JOBS, taxes, pensions, the economy and the currency are huge issues in the forthcoming Scottish independence debate. Some commentators are also wondering what will happen if the nation votes No on September 18. Will there be more powers for Holyrood, the so-called devo max option, or will Westminster want to keep powers to itself?
Whatever happens in the polling stations, one leading business figure thinks that Scotland should take control of tobacco duty. Earlier this year Jorge da Motta, who was then the UK chief executive of tobacco giant JTI, told a Sunday newspaper that more fiscal powers might persuade MSPs that heavy taxes on tobacco are counter-productive.
The JTI chief, who moved on to become regional president, Central Europe, for the company and was replaced as UK MD by Daniel Torras, suggested that Scotland had led much recent governmental activity to further restrict tobacco marketing. But he suggested that if MSPs were responsible for the revenues raised from tobacco duty, and used them to fund public services, they might be less likely to suggest measures that could hurt sales and retailers.
He highlighted the display ban, currently in large stores and due to come to small stores next April, the proposed introduction of plain packs in Scotland and the public places smoking ban, as policies that a fiscally-empowered Scotland might consider differently. Da Motta said such measures harmed many small businesses in Scotland.
On the other hand in the event of a hardline anti-tobacco regime running an independent Scotland and introducing plain packaging and higher duty, da Motta suggested Berwick-upon-Tweed and Carlisle might be bustling with tobacco tourists travelling south to buy cheaper products.
The JTI chief insisted that he wasn’t taking sides in the independence referendum and reckoned the transfer of tobacco tax responsibility to Holyrood could be a good thing whatever voters decide.
A spokesman for first minister Alex Salmond said the Scottish Government would welcome any increased tax powers for Scotland.
What do you think? Would Holyrood think twice on tobacco regulation measures if it had control of tobacco duty? Contact us at email@example.com