First Minister Alex Salmond has commented on the Scotland Bill by saying that the ‘far too limited’ fiscal powers proposed are a missed opportunity to strengthen the Scottish Parliament and Scotland’s economy.
The FM set out the Scottish Government’s response to the UK Government’s Bill, welcoming the additional powers where there is a consensus for change, but stating that Scotland deserves more than a demand from Westminster to sign a blank cheque for implementation costs of the tax measures.
“Survey after survey shows that the people of Scotland want significantly more powers for the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government wants Scotland to take full responsibility for its own affairs with financial responsibility and independence, so that we can grow the economy to invest in jobs and public services.
“This Bill was a great opportunity which the UK Government has missed. Unfortunately, people will be disappointed by a lacklustre Westminster Bill that tinkers around the edges, retains the key powers in London, and leaves big questions unanswered.
“Scotland needs full financial responsibility to boost our recovery, invest in our public services and support long-term sustainable growth. This Bill falls far short of that – it is ‘Calman Minus’ which threatens to short-change Scotland.
“The fiscal powers are far too limited, and for the sake of Scotland’s economy and public services the Bill needs to be strengthened – either by the Scottish Parliament or the people.
“There are some parts of the Bill that we welcome, where there is a consensus for change which the Scottish Government has been leading – such as devolution of control over air guns, speed limits, and borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament, albeit too limited.
“A big unanswered question is why the Scottish Parliament is being asked to sign a blank cheque, with the Westminster Government expecting Scotland to pay for the very limited extra powers.
“It is absolutely right that the Scottish Parliament now undertakes a full forensic examination of this Bill, and we will support that process fully. Our aim is to improve the Bill so that it delivers real benefits to the people of Scotland.”
In the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (January 2010), 69 per cent of respondents favoured significantly more powers for the Scottish Parliament. On tax (59 per cent) and welfare benefits (60 per cent), a majority want the Scottish Parliament to make the decisions for Scotland.