Timetable for Calman changes

26 Nov 2009 11:30 AM

Scottish Ministers today urged the UK Government to transfer the responsibilities from Westminster to Holyrood set out in its response to the Calman Commission recommendations without delay.

Constitution Minister Michael Russell published a letter from the First Minister to the Prime Minister, which sets out a detailed timetable for the early implementation of those proposals where there is a consensus for change - such as the regulation of air weapons.

Mr Russell also strongly opposed the UK Government's proposals to transfer responsibilities back from Holyrood to Westminster - for example, the regulation of all healthcare professions within Scotland's distinctive National Health Service.

Mr Russell said:

"The establishment of the Calman Commission recognised the settled will of the people for further constitutional progress in Scotland. But the Commission was unbalanced in its remit - refusing even to consider the option of independence - and limited in its outcomes.

"Similarly, the UK Government response is disappointing, and in some areas is going in exactly the wrong direction for Scotland by proposing to claw powers back from Holyrood to Westminster. And it is clear that the so-called borrowing powers are nothing of the sort, and not even what Calman proposed. Scotland needs real financial and economic powers, including full fiscal autonomy - not 'pretend powers'.

"The UK Government document does propose some welcome changes, such as the transfer of responsibilities for airgun legislation - but not yet. That is not good enough, not least because these are areas involving substantial public safety issues.

"Any further delay would be inexcusable. The argument that the 'Calman package' must be implemented as a whole has already been shown to be specious, not least by Sir Kenneth himself.

"The Scottish Government drafted Orders over the summer to give effect to the relevant recommendations where we all agree that change is needed. We have done our bit, and in the interests of public safety in Scotland we call on the UK Government to do theirs - and do it now.

"The First Minister has written to the Prime Minister proposing that these Orders be considered at a Privy Council meeting as soon as possible, paving the way for legislative change early next year.

"To allow the Orders to be considered at the Privy Council meeting on February 10, papers would need to be sent to the Privy Council by February 3. Affirmations in both Parliaments would therefore be required no later than February 3. Taking relevant recess periods into consideration, the Orders would need to be laid at Holyrood no later than December 8, and at Westminster no later than December 4. This is a tight but entirely achievable timetable.

"So we have given the Prime Minister a workable timetable for transferring these responsibilities to Holyrood, and I hope that he responds positively to our proposal. There is no possible reason why the people of Scotland need wait for these important and necessary changes. If they are the right thing to do - and we all agree that they are - we should be delivering them as quickly as possible, not kicking them into the Westminster long grass.

"We believe that Scotland will not fulfil its potential until the powers of the Parliament are complete, and Scotland is an independent nation. Independence provides the opportunity to make decisions for ourselves - bringing new rights and responsibilities.

"But - unlike the UK Government - we believe that the people of Scotland should be given the opportunity to speak in a referendum. Next week's White Paper is the next step in the process of giving the people of Scotland their say on their nation's future."

The Scottish Government published its response to Calman on November 9.

On November 30, the Scottish Government will publish a White Paper setting out options for Scotland's constitutional future and paving the way for the Referendum Bill.