The Scotland Bill received Royal Assent today (Tuesday 1 May), marking the final part of the process to change the devolution settlement and give more powers to the Scottish Parliament. It comes on the 305th anniversary of the Act of Union.
The new Scotland Act brings about the largest ever transfer of financial powers to Scotland since the creation of the UK.
The change means the Scottish Government will have to make decisions on how best to use the significant new powers for the benefit of the people of Scotland.
The Bill cleared the final stage at the House of Commons last week, following passage through the Lords. The Scottish Parliament voted unanimously in favour of a legislative consent motion a fortnight ago.
The legislation brings a much higher level of financial accountability to Holyrood as MSPs become responsible for raising more of the money they spend.
It is the end of a significant journey resulting in a historic change to the devolution settlement. It began with the Commission on Scottish Devolution chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman which started work in April 2008 with the remit of looking at changes to devolution which would allow Holyrood to serve the Scottish people better.
The Commission’s recommendations formed the basis of the Scotland Bill, which has been the subject of a wide range of parliamentary scrutiny in both Edinburgh and London.
The Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“I have three priorities for Scotland’s constitutional future: to deliver on devolution; to enable a separation referendum to be held which is legal, fair and decisive; and to win that referendum.
“We have kept our promise and delivered the biggest transfer of fiscal powers in 300 years - all done with the agreement of the four major parties in Scotland - and helped to secure a strong and confident Scotland within a strong and confident United Kingdom
“The Scottish Parliament is now more accountable and more responsible than ever before, which is not just good for Scotland but also good for the whole United Kingdom. Now it is time for the Scottish people to recognise all the powers that Holyrood has and join in the debate about how these powers are used.”
The Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said:
“This is a genuinely historic day for devolution and the relationship between Scotland’s two governments and the people who elect them. The powers being handed over to the Scottish Parliament combine accountability with the ability to make big decisions for the Scottish economy on issues such as the rate of Scottish income tax.
“The new Scotland Act will make the Scottish Parliament responsible for raising around a third of the Scottish budget. It also marks a long period of considered scrutiny which has resulted in a set of new powers that can help Scotland prosper within the United Kingdom. It has been hard and challenging work to deliver these changes for the people of Scotland but it is an essential and positive step for devolution.”
The Scotland Office Minister David Mundell helped take the Scotland Bill through its Commons stages. He said:
“The UK Government has delivered for Scotland today. The Scottish Parliament already had significant powers, with areas such as health, education and enterprise fully devolved. The Scotland Act will add to those in a sensible and effective way, providing more flexibility within the stability and security of the wider United Kingdom.”
The Advocate General Lord Wallace, who took the Bill through the Lords process, said:
“The significant new powers this legislation will transfer have been subject to rigorous scrutiny at all stages of the Lords process and the subject of strong and, at times, passionate debate. The changes in the Scotland Act are the right ones for Scotland. They are a balanced and strong package of financial powers and other functions which will give the Scottish Parliament more power coupled with more accountability.
“As a member of the Calman Commission, it is particularly satisfying to see those original recommendations become an Act which will benefit the people of Scotland today.”
The new powers to be included in the new Scotland Act are:
* A new £2.2bn capital borrowing power for the Scottish Parliament, to be in place from April 2015 - with a limited version of the power in place from April 2013 to enable the SG to fund £100m of pre-payments for the Forth Road Crossing, allowing early work on the Bridge to get underway.
* The power to introduce new taxes, subject to the agreement of the UK Government, from the enactment of the Bill.
* The full devolution of stamp duty land tax and landfill tax, from April 2015.
* Extended current borrowing powers to help manage volatility in tax receipts and the creation of a new Scottish cash reserve to manage the new revenue receipts.
* Scottish Ministers to have powers in relation to the misuse of drugs;
* Scottish Ministers to have powers relating to the administration of elections to the Scottish Parliament;
* Power to regulate air weapons devolved to Scottish Parliament;
* Scottish Ministers to have a role in appointment process for BBC Trust member for Scotland and MG Alba Trust Members;
* Scottish Ministers to have a role in the appointments process for the Crown Estate Commissioner with special responsibility for Scotland;
* Scottish Ministers to have power to set regulations for the drink-drive limit;
* Scottish Ministers to have the power to determine the national speed limit in Scotland;
* Confirming the reservation of the Antarctic;
* Ensuring that the criminal penalties that apply in Scotland Act are updated to reflect the current standards applied in Scottish courts;
* Clauses 34 to 38 of the Bill provide a new appeal right to the Supreme Court for questions raised in Scottish criminal proceedings about compatibility with the Convention or EU law. The Bill provides for a review of these provisions and a power for the Secretary of State to amend them following the review. The provisions also provide that the Lord Advocate’s actions in prosecuting offences or as head of the criminal prosecution system cannot be ultra vires under the Scotland Act 1998 but can still be unlawful under the Human Rights Act. The Bill provides for a review of these provisions and a power for the Secretary of State to amend them following the review.