DAVID Cameron has issued a direct challenge to the SNP Government to "stop talking and start acting" on Holyrood's extra powers as he set out his administration's legislative programme.


Amid the pomp and ceremony of the state opening of Parliament, the Prime Minister said the 26 new Bills - including ones to facilitate an in/out EU referendum and to give Scotland more tax powers - offered a golden opportunity to renew Britain.

It was "a Queen's Speech for working people from a One Nation Government that will bring our country together", Mr Cameron said.

But interim Labour leader Harriet Harman warned that Britain faced a "fragile future" under the Tories and claimed the Government's agenda was "unravelling" even before the Queen had arrived at Westminster after Mr Cameron omitted an expected Bill to scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights.

The PM, setting out the first majority Conservative programme since 1996, declined to say whether he had faced opposition from his own MPs to the repeal of the Act but made clear he would take action before the end of the Parliament, insisting: "Be in no doubt, we will be...legislating on this issue."

Faced with 56 SNP MPs, all wearing the white rose of Scotland, the Tory leader said he welcomed the chance to take on the Nationalists, whose policies, he claimed, had faced little scrutiny so far. The Scotland Bill will implement the Smith Commission proposals, giving Holyrood responsibility to raise about 40 per cent of Scotland's taxes.

"Devolution is not just about getting new powers, it's also about the responsibility of how those powers are used," declared Mr Cameron.

"I would say to the SNP - if you're not happy with decisions made here in Westminster, if you want more taxes, more spending and more borrowing, you can now introduce those measures in Scotland. It's time for you to stop talking and start acting," he said to Tory cheers.

The PM also decried the SNP proposal for full fiscal autonomy, saying it would mean almost £10 billion in higher taxes or in extra cuts; equivalent to £5,000 per Scottish household.

He said it was ironic that the party which claimed to represent Scotland "advocated a worse deal for Scotland than the rest of us do".

"People who want the best for every nation of our United Kingdom should fight for a Union with solidarity at its heart," he said.

Angus Robertson, the SNP leader, made clear his party would "present a constructive but tough opposition".

The problem with the Queen's Speech, he argued, was that it did not recognise Scotland's complete rejection of the Tory agenda.

"Instead, we are to be led by the Tories' wrong priorities. At a time when people are suffering from the impact of austerity, the Tories are focused on the wrong issues.

"On the vow given to the people of Scotland, we will judge the Scotland Bill on its content. The legislation that is introduced must live up to the Smith Commission in full; anything less would be a breach of faith," he added.

At one point, Speaker John Bercow had to intervene to reprimand gently SNP MPs who applauded Mr Robertson, pointing out it was the Commons long-standing convention not to clap.

Elsewhere, Nicola Sturgeon also stressed that the Queen's Speech did not recognise the election result.

"The massively changed political circumstances in Scotland provide a mandate for substantial further powers beyond those recommended by the Smith process and we will continue to make a strong case to the UK Government for those powers to be delivered," said the First Minister.

During Commons exchanges, Ms Harman urged Mr Cameron to "break his habit of divisiveness" and chided him for so shamefully setting the English against the Scots during the General Election campaign.

"No party, especially one that claims to be one nation, should set the interests of a family in Gloucester against the interests of a family in Glasgow," she said.

In a separate development, the Speaker said he would take "appropriate advice" after Alex Salmond, on a point of order, raised the Government's plan for English Votes for English Laws, which would restrict the voting rights of Scottish MPs.

Rather than introduce the change in a Bill, Mr Cameron wants to do so by simply amending Commons rules of procedure.

The former FM suggested such a fundamental breach of principle that all MPs were equal needed to be investigated since, if it were allowed, any majority government could "change the voting rights of any member without so much as a by your leave".

While Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg argued there was precedent for MPs' voting rights being restricted, Mr Bercow said Mr Salmond had raised a legitimate point and he would look into it.