Real Devolution: The Power to Borrow

| Publication date: 12 Sep 2014 | Theme: Exiting the EU | NIESR Author(s): Armstrong, A; Ebell, M

Two points are clear from the Scottish referendum debate. First, there are certain capabilities which the UK provides that are invaluable to all constituent nations. In particular, a successful currency union and a seat at the top table of the world’s leading international forums, such as the European Union and NATO. There may be other centrally provided capabilities which are highly valued, such as security and diplomacy. Second, there is a clear wish for genuine power to be transferred away from central government to local decision making. This is not simply a matter of more discretion over how to spend resources allocated via budget transfers, but real responsibility for economic choices to meet local needs. This paper argues that devolution can only be meaningful if Scotland - and, crucially, Wales, Northern Ireland and regions in England - have the power to borrow. Contrary to received Whitehall and Westminster wisdom, such powers are feasible and desirable.

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