The Scotland Bill will move a big step closer to becoming law today if it receives the backing of MPs at the Report and Third Reading Stages in the House of Commons.
Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said that the Coalition Government was on track to deliver the changes to devolution that the overwhelming majority of Scots backed at last year’s General Election. He said “the Scotland Bill is the largest ever transfer of financial powers to Scotland and it has an overwhelming mandate from Scottish voters.”
The House of Commons will today consider a number of detailed amendments made to the Bill since the Committee stage in March as well as debating the general principles of the legislation.
If MPs approve the Scotland Bill at 3rd Reading today then the bill will begin the next stage of it’s scrutiny in the House of Lords.
Michael Moore said:
“The Scotland Bill is the largest ever transfer of financial powers to Scotland and it has an overwhelming mandate from Scottish voters. All parties put their constitutional options to the test at the General Election and around 80 per cent of Scots supported parties in favour of the Scotland Bill. Those 2 million Scots made their preference very clear.
“By listening to the select committee at Westminster and the Scottish Parliament committee and responding to their recommendations, we have built further consensus around the bill and strengthened the package.
“We have announced new financial powers that will be provided to Holyrood and we will continue to wait for further detailed submissions from the Scottish Government.
“Consensus has been the hallmark of the Scotland Bill. If we maintain the support of the House of Commons for the Bill today then we will be a big step closer to improving devolution and making it more accountable.”
The financial measures set out in the Bill, together with existing devolved powers will provide Scottish Ministers with a total of £12 billion of financial powers and represents the largest single transfer of fiscal power from Westminster in the history of the United Kingdom.
The changes announced to the Bill last week are:
- Introducing a power in the Scotland Bill which will enable the Government to amend, in future, the way in which Scottish Ministers can borrow to include bond issuance, without the need for further primary legislation. The Government will conduct a review of the costs and benefits of bond issuance over other forms of borrowing, and will consider extending Scottish Ministers’ powers where this does not undermine the overall UK fiscal position or have a negative impact on total UK borrowing;
-Removing the requirement for Scottish Ministers to absorb the first £125 million of tax forecasting variation within their budget - this will give the Scottish Government more flexibility to decide how best to respond to variations in tax receipts compared to forecasts;
Allowing Scottish Ministers to makediscretionary payments into theScottish Cash Reserve for the next five years, up to an overall total of £125 million - this will help manage any variation in Scottish income tax receipts compared to forecasts in the initial phase of the new system; and
Bringing forward to 2011pre-payments, a form of cash advance, to allow work on the new Forth Replacement Crossing to begin.
The changes come shortly before the Scotland Bill goes to its Report stage and Third Reading in the House of Commons on 21 June. It will also go to the House of Lords and will be subject to a further vote by the Scottish Parliament.
In making these amendments to the Bill, the UK Government has considered carefully the recommendations made by the Scottish Affairs Committee in the UK Parliament and the Scotland Bill Committee in the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government has indicated it has further proposals to make in a number of areas. Some of these have already been considered and rejected as part of the Calman process on the basis of a careful consideration of the evidence.
Nevertheless, the UK Government has committed to listen carefully to any detailed proposals supported by robust evidence that are put forward by the Scottish Government.However, the amendments to the Bill and supporting package announced today will ensure that Scottish Ministers have greater flexibility to exercise their new powers effectively, with greater accountability to the Scottish people.