SNP and Labour to Call for Stronger Powers
Source: Holyrood Magazine
The SNP and Labour have both called for the new Scotland Bill to go further and bring new devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament.
The Bill, designed to implement the recommendations from the Smith Commission, will get a second reading in Westminster today, with both the SNP and Labour planning to table amendments to strengthen Scotland’s devolved powers.
The SNP amendment warns, “the measures proposed in the Scotland Bill are not an adequate response to the election result in Scotland”, calling for the inclusion of additional devolved powers over “job creation, taxation, welfare and wages
Labour meanwhile called on changes that would the Scottish Parliament to mitigate austerity.
Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray will call for the Scottish Parliament to have power to top up UK benefit rates and create new ones, along with full devolution of housing benefit.
Describing the Bill as “woefully lacking”, SNP MP Angus Robertson said: “The Smith powers are widely seen as the bare minimum which should be delivered to Scotland and yet every party in the Scottish Parliament - even the Scottish Tories –have backed the view of the cross-party Devolution Committee that the Bill as it stands simply doesn't measure up.
“It is abundantly clear that there needs to be substantial changes and improvements to bring the Bill up to scratch - and to deliver the powers people in Scotland want to see.
“As it stands, major powers over social security, the minimum wage and other key economic powers would remain in the hands of David Cameron and George Osborne - it is time these powers were delivered to Scotland to allow us to take real action to grow our economy and tackle poverty.
Murray said: “The original purpose of devolution was to keep the social solidarity that comes from being part of something bigger whilst recognising the uniqueness of Scotland’s role in the UK.”
He added: “The Bill we will debate over the coming weeks isn’t perfect, but it allows us to keep the benefits of pooling and sharing resources across the UK whilst taking our own decisions in key areas. That’s what over two million Scots voted for just last year.”
Responding to the SNP amendments, he said: “The SNP promised in their manifesto to deliver Full Fiscal Autonomy, but they have barely settled into their Westminster offices before completely abandoning it.
“The SNP know their policy of Full Fiscal Autonomy would be a disaster for Scotland, they just won’t admit it.
“The First Minister said during the General Election that her MPs would vote for it this year, their amendments to the Scotland Bill confirm that they won’t.
“The reality is that Full Fiscal Autonomy would mean a level of austerity to our public services in Scotland that even George Osborne wouldn’t dream of, which is why the SNP are sprinting away from their own flagship policy.”
Scottish Voter Participation Survey
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Third Sector Leader: Scotland Bill Will "Make Things Worse for the Poor”
Third Force News (29/5/15) - The new bill pledging more powers to Scotland is a dangerous “fudge” which will harm the poor.
That’s the view of a leading figure in the country’s third sector, who said the legislation should be torn up and the process started again.
Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said the voice of the poorest communities must be heard.
The creation of a Scotland bill was included in Wednesday’s Queen’s speech and was published on Thursday.
It is supposed to implement the findings of the cross-party Smith Commission into further powers for Scotland, which was set up following promises made by pro-union parties prior to last year’s referendum on Scottish independence.
Trying to create a half-way house on welfare will only make matters worse for people who need support
Its key elements include some new welfare powers, the ability to set the rules over some benefits for carers, the disabled and the elderly and some control over Universal Credit payments.
However, Sime said that rather than making things better for Scotland’s most disadvantaged, it could, in fact, compound inequality.
He said: “At first reading the newly published Scotland bill is another devolution fudge which will be of no help to the people of Scotland.
“In particular, trying to create a half-way house on welfare will only make matters worse for people who need support.
“The draft bill even puts new limits on the capacity of the Scottish Government to mitigate the impact of welfare reform.”
Sime insisted the whole process needs to be halted and re-started, this time taking into account people with real knowledge of poverty and the welfare system.
He said: “The interests of our poorest communities should come first but they have been excluded from this conversation, so SCVO recommends that both governments should pause and listen before ploughing ahead with another piece of legislation which will turn out to be unfit for purpose. Devolution should not be just a political football.
“SCVO will work with its members and with wider civil society to put a stop to this parliamentary circus until there has been genuine engagement with citizens about how their needs can best be met.
“We will give priority to the views of people who have first-hand experience of the welfare system and we invite the Secretary of State to join us in that conversation.”
Sime is not alone in his criticism of the Scotland bill – first minister Nicola Sturgeon said it falls short in “almost every way”.
She said it does not even deliver the limited extra powers proposed by the Smith Commission, telling the Scottish Parliament: "The bill doesn't contain the full welfare powers recommended by the Smith Commission and in some key powers it retains, unbelievably in my view, given the amount of concern that was expressed about this, it retains a veto for the UK government on key policy areas.
"So, for example, if this parliament wants to abolish the bedroom tax, as I hope we do, the UK government would still have a right of veto over whether we could do it or not. Now I'm sorry, but that is not devolution."
If the bill, if it passes through the parliamentary process unimpeded, could become law early next year, ahead of the Holyrood elections in May 2016.
Interested in Scotland’s current political situation and possible constitutional futures? Come along to CSPP’s event ‘Scotland: After the General Election’ with writer David Torrance in Edinburgh on 16 June! Details here.
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