By a Martin Kelly
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has committed to giving the Scottish Parliament the powers to raise and spend ‘all of its own money’.
In a newspaper interview, the Conservative leader appeared to signal he was prepared to move much further than the devolution proposals previously set out by his party in Scotland.
Speaking to the Sun on Sunday on the subject of devolution, Mr Cameron said “if we get this devolution, we can reduce the relevance of the Barnett formula because a Scottish parliament will be raising and spending all of its own money.”
In a later interview on the Andrew Marr show, the Prime Minister admitted that he expects to fall out with Labour over further powers for Scotland because of English Votes for English Laws during discussions on a future constitutional settlement.
Commenting, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said:
“While David Cameron appears to be under the bizarrely mistaken impression that Scotland is subsidised by the rest of the UK, his apparent commitment to full tax-raising powers for the Scottish Parliament today is a welcome one.
“It is a development that moves him far closer to meeting the aspirations of people in Scotland than his party colleagues have previously signalled.
“It suggests that David Cameron has recognised that the powers that come to Scotland must go substantially beyond what has previously been tabled.”
The comments from the Prime Minister followed reports from newspapers of a clear desire for the devolution proposals offered by the Unionist parties to be significantly enhanced. Dave Watson from Unison told the Sunday Times that “if the ‘change’ mantra is to be credible, Labour needs to be more radical in its approach to the [Smith] Commission.”
The Sunday Times also reported that the Tories’ Lord Forsyth believes that the Westminster Parties “must go well beyond the vow of extra tax and welfare devolution that they proposed days before the vote.”
Meanwhile Rick Nye, head of polling company Populus which conducted internal polling for the No campaign, revealed that the promise of substantial additional powers was critical to the outcome of the referendum,
Writing in the Sunday Times Mr Nye said, “to turn these voters away from Yes, it took the guarantee of extra powers for the Scottish Parliament.”
Annabelle Ewing added: “The fact is that as the No campaign’s own pollsters have made clear, the vow of substantial more powers was critical to the outcome of the referendum.
“The people of Scotland – whether they voted Yes or No – expect to have their say on the shape of Scotland’s future. They must have their opportunity and there should be no place for backroom deals between political parties that bypass public opinion.”
Confusion surrounds the extra powers that will ultimately be offered to Scotland from the UK parties. Former Labour leader Gordon Brown pledged Home Rule in the days leading up to the referendum.
His party colleague, Alistair Darling, made a similar offer when he confirmed in a BBC interview that Devo Max would be guaranteed in the event of a No vote.
Other Unionist politicians have variously called for a federal settlement or a weaker Devo Plus type package of more powers.