DAVID Cameron’s government needs to adopt a more pro-UK mindset and in the wake of giving more powers to Scotland should now establish a “counter-balancing” strategy to boost the Union, the House of Lords constitution committee says today.

The peers warn that a “piecemeal approach” to devolution has placed the 300-year-old Union at risk and that, while fiscal responsibility is a good thing, they say: “However, increasing the fiscal powers of the devolved institutions will present risks to the redistributive role of the Union.

“The greater the amount of revenue raised and spent locally, the less scope for the allocation of resources on the basis of need by central government. This allocation is vitally important to ensure that the social union is supported by a pooling and sharing of resources across the whole of the UK.”

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They strongly oppose the SNP’s desire for full fiscal autonomy for Scotland, saying that this would end the pooling and sharing of resources across the UK and “break the Union apart”.

The committee says that the mechanisms by which the UK Government manages relations with the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations must strengthen the Union not weaken it and this means there must be the “start of a new mindset throughout the UK Government and civil service” regarding their relations with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It suggests one option the Prime Minister and his Whitehall colleagues should consider is setting up branches of the Treasury, Cabinet Office and other core government departments in Scotland.

HeraldScotland:

“This would ensure there are staff based in Scotland to facilitate collaboration and co-operation and to manage the increased complexities of the overlapping and shared competences that will result from the Scotland Act 2016.”

The peers argue that any future devolution must “not be at the expense of the stability, coherence and viability of the Union” and that more powers, say, to Scotland should only be done if they benefit the people of Scotland and are “without detriment to the Union as a whole”. Any such plans, they say, should always be published alongside a detailed “devolution impact assessment”.

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The report stresses: “The stability of the Union requires careful management of the balance between unity and diversity. The development of devolution in recent decades and the emerging ‘devolution deals’ in England have accentuated diversity in the Union. A counter-balancing effort to support and promote unity is now required. The Government should set out a strategy for taking this forward.”

The committee also says:

*the Barnett Formula should be scrapped and replaced by a needs-based formula;

*the BBC and other broadcasters should continue to provide a common UKwide service in addition to regional and local coverage;

*that federalism is wrong for the UK and an English Parliament is not a viable option as it would create a destabilising asymmetry to the power of the Union;

HeraldScotland:

*any proposal for a future Scottish independence referendum should be set out in primary legislation at Westminster to enable proper scrutiny;

*UK Government services could be branded to make clear people know which services are being provided by central government and

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*people’s annual tax summaries should show what proportion of money goes to central and devolved government and on what services the raised revenues are spent.

Lord Lang, a former Conservative Scottish Secretary, who chairs the committee, said: “We must stop taking the Union for granted. Since 1999, devolution has been largely demand-led and piecemeal. The committee saw no strategic thinking about its cumulative impact on the Union as a whole.

“The Government does not seem to recognise the pressures being placed on the United Kingdom by the ad hoc reactive manner in which devolution has taken place and continues to take place. It’s now time to focus more on the Union,” he added.