All-party “devo” meeting delayed

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  By Newsnet Scotland Reporter

Lord Smith of Kelvin, the unelected peer with the task of delivering greater democracy to Scotland, has delayed all-party talks on the devolution settlement until October 22.

His decision emerged as the Scottish National Party lodged its proposals for “Devo Max”, alongside the five other main parties and a welter of submissions from civic organisations and members of the public.

Lord Smith of Kelvin, the unelected peer with the task of delivering greater democracy to Scotland, has delayed all-party talks on the devolution settlement until October 22.

His decision emerged as the Scottish National Party lodged its proposals for “Devo Max”, alongside the five other main parties and a welter of submissions from civic organisations and members of the public.

Predictably, as two pro-independence parties, the SNP and Greens have lodged demands for a great deal more devolution than that sought by their Unionist counterparts. The SNP want Holyrood to have full control over all tax policy, as well as powers over welfare and broadcasting.

The Greens want broader economic powers, as well as increased powers in the area of energy policy and control of most of the welfare system.

The three “Better Together” parties have re-affirmed their earlier devolution proposals, the most radical of which (from the Conservatives) includes setting rates and bands of income tax, and a share of VAT.

The weakest package comes from Labour, the party with most to lose in the devolution debate as it struggles to justify the continuance of the so-called West Lothian Question, where Scottish MPs have to power to vote on English-only matters at Westminster.

Labour fears that the loss of Scottish MPs from English-only debates would make it difficult for a future Labour Government to push through its legislative programme for England.

A Labour Government appeared even less likely this week, as the party struggled to preserve a previously-safe seat of Heywood & Middleton, as erstwhile supporters deserted it for right-wing anti-immigration party UKIP.

In a bid to deflect attention from its Scottish position, Labour made a half-hearted call for the SNP and Greens to back down from supporting full Scottish independence, following last month’s 55-45 referendum result.

Lord Smith has the task of delivering some kind of devolution proposal by November 30. It seems likely that will happen only after a great deal of compromise by the various parties. Smith has asked dozens of other groups to submit ideas for the devolution package. “This may give him something to read while Labour fights a rear-guard action to lower expectations all round,” commented one observer.

The Scottish Government proposal can be read here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0046/00460563.pdf