Scotland Bill: Call for more powers to be devolved

The plans were outlined in the Queen's Speech yesterday. Picture: PA
The plans were outlined in the Queen's Speech yesterday. Picture: PA
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THE SNP has warned it will put forward amendments in the House of Commons to increase the powers which the UK government plans to transfer to Holyrood.

A Scotland Bill, intended to implement the recommendations of the cross-party Smith Commission, will be unveiled at Westminster today, one of the first pieces of legislation to be introduced following yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, spelling out the government’s programme.

The government said the Bill would devolve “wide-ranging powers” over taxation – including income tax rates and thresholds – and spending. Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “We are delivering on further devolution by giving the Scottish Parliament wide-ranging new powers.

“That means Scotland will have a huge amount of flexibility to make its own decisions while keeping the many advantages of being part of the UK. The Scottish Government must now be clear on how it intends to use both these and its existing powers in the interests of Scotland.”

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said his party would judge the Scotland Bill by its contents, but it had to live up to the Smith proposals in full. “Anything less would be a breach of faith.”

He also recalled the Prime Minister’s promise, when he met First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh after the election, to consider suggestions for further powers.

Mr Robertson said: “If these improvements have not been included, we will seek to amend the Bill.”

The government’s programme set out in the Queen’s Speech included Bills to cap benefits, tighten immigration rules, hand more powers to English cities, cut business red tape, reform trade unions and ban legal highs as well as hold a referendum on EU membership,

But the government backed away from plans to repeal the Human Rights Act, promising only proposals for a new British Bill of Rights.

SNP justice spokeswoman and Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry said the Smith package had been a reaction to the referendum.

“We’re very keen the spirit and the letter of Smith are delivered, but of course since the referendum my party has achieved an overwhelming mandate in Scotland and so we need something a bit more than Smith to recognise the fact the SNP now have 56 out of the 59 Scottish MPs.

“We are looking to this government to deliver on the spirit and letter of Smith, but also to deliver further real powers for the Scottish Parliament.”

Shadow Scottish secretary and Edinburgh South Labour MSP Ian Murray said Scotland needed measures to secure a stable recovery, protect vital public services and deliver political and constitutional reform.

He said: “Scottish Labour are clear – the Scottish Parliament should have final say over welfare, the powers to defend the vulnerable against Tory austerity whilst retaining the Barnett formula.

“The SNP ran a general election campaign on the basis of full fiscal autonomy and abolishing the Barnett formula. If they intend to amend the Scotland Bill to reflect that, it is now incumbent on them to produce credible costings for their plans.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com