year of significant political decisions.

• Alex Orr is managing director of Orbit Communications