In September, the people of Scotland came out in record numbers to decide the future of the United Kingdom; they voted clearly and decisively to keep our family of nations together. But a no-vote didn’t mean no change.
The leaders of the other main political parties and I promise extensive new powers for the Scottish Parliament, a vow with a clear process and a clear timetable. We said a command paper would be ready by the end of October and it was. We said we’d get cross-party agreement by St Andrew’s Day and we did. We said that draft legislation would be published by Burns Night and here we are three days before the celebrations start with those draft clauses before us set out very clearly in 47 pages of this document.
And I pay tribute to Robert for this historic agreement and with all five of Scotland’s main political parties at the table, it was a devolution first. And now here we have it, new powers for Scotland, built to last, securing our united future.
Be in no doubt, whoever forms the UK government after the 7 May, these new powers are guaranteed: The Scottish Parliament will have more control of its tax and spending, making it one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.
The Scottish Parliament will combine the freedom to decide what happens in Scotland’s schools, hospitals, surgeries, police stations, with the responsibility of determining how around 60% of public money in Scotland is spent. Because for the first time, the majority of money the Scottish Parliament spends will be raised right here in Scotland. And this includes a substantial new package of welfare powers, worth £2.5 billion to tackle long-term unemployment, disability and poverty.
We’ve already moved to allow the Scottish Parliament to extend its franchise. So 16 and 17-year-olds could vote at the 2016 Holyrood elections. And here, we are stating – there we are, well that’s one extra happy person today. And here we are stating in law the permanence of the Scottish Parliament so there can never be any question, Holyrood is here to stay.
When the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, it wasn’t just about the future of devolution. It was because they valued the safety and security of being part of something bigger, our family of nations, a strong stable, single currency, the pound sterling, delivering lower cost for families and businesses, a shared army, air force, and navy, keeping us safe in an increasingly dangerous world, a large domestic market providing more job and investment opportunities, and
a resilient social union, sharing the cost of pensions and support for those who’ve fallen on hard times across all our nations, all within a healthy, strong economy, one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world.
That is what we meant by the best both of worlds: a strong Scotland with its own identity and its own powers, all within the safety and the security of our United Kingdom.
Scotland spoke, we listened, and now here we are delivering. I know it’s not fashionable, politician makes commitment, politician keeps commitment but that is what is happening here today.
Now it is time for all of us to move on to the next great debate. Not what the powers should be but how they should actually be used. We need a battle of ideas about the economy, about jobs, about schools and hospitals, about the future of a great country, making the most of every opportunity in front of it. Because what we are publishing today is the best of both worlds.
Our vow kept, Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom strengthened, the Scottish Parliament, more powerful, responsible and accountable to its people, and powers that are built to last securing our united future.