Independence and ‘greater powers’ for Holyrood neck and neck in opinion poll

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An opinion poll published in yesterday’s Sunday Times shows public support for independence and support for greater powers for Holyrood to be neck and neck.

The Panelbase poll shows that once the 12% don’t knows are excluded, 39% of respondents expressed a preference for independence, while 41% preferred greater powers for the Scottish Parliament as proposed by the Calman Commission.  The 2% difference between the two positions is within the normal margin of error for opinion polls.  Only 20% of those polled support the status quo and do not wish to see more powers for Holyrood.

John Swinney, SNP finance secretary and the party’s candidate for Perthshire North, welcomed the poll said that it showed there was an appetite in Scotland for greater powers for the Scottish Parliament: “Scotland is moving forward.  This is an extremely welcome poll, confirming the broad and growing support for Scotland to have the economic and financial powers of independence that we need to boost jobs and grow the economy – double the backing for the status quo.”

However Mr Swinney criticised the proposals in the Scotland Bill saying that they did not go far enough and left Scotland without the tools a Scottish government required in order to protect and develop the Scottish economy.

“The financial powers in the Scotland Bill are far too limited, and need to be strengthened and improved – for example, the Scottish Parliament should have access to the all-time high £13.4 billion North Sea revenues, we should have the ability to cut fuel duty by much more than the UK Government’s measly penny – which has already been cancelled out – and we should have the same responsibility for Corporation Tax that is being considered for Northern Ireland so that we can make the Scottish economy more competitive.

“By re-electing the SNP Government, the people of Scotland can achieve the job-creating powers that we need to grow the economy, and the right to choose our nation’s future in a referendum.”

Although the Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative sponsors of the Calman Commission proposals which form the basis of the Scotland Bill highlight the extra powers which they claim the Scotland Bill will give to the Scottish Parliament, the financial powers in the Bill were criticised as ‘unworkable’ and ‘dangerously flawed’ by leading academic economists Prof. Andrew Hughes-Hallett and Prof. Drew Scott.

Another proposal in the Scotland Bill which has raised concerns was inserted at the behest of Jim Wallace the Lib Dem deputy First Minister from 1999 to 2005.  Wallace’s amendment will make the newly created UK Supreme Court the final court of appeal for Scottish court cases relating to European human rights legislation.  The Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, has expressed her fear that this move will lead to the “loss of identity” of Scots law.    

Other critics have pointed out that the Scotland Bill will return certain important powers to Westminster, such as control over public planning, leading to fears that Scotland could find itself playing host to nuclear waste from English nuclear reactors.  The Scottish Parliament would also lose control of insolvency law and charity law amongst other powers.