Warning over division of Smith Commission powers

The cross-party Smith Commission meets in Edinburgh.

The cross-party Smith Commission meets in Edinburgh.

By @ShaunyNews Via: http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/warning-over-division-of-smith-commission-powers-1-3681227

We knew there would be issues due to the watered down ‘Smith Commission’ Labour and Tory’s alike had a chance to make this easier for everyone but now, sadly we DO and WILL have tax issues. On one hand Scottish Politicians can’t vote on English laws for anything yet we here in Scotland, say if a tax break was given will make what we bring in less. This is an utter mess, the SNP should demand a ‘Back to the drawing board’ here. We MUST vote SNP People, otherwise we could find ourselves in no man’s land (Figure of speech) This is a shambles in the making. Hollyrood need to know yearly what income the have to work with, this will make it difficult for John Swinney to work his magic, the man can only do what he can do. Thankfully we have another bite at this Scotland, we can’t mess this up, we must inform, be informed and make sure people know EXACTLY what a Labour vote means.

THE `pick’n’mix’ deal on new post-referendum powers for Scotland could turn “messy” and leave Holyrood unable to make any “radical shift” in policy, economic and tax experts have warned.

MSPs were today warned that flagship proposals to hand some taxes to the Scottish Parliament – and leave others at Westminster – is a recipe for conflict between the Scottish and UK Governments. And Scots will be left in the dark over which taxes are Scottish, according to tax chiefs who warned it is “very difficult to pull apart” UK taxes.

The UK Government last month published legislation to enact the recent Smith agreement on more powers over tax and welfare for Scotland. It followed `the vow’ made the main pro-union party leaders in the final days of the referendum campaign to devolve sweeping new powers to Scotland after a No vote.

Economist Professor Anton Muscatelli, the principal of Glasgow University, told Holyrood’s devolution committee that he had concerns about the deal. “It reserves, for example, the personal allowance, it reserves national insurance contributions and one of the big issues is around in work benefits. “And by reserving universal credit, it does mean the whole interaction between welfare payments and low pay and income taxation is therefore not brought into play.“I do think that will create and potentially lead to tensions going forward – so how that is managed within future legislation will be hugely important.”

National insurance

Prof Muscatelli said national insurance is part of the “overall tax structure” and Scotland’s budget would effectively be cut if this is lowered UK-wide. “By not devolving national insurance, I think it creates the potential for conflict and it will impact on the Scottish tax base.”

Similarly, if the UK Government cuts the personal allowance – a tax hike – Scotland could respond by introducing a zero tax rate to cover such a change and effectively wipe this out. But Prof Muscatelli said: “It would force Scotland’s hand – and this where it gets a bit messy by not devolving the personal allowance.” He said it would have been better to devolve “all income tax and employment income to Scotland.”

Charlotte Barbour, Head of Taxation, at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland (ICAS) said the package offers a “variety of different taxes” to Holyrood.

Under the deal Scotland will get control over income tax bands – but not the personal allowance or national insurance. Air passenger duty and the Aggregates Levy will be devolved, while Holyrood will be “assigned” half of VAT revenues raised in Scotland. But there will be significant “joint responsibilities” with Westminster still in control of HMRC – the UK taxman.

“Scottish powers will have to interact with that and mesh together as well as going into the welfare side of it,” she said. “One of the issues that come out of that is that I’m not sure that a lot of people amongst the public have a full understanding of what Scottish taxes are.”

Ms Barbour said: “I think it’s very difficult to pull any one part of the UK taxes apart – it leads to these kind of set ups as to whether national insurance and income tax goes together.” The tax expert said this meant limits on Holyrood’s ability to push any through meaningful change in policy because income tax is “shared and over and above that interacts with other taxes.” She said; “I don’t think there’s a lot of scope to radically change what you’ve got here.”



New fracking rules will not apply in Scotland: Smith Commission

Nicola Sturgeon said "Not on my watch" Go her!

Nicola Sturgeon said “Not on my watch” Go her!

By @ShaunyNews Via http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-30803788 Other links below 

Well done all who made this happen. Scotland now own’s her ‘Fracking rights’ The Smith Commission is being updated and slowly all we were offered is coming to us. I know we need 2015 general election to push Tory and Red Tory (Labour) out of Hollyrood and get Yes people or people in who demand the ‘Edinburgh Agreement’ in full. It is coming. We just need wait. As I say a lot, Alex Salmond is in Westminster for a GOOD reason. He said before the referendum vote “I won’t stand down be it Yes or No” then stands down. I am assured Home Rule is less than a year away. We shall see guys and gall’s

The UK government has agreed to exclude Scotland from laws making it easier for fracking firms to drill for shale gas. The Infrastructure Bill currently going through Westminster is set to allow underground access in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not Scotland. The Scottish government, the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Green Party had opposed the bill which would apply to residential areas.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said the move made sense. Labour MP Tom Greatrex had lodged amendments to the bill requesting that full powers over shale gas exploration be given to the Scottish Parliament ahead of the general election in five months’ time. The coalition government did not back the suggestions but instead pledged to exclude Scotland from the impending legislation. Based on that offer the Scotland Office said “the opposition was content to withdraw its amendments”.

Not in Scotland

Not in Scotland

It explained: “That is not the same as devolving the power to the Scottish Parliament. “Its effect is to leave the current arrangement in Scotland as it stands at present, so the new system for underground access will not apply.” Those opposed to fracking say it is not safe and claim it causes environmental damage and mini earthquakes. Mr Greatrex said he had brought forward his amendments because of a “high degree of public concern”. He added that it was wrong to believe that shale gas was “some sort of energy silver bullet” which would have a “massive impact” on energy prices. The member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West said the regulatory regime should be “robust and consistent”.

What is fracking and why is it controversial?

Fracking process in US
  • Fracking is shorthand for hydraulic fracturing and refers to how the rock is broken apart by high a pressure mixture.
  • Fracking allows drilling firms to access difficult-to-reach resources of oil and gas.
  • In the US it has significantly boosted domestic oil production and driven down gas prices.
  • Opponents say the process releases potentially carcinogenic chemicals into nearby groundwater.
  • The industry suggests pollution incidents are the results of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique.

Holyrood currently has power over planning issues but the Smith Commission had recommended devolution of onshore licensing and mineral access rights. However, those new devolution powers would not come to Scotland before May’s election. Reacting to the coalition government’s offer, SNP minister Mr Ewing said: “This decision is a victory for common sense and shows how devolution of energy policy leads to different policy outcomes in Scotland. “It is a vindication of the Scottish government’s continued objections to UK government plans to remove the right of Scottish householders to object to unconventional oil and gas drilling under their home. “We’re glad the UK government has finally taken this on board – especially as 99 per cent of respondents to their own consultation also opposed the move.”

SNP must take stand against fracking

They didn’t half! http://www.scotsman.com/news/comment-snp-must-take-stand-against-fracking-1-3657475



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Swinney anger over ‘breach’ of Smith Commission plans

Like most is unhappy

Like most is unhappy

By @ShaunyGibson – Used to be @ ShaunyNews

Via: http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/scottish-politics/swinney-anger-over-breach-of-smith-commission-plans.1417721657

I think many of us are unhappy at this, but I believe when Nicola and Alex say “Scotland will be Independent” They mean it as in “Soon” Alex said all along “I will not walk away from First leader regardless of the result” Then he walked away. Hmm. I think I see a cunning plan 😉 Watch this space folks. SNP have something up their sleeves

The commission recommended that the work programme, which helps jobseekers find and keep employment, should be transferred from Westminster to Holyrood when the current commercial arrangements expire. The Scottish Government said this should mean the transfer taking place in March 2016, but the UK Government has extended the contract by a year.

Scottish Skills Secretary Roseanna Cunningham accused the Westminster Government of “breath-taking arrogance”, and wrote to UK Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to complain. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said it was “utterly appalled” by the move to extend the contract. Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said the decision was made in August, before the Smith Commission was set up.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, giving evidence to Holyrood’s Devolution Committee, said Ms Cunningham’s remarks were “understandable and appropriate”. He said: “The Smith Commission recommended that on the completion of the work programme contracts, these should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament and that’s in the spring of 2016, and we’re now being advised, without our consent, that that’s been delayed a year in a process which is not yet complete. “What we get to in all of this analysis is the whole question of good faith. We need to get on in good faith and one of the things which I think undermines that good faith is seeing the goalposts being moved on an important issue the Smith Commission has judged upon.”

But earlier, the committee heard from Mr Carmichael, who said: “First of all, I think it is important to say that this was a decision taken in August, so some of the breathless commentary about this being ‘a dreadful decision that was designed to thwart the will of the Smith Commission’ is not justified because, frankly, this decision was taken long before the Smith Commission was even set up.” Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive of SCVO, said: “We are utterly appalled by the UK Government’s move to extend its work programme contracts when it was agreed by the Smith Commission that it would transfer to the Scottish Parliament as soon as current contracts expired. “But our disappointment doesn’t lie so much in the almost immediate failure to keep to the agreement as in the fact that it’s impossible to justify why such a broken and failing system would ever be continued. “We’re completely dismayed by this delay in ridding Scotland of this exploitative, punitive and under-performing programme.”

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, a member of the Devolution Committee, said that the sooner the programme is devolved, the sooner it can be “put right”. “Quite why the UK Government thinks it is acceptable to completely ignore the Smith Commission proposals and press ahead with its failed scheme is baffling,” she said. A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Unemployment in Scotland fell by 38,000 over the last year and our priority is to ensure as many people are helped into work as possible while fulfilling our commitment to the Smith Commission’s proposals on devolution. “Maintaining continuity of support is important. That is why we are allowing time for the powers to be devolved and for the Scottish Government to build its new programme to make sure long-term unemployed people get the help and support they need to find a job and have the security of a regular wage.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with Mr Carmichael today to discuss the issue. She said: “I stressed the need to make sure that the UK Government signs no new Work Programme contracts for Scotland as these powers are to be devolved under the Smith Commission recommendations. “It would not be fair or right that Scotland is tied into this programme longer than it needs to be. Mr Carmichael has pledged to speak to the Department of Work and Pensions on the issue, and they should now rethink their plans. “Westminster now needs to act to make sure plans for the transfer of the powers recommended for devolution by the Smith Commission are taken forward as soon as possible.”

The politicians also discussed extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds for the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 after recommendations in the Smith Commission.

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Demand for oil fund as England gets fracking cash – Can Scotland go with ‘Edinburgh Agreement?’

George Osborne announced the measures during his Autumn Statement

George Osborne announced the measures during his Autumn Statement

By @ShaunyGibson – Used to be @ ShaunyNews

My belief is it’s time for Hollyrood and the SNP to enforce the ‘Edinburgh Agreement’ and the ‘Vow’ as of now. We were given watered down promises. I call for the SNP to deal with Westminster in the agreed Edinburgh Agreement. It is a legally binding document. So I am asking, because this is a legally binding document in full, yet we never got it in full is, can we just go ahead and work WITH the agreement? If Cameron/Westminster don’t want to commit to the agreement should Scotland take this into her own hands? What course of action can we take? European Court? I think we should test the water.

Links to Edinburgh Agreement:



This Blogger knows his stuff, tons to read and laws to NOT ignore: http://ukconstitutionallaw.org/tag/scottish-referendum/

Full Legal Document

Full Legal Document

The official signatures

The official signatures




The Scottish Government last night renewed calls for a sovereign wealth fund to be set up for North Sea oil and gas, after Chancellor George Osborne unveiled a scheme for the north of England to benefit from fracking revenues.

Energy minister Fergus Ewing branded Mr Osborne’s decision “utter hypocrisy” after calls for a similar scheme for Scotland has been repeatedly rejected by Westminster governments. Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chambers of Commerce, also called for a similar fund to be launched for the Central Belt and future projects relating to the “unconventional” extraction of gas. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement also unveiled an immediate 2 per cent reduction in an oil industry “supplementary charge”. The reduction – less than the industry had hoped for – came as figures announced by the Office for Budget Responsibility downgraded North Sea oil revenues by £4.5 billion.

Mr Ewing said: “This is utter hypocrisy from George Osborne and the Tories. After decades of telling Scotland we cannot have an oil fund, Osborne is now rushing to set up exactly the same kind of fund for the north of England. “With industry predicting up to 24 billion barrels of oil and gas could be extracted from the North Sea, Scotland should be entitled to have access to our resources and a sovereign wealth fund.” In the Central Belt, a number of projects are under consideration involving shale gas extraction, such as underground coal gasification, which is planned for beneath the Firth of Forth.

The Scottish Government has indicated it is less committed to fracking than Westminster.

Mr Patrick said: “We will watch with interest the proposals for the development of a sovereign wealth fund for the north of England, funded by revenues from shale gas exploration, and we believe this is worth exploring for the Central Belt.” The oil supplementary charge reduction, from 32 per cent to 30 per cent, was less than the cut sought by the industry as it grapples with high costs and a steep decline in oil prices.

“There was very little support in today’s Autumn Statement for a North Sea oil industry, that could see profits halve in the coming year on the back of falling oil prices,” said Ian McLelland, an analyst at Edison investment research. The Chancellor also maintained the basic rate of corporation tax on offshore operators at 30 per cent and petroleum revenue tax on operators whose fields were sanctioned before 1993 at 50 per cent. Industry body Oil and Gas UK said it welcomed the cut as a first step but asked for more.

Chief executive Malcolm Webb said: “We will certainly need further reductions in the overall rate of tax to ensure the long-term future of the industry. Given the current crisis in exploration, we also need to see measures to promote exploration.” Liz Cameron, director and chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the reduction in the supplementary charge did not go far enough. She said: “The rate was only increased in 2011 as a result of the high oil prices that were prevalent at that time, so a reduction back to the 20 per cent rate which applied before then would be only fair given current low oil prices.”

Unionist politicians pointed to the fall in oil prices as confirmation that Scotland would not have survived economically had it become independent after September’s referendum. Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “Instead of walking off the Nationalists’ independence cliff Scotland wakes up tomorrow with a promise of a supported oil and gas sector thanks to UK government reforms. If Scotland was independent this £4.5 billion downgrade would have meant severe cuts to schools and hospitals.”


John McLaren: Competition in taxation can bring positive side-effects

HAD the independence referendum vote gone the other way, the big talking point in Scotland around yesterday’s Autumn Statement would have been to do with the impact of falling oil prices on North Sea revenues. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has, yet again, downgraded its forecast  of such revenues, from £3.8 billion for 2015-16 to £2.2bn. Even this fall in North Sea revenues has been cushioned by exchange rate movements and by the OBR assuming a price of $83 next year, rather than the current $71. The Chancellor cheered the oil industry by introducing an immediate reduction of two percentage points in its tax rate, the first such cut in 21 years, as well as allowing for greater offset of costs against future production. But the UK government’s wider intentions on how to improve the long-term prospects for the North Sea will only be outlined in full today, in Aberdeen, when ministers unveil their roadmap.

The Scottish budget will receive a temporary fillip of just over £200m, courtesy of extra funds found by George Osborne for the NHS. On the devolution of economic powers, a week after the Smith Commission recommended that Scotland gains near full control of income tax, the Chancellor is minded to devolve control of corporation tax to Northern Ireland. Wales is also on course to get power over business taxes and there is a growing move, in terms of both funds and powers, to strengthen the economic position of “Northern England”.

This asymmetric devolution of such powers may seem a little messy but it does appear to signal a desire to weaken the central control of the economy by Whitehall. A positive side-effect of this “tax competition” was unveiled by the Chancellor at the end of his speech when he radically altered stamp duty in England, in a similar manner to the change made by John Swinney with regards to a power already devolved to Scotland. This shows one of the potential advantages of such “competition” where good ideas can be copied.

Source: http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/demand-for-oil-fund-as-england-gets-fracking-cash-1-3624176




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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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