SNP in bid to address flaws in Scotland Bill

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by G.A.Ponsonby 

The SNP has tabled the first in a series of amendments aimed at improving the Scotland Bill.  The amendments include devolving responsibility for Scottish elections to Holyrood and proposals to devolve control over the most dangerous of air weapons.

The Nationalists described the Tory designed plans that will see some powers transferred to Holyrood and some taken back by Westminster as a ‘botched job’, and claim that their amendments will provide real benefits to Scots.

SNP Home Affairs spokesperson Pete Wishart said: “As it stands the Scotland Bill is a botched job, and so these amendments aim to improve it and deliver real benefits for people in Scotland.

“Our amendments do more than just tidy up the Bill – devolving power over firearms means giving the Scottish Parliament real power to save lives.  There have been too many tragedies and people in Scotland are looking for all parties to work together and act on airguns.

“On elections our amendment seeks, in the spirit of the Gould Report, the full devolution of responsibility to the Scottish Parliament so that we can avoid the chaos London control caused in 2007.”

Mr Wishart claimed that a failure to address the flaws in the Bill as it stands will be a missed opportunity.  The MP for Perth and North Perthshire also attacked the changes to income tax powers that will see Scottish tax rates reduced and Scotland’s grant cut by an equivalent amount.

He added: “The Scotland Bill will be a wasted opportunity unless we improve it and all Scottish MPs should get behind these amendments.

“The biggest problem is that the UK Government has failed to address the flaws in the income tax proposals that would have left Scotland £8bn worse-off had they been in place over the last 10 years.  This would have cost Scotland thousands of jobs – the Scotland Bill as it stands threatens jobs in Scotland.”

The SNP MP repeated his party’s calls for fiscal powers to be transferred to Holyrood and claimed that Scotland faced a ‘dismal decade’ of cuts from London.

“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.

“There is a better way for Scotland than the dismal decade of cuts coming from London.  With real financial responsibility we can make Scotland better and our economy stronger.”

News of the attempted amendments come as it emerged that Wendy Alexander’s Scotland Bill Committee has backed every finding of the Calman Commission and rejected all criticisms of its proposals.  The Scotland Bill is the UK Tory party’s implementation of the Calman proposals.  The plans have the backing of both Labour and the LibDem groups in the Scottish Parliament.

Debate on the Scotland Bill begins next Monday (7 March) in the House of Commons.  The SNP will outline further amendments – including financial measures – throughout the week.

Calman Commission

The Calman Commission was set up by the Unionists at Holyrood after the SNP won the 2007 Scottish elections.  The commission was made up of hand-picked representatives and was headed by Sir Kenneth Calman.  The SNP did not take part in the commission after it refused to consider Scottish independence.  The commission also refused to back calls for fiscal autonomy saying that it was “incompatible” with the Union.

The SNP amendments include:

  • Elections:  Seek to fully devolve responsibility for elections to the Scottish Parliament.
  • Firearms:  Would allow Scottish Parliament to legislate over all air weapons – as Scotland Bill currently stands responsibility over ‘specially dangerous’ weapons remain reserved to UK Secretary of State.
  • Speed limits:  Add new clause to allow a change in national speed limits covering all classes of vehicle.  Bill as it stands only allows changes in relation to cars, but not HGVs or busses or cars towing caravans.
  • Health professions:  Delete clause that re-reserves responsibilities.
  • Antarctica:  Delete clause that re-reserves responsibilities.

Note:

The full text of the SNP amendments can be found here:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmbills/115/amend/pbc1152802a.1497-1503.html