SNP continue to demand flaws in Scotland Bill be addressed

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by G.A.Ponsonby

A series of amendments to the Scotland Bill have been tabled by the SNP ahead of discussions at Westminster.

The nationalists have repeated claims that the Bill is flawed and that the tax proposals put forward by the Tories and backed by Labour and the Lib Dems will cost Scotland £ billions in lost revenue.

The amendments call for responsibility for Scotland’s finances to be fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament.  The SNP believe this would provide greater policy opportunities to promote sustainable economic growth in Scotland and help protect vital public services.

SNP MPs also lodged amendments to reinstate the devolution of Air Passenger Duty and the Aggregates Levy, as recommended by the Calman Commission.

SNP Deputy leader at Westminster Stewart Hosie claimed the Bill as it stood didn’t support economic growth.  The MP for Dundee East described the plans as a ‘tax trap’ that would see the Scottish budget reduced significantly.

Mr Hosie said:

“The Scotland Bill will be a missed opportunity if it does not support jobs and growth across Scotland.  As it currently stands, the Bill does neither.

“Extremely limited borrowing powers mean the Scottish Government cannot effectively invest in long term building projects to stimulate the Scottish economy.  The half-baked tax trap put forward by Calman will see Scotland lose billions in coming years.

Mr Hosie highlighted the difference between the Scottish employment trends and those of the UK as evidence that the SNP had used what limited powers they have to good effect.  However he insisted that fiscal autonomy would allow jobs to be protected and would act as a shield from damaging decisions from the Tory led UK government.

He added:

“Devolving full financial responsibility would allow the Scottish Parliament to go further, secure more jobs and target support at key sectors.  That is why the SNP have tabled these amendments.

“The UK Government keeps making the wrong decisions for Scotland.  The VAT rise which squeeze household budgets, a base closure program which will reduce uniformed personnel in Scotland by 25% and no relief from sky high fuel prices are all making life difficult for Scottish Parliament.  The Scottish Parliament could make the right decisions for Scotland.”

The first day of discussions on the Scotland Bill will take place today with two further days of debate on the financial aspects of the Bill on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th of March.

The calls for more powers came on the same day as Sir Tom Hunter called for corporation tax to be cut to 10% and more protection to be given to Scotland’s youngest children.

Sir Tom claimed that such a cut would drive growth and increase employment opportunities.  The respected businessman also praised First Minister Alex Salmond as “an astute and clever man”.

Welcoming the comments, SNP MSP and Minister for Parliament Bruce Crawford said:

“We agree with Sir Tom when it comes to issues like Scotland taking responsibility for corporation tax to help boost the economy and create jobs.  Unfortunately the UK Government’s Scotland Bill and the limited ambition of other parties in the Scottish Parliament does not go nearly far enough in transferring the powers of full fiscal responsibility which would help us break out of the straitjacket of London cuts and create the kind of enterprising Scotland we like Sir Tom want to see.

“With the Christie Commission considering the shape of Scotland’s public services and actions in this year’s budget such as a £5 million Early Intervention fund that will invest in innovative support for our youngest children and backing for education opportunities through university, college or apprenticeships the SNP is working to address these challenges and make Scotland better.

“While we can and are taking action with the powers we currently have it is only with full fiscal powers that Scotland will have the levers Sir Tom talks about to drive growth and increase employment opportunities.”

Sir Tom’s praise for Alex Salmond comes one week after Sir David Murray backed the SNP leader as he bids to remain Scotland’s First Minister.  Last week Sir David said of Mr Salmond that he “makes a fine First Minister” and his “competent” record proves that he and his party deserve another four years.