• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

MSPs approve Scotland Bill

THE Scotland Bill's transfer of powers from Westminster to Holyrood was backed unanimously by MSPs last night despite SNP reservations about the "missed opportunity" of the proposals.

Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil brushed aside Opposition jibes about the SNP's failure to secure concessions on the bill as he summed up in the debate on the move in Scottish Parliament, say-ing: "We may not have got it this time, but in two years time we'll be in control of the whole lot."

The increase in the Holyrood tax take from 7% to 16% represented by the changes were "modest by any degree" and would not excite voters, he said.The SNP demanded a series of concessions it failed to secure, but pointed out most of these were also Liberal Democrat policy.

Full borrowing powers, control of the Crown Estate, guaranteed European representation, Corporation tax, Excise Duty and control over broadcasting were all demands originally made by the Scottish Government.

In return Westminster has offered to look in future at further reviewing borrowing powers and the issuing of bonds and to review the relationship between Scotland's courts and the UK Supreme Court.

Under the proposals Scottish ministers will be able to raise up to £2.2 billion in capital borrowing, limited to 10% of the Scottish budget each year. For revenue, Scottish ministers will be able to borrow £200 million a year from the UK Government, capped at a cumulative total of £500m.

The bill will include powers over air guns, responsibility for drink-driving and the national speed limit on Scottish roads, a small role in appointments to Gaelic broadcaster MG Alba and the Crown Estate, and a new procedure for Scottish criminal cases that go to the UK Supreme Court.

Of more importance was an agreement that the final detail on the calculation to cut Scotland's block grant, to compensate for the transfer of income tax powers, will be subject to approval by MSPs. That calculation will also be based on the funding formula arrived at by the Holtham inquiry into the funding of the Welsh Parliament, another factor deemed crucial by Scots ministers.

Last night David Cameron, who is in Scotland today, said it was an example of the four main parties working together. He said: "This is a major milestone in the constitution of Scotland, with more responsibility and accountability handed to Scots."

Scottish Government Strategy Minister Bruce Crawford said these "important changes" meant the bill "will not harm Scotland's interests and will provide some increase in responsibilities for this Parliament".

He said ministers are now "satisfied the bill no longer poses a threat to devolved interests" but said it "could have been so much better".

Labour chief whip James Kelly said SNP demands had "melted away to a damp squib", while Conservative MSP David McLetchie said the Scottish Government position is "either a humiliating climbdown or a tactical retreat". He added: "Perhaps it is a mixture of both but when one looks back on the heady days of last summer and reflects on the rhetoric of the First Minister and his so-called six demands, there is no doubt people unaccustomed to humility should now be eating a large slice of humble pie."

LibDem leader Willie Rennie said the SNP had "failed to make its case" for its six demands as the bill passed through Westminster calling the demands "a catalogue of errors and blunders".

Mr Crawford attacked the "joy-ful" opposition to these powers, adding: "Every party in this chamber has publicly said Scotland should be granted more powers than are currently in this bill. However, we live in strange times, when our opponents would rather deny their own policies than be seen to be agreeing with this Government."

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

92436