The Advocate General has made a statement to the House of Lords following publication of the Smith Commission Agreement. Lord Wallace said the UK Government would implement the agreement and would publish draft legislation by the 25th January 2015.
27 November 2014
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a statement made in the Other Place by my Rt Hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Statement is as follows:
With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement to the House about the further devolution process in Scotland and the publication of the Heads of Agreement resulting from Lord Smith’s five-party talks.
As the Prime Minister has already said this morning we back the agreement and its recommendations and will produce draft legislation in January.
The referendum on independence held on 18 September 2014 saw Scotland vote decisively to remain within our UK family of nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, backed by the strength, security and stability of the UK. The turnout across Scotland was nearly 85%. And over two million people made a positive choice for Scotland to remain part of the UK.
During the referendum campaign the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition made a joint commitment to deliver more powers to the Scottish Parliament. The Smith Commission, chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin was up and running on the 19th September.
Lord Smith convened cross-party talks to reach agreement on the proposals for further devolution to Scotland. This process has been thorough and extensive. The party representatives were drawn from the five main political parties in Scotland; the first time ever that all five have participated in a devolution process.
I would echo the comments of Lord Smith himself in the foreword to his report. He said ‘This agreement is, in itself, an unprecedented achievement. It demanded compromise from all of the parties. In some cases that meant moving to devolve greater powers than they had previously committed to, while for other parties it meant accepting the outcome would fall short of their ultimate ambitions. It shows that, however difficult, our political leaders can come together, work together, and reach agreement with one another.’
In preparing the report, Lord Smith heard from a wide range of Scottish civic institutions and members of the public. Over 400 submissions were received from organisations and groups and over 18,000 submissions (including emails, letters and signatures to petitions) from people right across Scotland.
THE HEADS OF AGREEMENT
The Smith Commission has today produced a comprehensive Heads of Agreement ahead of the St. Andrew’s Day deadline contained in the timetable set out.
This is a significant achievement, and is an historic moment for Scotland.
I would like to thank Lord Smith and the party representatives for their work.
They have worked hard against a challenging timetable covering an enormous area of ground. This work will deliver a substantial package of new powers to the Scottish Parliament.
The Heads of Agreement provide for a durable but responsive constitutional settlement for Scotland within the United Kingdom.
They give greater financial responsibility to the Scottish Parliament with an updated fiscal framework for Scotland, consistent with the overall UK fiscal framework.
For the first time, over 50% of the money spent by the Scottish Government will be funded by the Scottish Government. This is an important step which builds on the measures brought forward by this Government in the Scotland Act 2012 and further increases the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament to the people of Scotland.
The recommendations provide for key welfare measures to be designed by and delivered in Scotland.
This will give the Scottish Parliament the tools - and the responsibility - to tackle a range of issues with specific consideration of local circumstances, including those related to social care, long-term unemployment and housing, whilst continuing to benefit from the strength and stability of the UK wide system.
The recommendations build on the already significant powers of the Scottish Parliament in social justice and a range of other policy areas.
Together - these recommendations give greater responsibility for more decisions affecting Scotland to be made in the Scottish Parliament and paid for by revenue raised by the Scottish Parliament.
RETAINING THE STRENGTH OF THE UNION
But further devolution is just one part of this story.
People in Scotland were unequivocally clear on 18 September that Scotland should retain the security of being part of our United Kingdom.
The Smith Commission’s remit was clear – to set out proposals for further devolution within the United Kingdom. And this remit was signed up to by all parties participating in the process – including the Scottish Government.
The conclusions reached by the parties ensure a set of proposals that do not cause detriment to the UK as a whole or any of its constituent parts.
The Government is committed to ensuring that Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom continue to prosper from our single domestic market, our social union and the strength that comes from the pooling and sharing of risks.
People in Scotland voted on 18th September for the jobs and opportunities that are created by being part of a larger United Kingdom with one currency, no borders and more money to spend on public services in Scotland.
People in Scotland want to keep the advantages of a UK Pound, UK pensions, UK armed forces and a strong UK voice in the world.
The package that has been announced today allows that to happen.
DELIVERING THE RECOMMENDATIONS
As the Prime Minister has already made clear, the Government backs the Heads of Agreement and its recommendations and we will get on with producing draft legislation.
The draft clauses will be produced by Burns Night, 25 January, meeting the next phase in our commitment to people in Scotland.
That work begins today.
A team has been brought together to lead with leading officials in the Scotland Office, HM Treasury, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Cabinet Office. This team will work closely with all lead policy departments within the UK Government. And the team will remain in place ready to deliver a Bill in the UK Parliament following the UK General Election.
To support the preparation of the draft legislation I have invited key Scottish stakeholders representing a wide range of different sectors to form a Stakeholder Group.
I will provide further details of the membership and terms of reference of the group in due course, but it is my intention that it will support the Government’s work translating the Heads of Agreement into the draft legislation that we will publish by the 25 January.
As Lord Smith said in the foreword to his report, ‘Through this process I have worked closely with people who can argue passionately with one another while sharing an equal concern and love for their country. I would like to thank them all for their input, challenge and support. I hope that, in the end, they can work together, maintain their energy and use it to create a Scotland which is even stronger and even better.’
Mr Speaker, having a more powerful Scottish Parliament inside a strong United Kingdom is the best outcome for the people of Scotland and the people of the United Kingdom. This is what we voted for on the 18th of September.
Today’s report is an affirmation of the vow that was made in September.
It is an historic moment for Scotland.
The cause of Home Rule has been at the heart of Scottish politics since the days of Gladstone. This agreement provides a modern blueprint for Scottish Home Rule with our strong United Kingdom. Home Rule for Scotland can open the door to constitutional reform for the whole of the UK.
We can deliver Home Rule all around.