UK Government amendments will deliver Smith Agreement 'beyond any reasonable doubt' the Secretary of State for Scotland says.
Government amendments laid today (Monday 2 November) to strengthen Scotland Bill.
New amendment on carers will give Scottish Parliament extra flexibility.
Multi-billion pound tax and benefit powers will make Holyrood one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.
The UK Government will today (Monday) lay a package of substantive amendments to the Scotland Bill which will strengthen it in key areas such as welfare, Scottish Secretary David Mundell said today.
The Secretary of State said the improvements to the Bill ‘put beyond any reasonable doubt, for any reasonable person’ that the Government has delivered the cross-party Smith agreement.
Mr Mundell made it clear the changes to the Bill would not go beyond the Smith Agreement and were designed to improve the effectiveness of the legislation and ensure that the new powers for the Scottish Parliament work as the Smith Commission intended.
Mr Mundell also announced that there will be an amendment to remove the definition of relevant carers to enable the Scottish Parliament further flexibility to determine what any new benefits for carers may look like.
The amendments being laid by the Government will be debated by MPs on the floor of the House of Commons at Report Stage on Monday, November 9th.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said:
These improvements will strengthen the Scotland Bill and put beyond any reasonable doubt for any reasonable person that the Government is delivering the Smith Agreement exactly as we promised we would. We are making the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.
We have even taken steps to improve the legislation in some areas where we believed the bill was already delivering Smith. For example, there has never been a power for the UK Government to block welfare changes from Holyrood but we have taken steps to make it even clearer that there are no UK vetoes in this Bill. We are acting in good faith and want to build consensus.
Both of Scotland’s governments have a responsibility to meet our commitments and deliver the new powers that Scotland voted for.’
Having said that I don’t expect the Scottish Government to agree that the legislation goes far enough. They want independence and this is not independence. They even wanted full fiscal independence but we rejected that because it is a bad deal for Scotland. The changes we are making to the Bill do not go beyond the Smith Agreement because the people of Scotland rejected independence in favour of holding on to the benefits of being part of a strong United Kingdom.
I am confident the House of Commons will support the Scotland Bill next week and we will enter a new phase where the Scottish Government will need to start telling us how they intend to use these new powers. Will they top up benefits? Will they create new benefits and how much will it all cost?
Since the Committee Stage of the Scotland Bill in the House of Commons the Government has already said that it would bring forward amendments to strengthen the permanence of the Scottish Parliament and to devolve control of abortion legislation to Holyrood. These amendments will be in the package that will be laid in the House of Commons today.
The Secretary of State also announced in October that he intends that the Scottish Parliament should take full control of their new multi-billion pound take powers from 2017 – earlier than was expected.
The Smith Commission Agreement was agreed by the 5 main parties in Scotland. The new devolution package will give the Scottish Parliament control of around £11bn of income tax revenues and responsibility over welfare benefits worth approximately £2.7bn. In doing so, it will make the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world, with the strength and security of being part of the UK. For the first time more than 50 per cent of the Scottish Parliament’s budget will be funded from revenues raised in Scotland.