Scotland’s main parties to discuss further devolution at Smith commission

Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

By Shaun Gibson : @ShaunyNews

SCOTLAND’S politicians will put aside party differences today to work on more devolved powers to the Scottish parliament. Representatives from five Scottish parties – two each from the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and the Greens – will be told by Lord Smith of Kelvin to find consensus on bringing new powers to Scotland when they meet in Edinburgh Lord Smith and the politicians are on a tight timetable to deliver the vow made by the pro-Union parties to deliver more powers for Scotland in the event of a No vote. With a Command paper already issued, the parties have to agree a way forward by the end of November . Then the UK Government will put forward draft legislative proposals based on what is agreed in a bill in January.

Lord Smith has the responsibility of getting parties to agree

Lord Smith has the responsibility of getting parties to agree

The bill will be brought forward after the general election by whatever government come in. Reaching consensus on the points that can be agreed will be the easy part in the first formal session of the Smith Commission. The five Scottish parties have already submitted their proposals so everyone is aware of each other’s demands. The focus will be on finding common ground, something Lord Smith is optimistic about. He said: “Having spoken to all of the parties individually, I believe the will is there to reach 
agreement. “Today’s talks give them the chance to sit down together, find common ground and begin the process of delivering what the people of Scotland expect – a package of new powers which will strengthen the Scottish Parliament within the UK.”

Easily-dealt with issues include devolving the powers of the Crown Estate Commission, who own 
the seabeds around the UK and receive rents from Scotland’s fish farm and offshore wind turbine operators. Moving beyond that, there may be agreement on devolving powers such as funds for housing benefit and aspects of welfare including attendance allowance and job training. Nicola Sturgeon has already said that the process must deliver “something substantial.” The First Minister-elect knows independence won’t come out of the talks but wants something very close to it. She said. “The language that was used during the referendum campaign was very clear. The other parties, in seeking to persuade people to vote No, said that more powers would amount to near federalism, a modern form of home rule, devo max.”

Nicola and Alex have all the balls in their side of the court

Nicola and Alex have all the balls in their side of the court  😉


All 5 must agree

The SNP submission makes great play of the campaign pledges of other party leaders, laying plenty of ground to cry foul if, in their eyes, the powers package falls short of what was solomnly pledged. Alex Salmond, now cast in the role of pointman for the SNP as his formal leadership role fades, has already talked of “betrayal”. The Scottish Government have called for maximum devolution within the UK, including full control over tax and fiscal policy, in a wide-ranging set of proposals stopping just short of full 
independence.But the demands of the SNP and the Greens for devo max powers will sail right over the bar of one of the Commission’s key remits, to maintain the integrity of the UK. The great faultine may not be if the Commission deliver devo-max demands, they will not, but on how much and how far they will go up to that limit.

There are major disagreements between Labour and the Conservatives on the issue of tax devolution . In the run-up to the talks the trickery of David Cameorn on linking whether or not Scottish MPs should continue to be allowed to vote on English-only issues in the House of Commons has fouled the atmosphere . The Tories want to go further on the handover of tax levying powers than Labour do. Complete devolution of tax raising powers would be independence by the back door, Gordon Brown has argued. But the Lib Dems, who want Holyrood to have complete control of the rates and bands of personal income tax, seem unfazed.

The Conservatives and Lib Dems want Edinburgh to be in charge of setting rates and bands of personal income tax while Labour would impose limits, lower than even Brown wants. Brown wants Holyrood to be responsible for raising 54 per cent of its own revenue, quadrupling the figure from the £4billion it currently raises to £18billion in 2016. Scottish Labour want powers that would allow the Scottish Government to raise 40 per cent of their budget. There is plenty of room for the parties to fall out, as they will, but also pressure on them to find 
agreement too.

Meanwhile, former first minister Jack McConnell fired a shot across the bows of the Commission and his own party yesterday saying that the quick fix must stand the test of time. He said: “If you are designing a new tax system for Scotland, the system has to work and be sustainable for at least a number of years. “I hope Lord Smith will note the proposals from the different parties but then start a discussion on the basic principles that should then determine what is delivered.” He added: “Deals reached behind closed doors are not going to reach a semi-permanent solution. This has to be seen as based on principle and stand the test of time.”

The representatives on the commission:

SNP – Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney and Linda Fabiani MSP.
Scottish Labour – Finance spokesman Iain Gray MSP and shadow work and pensions minister Gregg McClymont MP.
Former Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie will represent her party with Glasgow University law professor Adam Tomkins.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats – Former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore MP and former party leader Tavish Scott MSP.
The Scottish Green Party – Co-leaders Patrick Harvie MSP and Edinburgh councillor Maggie Chapman.


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Sturgeon says she will work ‘in good faith’ with Lord Smith

Ms Sturgeon said "language of substantial radical change" was used by UK parties in the days before the vote

Ms Sturgeon said “language of substantial radical change” was used by UK parties in the days before the vote

By Shaun Gibson : @ShaunyNews

Few days old this now, but with the Clegg ‘Promise below this’ I though it fitting to remind ourselves, Nicola means business! 

The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to work in good faith with the commission set up to boost Holyrood’s powers in the wake of the referendum. Ms Sturgeon, who is bidding to lead the SNP after Alex Salmond’s resignation, said the Smith Commission had to go a long way to deliver on promises made. The main UK parties have said they were committed to devolving new powers, expected to include welfare and tax. Ms Sturgeon said the parties would face a backlash if they were not delivered. She told the Sunday Times: “I’ve said it directly to Lord Smith – we go into this in good faith. We won’t get everything we want from it. “It is not going to deliver independence but it has to go a very long way to deliver what people out there think was promised to them. It has to be a comprehensive package. “Between the 45% who voted ‘Yes’ and a sizeable number who voted ‘No’ because they thought that was the route to more powers, there is a powerful public majority out there for change. “In the few days before the referendum the language being used was the language of substantial radical change – devo max, something close to federalism, home rule. That is the expectation that has been generated. “Unless we end up with a package that is substantial the backlash against the Westminster parties is going to be severe.”

‘Draft legislation’

Earlier this week Lord Smith – whose appointment was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of the referendum – warned it will “not be easy” to get agreement from political parties. He said those involved in the talks would require “courage” and “compromise” – but he was confident they would rise to the challenge. The Smith Commission aims to get agreement between the SNP, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Greens on the way forward by 30 November. A “command paper”, setting out the issues, is also due to be published by 31 October, with draft legislation unveiled by 25 January.

Independence rally

Meanwhile, on Saturday, thousands of supporters of Scottish independence took part in a rally outside the Scottish parliament. The rally, organised under the Voice Of The People banner, heard from speakers urging people to carry on with the campaign. Speaking at the event, SNP MSP Marco Biagi said: “True power has not been given back to Westminster, it has been lent to them and one day we will take it back.” At an event in Perth on Saturday for Liberal Democrat activists, Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, has warned independence supporters not to seek an “ultra-extreme” form of devolution. He said: “An attempt from nationalists to redefine home rule and federalism in an ultra-extreme form is perhaps understandable but it is not something that will create a sustainable settlement that will stand the test of time.”

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Clegg ‘guarantor’ for new Scottish powers


Nick Clegg said new powers would be delivered, despite Conservative “noises”

By @ShaunyGibson – Used to be @ ShaunyNews

More stalling for time? More lies? Bit of good news? Call it as you read it.. I think it’s stalling tactics for a Government who’s back bencher’s are saying ‘No’ to Devomax..

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has declared himself the “guarantor” in government over delivering more powers for Scotland. At the same time, he has expressed irritation with Prime Minister David Cameron in linking the issue with English votes for English laws. Meanwhile UK Chancellor George Osborne said Westminster ministers would soon publish a paper on new Scots powers. SNP ministers have warned of a “backlash” if they are not delivered. In the wake of the independence referendum “No” vote, Mr Cameron said the UK government would deliver the new devolved powers promised to Scotland, but argued that the question of the voting rights of Scottish MPs at Westminster had to be addressed at the same time.

Devolution ideas

Ahead of the UK Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, Mr Clegg told BBC Scotland: “David Cameron did not mention it to me when we discussed across parties about how we would join forces to make that commitment to Scotland. “As the guarantor, if you like, in government, as the party which has the only Scottish people around the cabinet table, I can guarantee you that those powers will be delivered. “Whatever the noises from the Conservative party and others – it will be delivered in full on time, as promised.”

Meanwhile, Mr Osborne said the “command paper” on devolving further tax and spending powers, which the Westminster government had committed to releasing before the end of October, would be published within the next fortnight. Addressing business leaders at the Institute of Directors’ annual convention in London, Mr Osborne said: “There is the argument across the political parties that Scotland should have more devolution coming out of the Scottish referendum. “I can tell you in just over a week’s time, we will publish a command paper which will set out some of the ideas for further devolution for tax and spending to Scotland.”

Draft legislation on new powers for Scotland is due to be unveiled by 25 January.

Lord Smith said he wanted to her the views of members of the public

Lord Smith said he wanted to her the views of members of the public

However, the SNP seized on a report in The Herald newspaper, quoting an unnamed UK government minister who said Scotland would have to wait until 2017 for the full implementation of enhanced powers to Holyrood. SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, said: “The vow the Westminster leaders made to the people of Scotland in the run-up to the referendum promised to deliver substantial and ‘faster’ new powers. “In the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, independence would have been delivered in 18 months. Three years for further powers is simply not good enough. “It is time for the Scottish Parliament to have the powers we need to make Scotland a fairer, more equal country and address the causes of inequality.” Elsewhere, the Smith Commission, which is responsible for agreeing new powers for the Scottish Parliament, will hold its first full meeting later in the month.

Public input

Representatives of Holyrood’s five political parties will gather in Edinburgh on 14 October, ahead of aiming to get agreement on the way ahead by the end of November. Lord Smith has also asked members of the public to contribute their views on strengthening Holyrood’s powers before the deadline of 31 October, using the e-mail address “The referendum showed Scotland to be one of the most politically engaged countries in the world,” he said. “The campaign transcended normal politics with passionate debate happening online, over dinner tables and in the workplace. “Although the referendum is over the discussion has not finished; it has moved on to how the powers of the Scottish Parliament should be strengthened within the UK. “It is vital that the political process now under way properly engages the Scottish public so that their voice is heard as agreement is sought on new powers.”


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