David Cameron's government is to fast-track new powers for Scotland by next February so the Scottish Tories can pledge tax cuts in next year's Holyrood elections.


Scottish Secretary David Mundell said that the measures in the Scotland Bill, one of the key pieces of legislation to be outlined in the Queen's Speech, will be "delivered as quickly as we possibly can".

He added that at next year's vote Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson "wants to make the case for lower taxes in Scotland, (and) parties need to be able to make the case based on the powers they know are going to be available.

"So, that's the timetable we are looking to achieve."

New tax powers were agreed by a cross-party commission set up in the wake of last September's independence referendum.

But the SNP have since called for further devolution on top of the Smith agreement.

Mr Mundell, Scotland's only Tory MP, indicated that some powers would take longer to deliver than others and that ministers would oppose moves by the SNP to amend the bill to devolve extra control over employment law and the minimum wage.

He also appeared to draw a line under any other major legislative change saying he did not expect there would be a second Scotland Bill in this parliament.

The Queen's Speech, which will set out the first solely Conservative legislative programme in almost 20 years, will also include measures to ensure that working 30 hours a week on the National Minimum Wage is 'tax free'.

Bills will also provide for an In/Out referendum on the UK's EU membership, legislation to scrap the Human Rights Act and a new five-year 'lock' to prevent income tax, VAT and National Insurance rises.

Labour said that the opening of a new parliament would mark the return of the Tories as the "nasty party".

Ahead of the Queen's Speech, SNP Westminster Group leader Angus Robertson said that his party offered an effective opposition to the Tories.

He added: "Our priority is ending austerity, and the damage it does to people's lives. The Tory government's priority is ending human rights, and we will work across party lines and with colleagues in the Scottish Parliament to stop them scrapping the Human Rights Act."

That view was echoed by Nicola Sturgeon who said her party remained opposed to the Conservatives' spending cut plans.

"If the UK Government does stick to its current proposals, we will argue for ways in which the impact on Scotland can be lessened."

Separately the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank warned that expected welfare changes would save only a fraction of the £12 billion target.

Labour's shadow Scottish Secretary, Ian Murray said: "The Queen Speech will confirm the return of the nasty party, who must urgently come clean about where the axe of their £12 billion cuts to welfare will fall.

"The £12 billion per year of further cuts to welfare, almost entirely from working-age benefits, will make the lives of those who work, and who already struggle to get by, even harder.

"David Cameron and the Tories may claim that they look out for working people, but these cuts will fall most heavily on the working poor and will push even more children into poverty."

Mr Cameron said that his Government's proposals would offer a vision of a "country of security and opportunity for everyone, at every stage of life".

He also claimed today's measures would be for "working people" and evidence of his ministers' commitment to the idea of a One Nation Government "that will bring our country together".

Other Bills expected include an Immigration Bill, which will give police the power to seize the wages of illegal workers as "proceeds of crime".

The Scotland Bill will implement the Smith Commission recommendations, including more powers over tax and welfare.