Scottish Government
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Scotland Bill nears completion

As the Scotland Bill nears the end of its parliamentary processes at both Westminster and Holyrood parliaments, the UK and Scottish Governments have been in negotiation over final amendments, Cabinet Secretary for Government Strategy Bruce Crawford said today.

‪Having agreed a package of changes to the Bill, and undertakings on its implementation, both Governments will now recommend that their respective Parliaments support the Bill.

The Scottish Government has secured important changes to the sections of the Bill dealing with borrowing powers and the Supreme Court and to protect  Scottish interests, particularly in regard to securing agreement on financial implementation including adjustment to the block grant.

However Mr Crawford said the Bill remained a missed opportunity to give Scotland the tools to stimulate the economy and create jobs.  Mr Crawford said:

 ‪“We fought hard to get more powers in the Scotland Bill, and succeeded in removing the harmful elements, but the UK Government resisted more significant changes.

 ‪“We know the people of Scotland want significantly more powers for the Scottish Parliament - the debate around the independence referendum has shown that - and I believe  the Scotland Bill will be out of date before reaching the statute book.

 “It represents a real missed opportunity.  To stimulate the economy we need much greater financial responsibility that will allow us to boost our recovery, invest in our public services and support long-term sustainable growth.  The Scotland Bill falls way short in terms of delivering the economic levers to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

 “The Scotland Bill will provide the Scottish Parliament with some additional powers on borrowing, the principles of devolved taxes, drink driving and air weapons and the reform of the Scottish criminal cases in the UK Supreme Court.

 “The UK government pressed for a financial method which would have cut Scottish spending by billions. During the negotiations we have secured important changes that mean the Bill no longer risks Scottish public finances as both Governments should agree the implementation arrangements.  The harmful provisions to take back existing devolved powers have also been removed.

“As the Bill provides the Scottish Parliament with some additional powers the Scottish Government will not stand in the way of this Bill.

"But an opportunity to create jobs, devolve power and respect the Scottish people's demand for more powers has been missed. This Bill will be remembered for what it did not do. The outstanding question now is, with the UK government committed to giving Scotland more powers, is when will the people be told what those new powers are.

"In any event, people will get the opportunity to vote for the powers that Scotland needs with independence in the autumn 2014 referendum."

Additions to the responsibility of the Parliament and Government in the Bill include:

  • increased financial responsibilities, particularly tax powers over land transactions and disposals to landfill, a Scottish Rate of Income Tax and borrowing powers for capital expenditure
  • legislative powers to address the problem of air weapons in Scotland
  • responsibility for drink driving and speed limits on Scotland’s roads
  • a role in appointments in broadcasting and the Crown Estate
  • a new procedure for Scottish criminal cases that  go to the UK Supreme Court

The governments have reached agreement on to the Bill and principles for its implementation.  These have secured improvements to the capital borrowing powers which will be devolved by the Bill (so that loans will be available over longer periods)  and address risks to devolved institutions posed by current version of the Bill.  Key changes include:

Consistent with the principle of consent, it has been agreed that both governments should reach agreement on implementation issues, including adjustments to the Scottish block grant to take account of the Scottish Parliament’s new fiscal powers.  Each government should also provide assurance to its Parliament before relevant provisions of the Bill are brought into force and before implementation arrangements are brought into effect.  The Scottish Government proposes to seek the agreement of the Scottish Parliament as part of this process.

The proposed reservations of insolvency procedures and regulation of health professions will be removed, preserving the Scottish Government’s existing legislative competence for these areas

Proposals that risk the integrity of Acts of the Scottish Parliament referred to the Supreme Court, and the Parliament’s role in international obligations, will also be removed.  It has also been agreed that there will be a review in three years of the need for certification of cases by the High Court for Supreme Court consideration, to be chaired by the Lord President.

The Scotland Bill was introduced by the UK Government at Westminster in November 2010.  It was examined by a Scotland Bill Committee in the previous and current Scottish Parliaments, both of which made proposals for changes.

Changes recommended by the previous Scotland Bill Committee (chaired by Wendy Alexander) which the UK Government has not accepted include: 

  • Immediate  devolution  of Aggregates Levy
  • substantially higher limits for both revenue and capital borrowing
  • earlier capital borrowing on a prudential basis without the need for Treasury consent
  • statutory accountability for HMRC to the Scottish Parliament
  • further measures on the Crown Estate to provide greater accountability in Scotland
  • further devolution over speed limits and drink driving

Changes recommended by the current Scotland Bill Committee (chaired by Linda Fabiani MSP) which the UK Government has not accepted include: 

  • devolution of Corporation Tax and Alcohol Excise Duty and implementation without delay of the devolution of Air Passenger Duty and the Aggregates Levy proposed by the Calman Commission
  • devolution of greater control over Income Tax, for example so that the Scottish Parliament has flexibility over income tax rates for all bands.
  • a principles-based, sustainable capital borrowing regime like that for local authorities rather than inflexible caps on borrowing
  • devolution of the management and revenues of the Crown Estate
  • devolution of greater responsibilities in broadcasting;
  • a guaranteed role for the Scottish Government in EU meetings
  • complete devolution of responsibility for local and Scottish Parliament elections
  • further devolution over speed limits and drink driving
  • devolution of the regulation of all firearms   
  • amendment of the Scotland Bill to include enabling provisions to begin the process of devolving welfare and benefits.


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