I have to put this in context a little. The suggestion is that the Scottish Government will get revenue-raising powers even if Scotland doesn't go independent. I am still not sure why Westminster would want to encourage devolution of tax-raising powers if the vote is no, because it would allow more divergent economic policies to develop than we have at present – surely the kind of scenario that Westminster rejects when saying that sharing a currency with an independent Scotland wouldn't work.
The Scottish Government clearly want a situation with more tax powers, and in fact I agree with them – it is right that Holyrood should have the responsibility for raising revenues as well as spending them. (I also agree with them that they are unlikely to be able to exercise responsibility fully in a devolved Scotland, but that's not really the point of this article.)
The purpose of the JTI intervention is to sound a warning shot about the Scottish Government's plans for plain packaging of tobacco. I am not aware of any certain evidence about plain packaging deterring youth from smoking. There has been a lot of speculation, but no hard evidence.
I can speculate too, and my speculation is that criminalising the branding of tobacco removes a tool for consumer protection that is designed to reduce counterfeiting, and is likely to result in a race to the bottom in tobacco prices. If such a move is backed by further increases in duty, the illegal market will grow even faster than it is growing currently.
Both these moves will be bad for government smoking cessation plans – for its heralded ambition to make smoking history by 2034 – and for its treasury coffers. Treating e-cigarettes in the same prohibitive way as tobacco, rather than as a probably harmless alternative, will aggravate this effect.
The Scottish Government's comment?
The intervention on devolving duties has been welcomed by the Scottish Government.
A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said: “We welcome all backing for transferring responsibility for duties and revenue to Scotland.
“Only by having control of these key levies can we take forward policies designed to protect public health and boost the Scottish economy.”They'll have to mull that one over before it's time to produce the first post-Referendum election manifesto.