Scotland Bill “a missed opportunity” says Holyrood MSP

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By Martin Kelly

The Westminster Government’s Bill, aimed at handing over new powers to the Scottish parliament, has been described as a “missed opportunity” by the SNP’s John Mason.
 
Mr Mason was commenting on reports that an agreement had been struck between the Scottish Government and the UK coalition over the contents of the Scotland Bill.

The MSP for Glasgow Shettleston said the Bill had failed to deliver anything like the powers that Scotland needs but that both Parliaments could now at least move forward and implement the very limited extra powers on offer.

Mr Mason, a member of the Scotland Bill Committee, said:
 
“The Scotland Bill can now move forward – but the fact is it is a missed opportunity to deliver the kind of powers and responsibilities Scotland needs to create jobs and boost economic growth for all our communities.

“It falls far short of what is required, and has been completely overtaken by events, with all Parties seeking to go much further than the limited new powers offered by the Bill
 
“This Bill is a belated reaction from the anti-independence parties to the SNP’s 2007 election win – but it goes nowhere near meeting the aspirations of the people of Scotland expressed so resoundingly in last May’s Holyrood election.
 
“Under these provisions, Scotland will still only be responsible for raising a fraction of our own taxes, when what is needed if full financial responsibility and independence.
 
“Thankfully, the people of Scotland will now get the chance to choose those real job-creating powers in the independence referendum in autumn 2014.”

Mr Mason’s comments followed news this morning that the Scottish Government will not stand in the way of the Bill.

Scottish Government Minister for Parliamentary Business, Bruce Crawford, revealed that negotiations with the London based administration had resulted in many damaging elements of the Bill being removed.

Mr Crawford echoed the views of his colleague and claimed the powers were not nearly enough:

“We fought hard to get more powers in the Scotland Bill, and succeeded in removing the harmful elements, but the UK government resisted more significant changes.” he said, and added:

“We know the people of Scotland want significantly more powers for the Scottish Parliament – the debate around the independence referendum has shown that – and I believe the Scotland Bill will be out of date before reaching the statute book.

“It represents a real missed opportunity.  To stimulate the economy we need much greater financial responsibility that will allow us to boost our recovery, invest in our public services and support long-term sustainable growth.

“The Scotland Bill falls way short in terms of delivering the economic levers to stimulate the economy and create jobs.”

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont claimed the Tory/Lib Dem Bill was evidence of Labour’s “radical approach to the constitution”.

The Scottish Labour leader appeared to indicate her support for even more powers by pledging to “develop devolution further” and added:

“This is an important development of devolution and I am glad that the SNP government has dropped its opposition to this progressive move.

“We can and will develop devolution further but this is a significant moment for those of us who believe in a stronger Scottish Parliament and a strong Scotland within the UK.”

Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore welcomed the agreement calling it a “major step forward for devolution”.

“The UK government has been clear from the outset we believe it is the right package of new powers for Scotland.  We have also been clear that we wanted the Scottish Parliament to support the measures contained in the Scotland Bill.

“It will strengthen devolution and the cross-government support for the bill is good news for Scotland.” he said.

Key powers contained in the Bill include:

  • a new Scottish rate of income tax
  • the devolution of stamp duty land tax
  • the devolution of landfill tax
  • the power to create new taxes
  • a final say over Scottish related appointments to the BBC Trust
  • a say in the appointment of a specific Scottish Crown Estate Commissioner
  • new borrowing powers of worth £5bn of its budget
  • legislative powers over air weapons in Scotland
  • responsibility for drink driving and speed limits on Scotland’s roads
  • a new procedure for Scottish criminal cases that go to the UK Supreme Court