SNP Attacks Devolution Proposals

21 May 2015, 05:00

The "powerhouse" Scottish Parliament promised by the UK Government will have fewer tax powers than Canada's provinces, the SNP complained ahead of a debate on devolution today.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised to create "the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world with important powers over taxation" following his election as leader of a majority Conservative Government this month.

But the SNP claim the powers available to Canadian provinces are "far more extensive than those of the Scottish Parliament".

Powers devolved to provinces include direct taxation for provincial purposes, power over natural resources, most labour legislation including maximum hours, minimum wages, safety, workers' compensation, industrial relations and most social security and immigration, the SNP said.

MSPs will today debate a report by Holyrood's Devolution Committee, signed off by all political parties including the Conservatives, which concluded that the current devolution package "does not meet the spirit or the substance" of the Smith Commission.

Speaking ahead of the debate, the Scottish Greens called for a proper public consultation on the powers Scotland needs, in contrast to the Smith Commission which they said was "rushed, party political and behind closed doors".

SNP MSP Rob Gibson, who sits on the Devolution Committee, said: "Last week's talks between the UK Government and the Scottish Government were positive and productive.

"But while the Smith Commission proposals are a starting point, it is clear people across Scotland would like to see a stronger package of powers delivered, enabling the Scottish Parliament to end austerity and create jobs.

"The report from the Scottish Parliament's Devolution Committee clearly highlights the fact that the Smith Commission as it currently stands will not deliver the powerhouse Parliament we were promised.

"Under the proposals as they stand, Scotland would have less responsibility over raising our own tax revenues than countries including the Canadian provinces and Quebec.

"The STUC has joined with the Scottish Government to endorse the call for the devolution of the minimum wage, employment law and social security - this shows an emerging consensus is building in Scotland behind the delivery of these powers.

"Scotland expects a strong package of powers to be delivered. The Prime Minister and his Government must work with the Scottish Government to deliver them."

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: "As Scotland debates which powers should be transferred from Westminster we must allow proper public input into the process.

"The Smith Commission was rushed, party political and behind closed doors.

"Let's properly open this process up so we get a settlement that reflects the needs and aspirations of our communities.

"While the Scottish Government is right to argue for extra devolved economic powers such as the minimum wage and workplace rights, this discussion should not be driven by one political party.

"We've seen widespread public engagement in Scottish politics like never before, and we must capture the enthusiasm and ideas out there."