LABOUR’S Ian Murray has challenged the SNP to put their proposals for full tax and spending powers for Scotland to a vote in the House of Commons.
On the first day’s debate at Westminster on the Scotland Bill, setting out new powers for Holyrood, the Edinburgh South MP and Shadow Scottish Secretary said Labour would propose amendments to add further devolution of welfare powers.
But he said: “The worst-case scenario for Scotland would be the SNP asking for their top manifesto priority of full fiscal autonomy and a majority Conservative government delivering it. I will defend Scotland night and day from any SNP plan to cut Scotland off from UK-wide taxation and spending with full fiscal autonomy.”
Mr Murray quoted the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimate that such a policy would mean a £10 billion black hole in Scotland’s finances by the end of the decade.
“That would mean spending cuts or tax rises to fill the gap – and that’s over and above the cuts already being imposed by this government. That means austerity max.”
And he told the SNP: “If you are so confident of full fiscal autonomy I will look forward to you bringing forward the amendment so that we can debate it on the floor of this House.”
Tory backbencher Bernard Jenkin said Labour might oppose full fiscal autonomy, but several of his Conservative colleagues could vote for it. “It might go through,” he said.
He claimed the Smith Commission proposals, on which the Bill was based, made devolution “more opaque”.
And he added: “We need a new Act of Union to be ratified by a referendum in all four parts of the UK.”
Edinburgh East SNP MP Tommy Sheppard accused other parties of presenting a “grotesque caricature” of the SNP’s proposals during the election and said the party wanted Holyrood handed full financial control “in a responsible way that doesn’t disadvantage the people of Scotland”.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said the Bill before the House was a response to the referendum result, but what was needed now was a response to the general election in which the SNP had won a “clear mandate” for more powers. And he said: “If the Government is unwilling to give the people of Scotland what they want, the SNP will bring forward the necessary amendments.”
He said the party had been clear during the election campaign that its priorities were securing powers for Holyrood over employment policy, the minimum wage, welfare, business taxes, National Insurance and equalities.
But he said the SNP would also seek to amend the Bill so the Scottish Parliament could have responsibility for all revenues raised in Scotland as part of a wider financial agreement including borrowing powers.