Salmond is no localist. He is a ruthless central Statist every bit as addicted to micro-management as Brown. As Simon Jenkins wrote in the Guardian on Friday:
The alternative would be a radical reform of the Scots system with Scots taxes split two ways; a 'national' tax on income and consumption paid to the UK government which would be passed on, less Scotland's share of UK-wide costs such as defence, to the Scottish Parliament, and a local tax with an income as well as property base that would go directly to each of Scotland's 32 local authorities, with greater freedoms and greater responsibilities. This alternative would deliver real power to Scotland's counties, boroughs and communities.
The property tax fixed by individual councils will be abolished and all sub-national accountability with it. Scotland's 32 area authorities will be allotted their total revenue by Edinburgh, a degree of fiscal centralism unknown in any other country in Europe. It is ironic beyond belief that the first part of Great Britain to enjoy serious democratic devolution should use it to kill off democratic devolution within its borders.Salmond is about to achieve what Nigel Lawson, Kenneth Clarke and Gordon Brown failed to do: kill off a chunk of British local government and render local authorities mere delegates of central power. He wishes to concentrate control in his office and ensure that Scotland's counties, boroughs and communities have no say over their services or spending priorities.
Portillo is also convinced of the need for a local income tax component:
I am convinced that an income tax supplement must be part of any equitable local tax system. I admit that earners would pay more and high earners much more, but greater social justice is not a powerful argument against it.
More importantly, raising the money in that way would enable local government to grow in scope and importance. By comparison with almost every country I know, we suffer from chronically weak local government and from central government that is too powerful. Decisions are made remotely, national policies are imposed although they are inappropriate in most localities and terrible amounts of public money get wasted.
So here then is a clear choice, but not one that could or should be decided by Scots voters alone. And this is Cameron's conundrum. A UK manifesto commitment to reform of local taxation would bring the ghouls and banshees of the Poll Tax howling around his head during an election campaign. A manifesto commitment to implementing it in Scotland only would play into Salmond's hands. Brown, too, has been caught on Salmond's hook, with no room to wriggle. But to let Salmond implement in Scotland something that is the very antithesis of Cameronian aspirations, destructive of the Union, that will leave Scots more alienated and isolated from control over their own lives and communities than ever, slaves to SNP Welfarism and to Salmond's distorted national vision, would be a gross betrayal of our national interest and a gross betrayal of every man, woman and child in Scotland.