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Fiscal autonomy way forward for Assembly

Bill Clinton has urged political parties to build on what they have achieved and return local governance (News, March 24), but this should include a review of the powers currently devolved to Stormont.

John Wilson Foster has recently written (Comment, March 21) about the deep disconnect in Northern Ireland that exists between politics and the people, but we should seriously ask ourselves is the current block grant and devolution arrangement reinforcing the sense of political inertia and division here?

Gordon Brown has recently reawakened the idea of a federal system for the UK, given the challenges of Brexit, giving devolved administrations control over the majority of their taxation, welfare and other powers.

We know that neither side here has been particularly interested in reforming the block grant. Maybe one sees it as a possible source of control to campaign against, be it austerity or unfairness, while the other sees it as a financial buttress against Irish unity.

Either way, there is no real incentive to improve the economy in Northern Ireland, boost employment opportunities, or improve living standards. But Scotland has shown that greater fiscal autonomy can increase economic activity and has certainly stimulated public engagement, as can be seen by the increased turnout in recent Scottish elections.

Having Stormont earn every pound before it spends it brings a fresh perspective - one of confidence, empowerment and of genuinely wanting to compete with the outside world, rather than each other.

I don't mean to minimise all the excellent work that currently goes on here, but is this not an aspiration worth striving for?

brian pope

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