THE FIRST meeting of the Smith Commission was an historic moment. Unlike the Calman Commission and the Constitutional Convention, this time we saw all Scotland’s major political parties come to the table and reach agreement on further powers for the Scottish Parliament.
We know that not everyone got the result they wanted at the referendum. But it was obvious that there is now a clear majority across the referendum divide wanting more powers for our parliament in Edinburgh.
Many people had doubts that the Smith Commission process could deliver the ambitious range of powers that were promised during the referendum. But we worked together and secured a package that will see Holyrood take responsibility for raising more than half of the money it spends and create a Scottish welfare system for the first time.
The publication of draft clauses for a new Scotland Bill that will entrench these powers in law is another big moment for Scotland.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
Of course, we know that any devolution settlement short of independence will be unacceptable to the SNP. And already we have seen them start to pick fights over the draft clauses, as indeed they did moments after Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney signed up to the Smith Commission Agreement in December. But I hope that they will now take a minute, even if it is in private, to reflect on what has been achieved.
£20 billion in tax raising powers. A welfare budget starting at £2.5 billion. These powers, and much else in the clauses announced yesterday, mean the Scottish Parliament will become one of the most powerful devolved administrations in the world. The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for Home Rule for Scotland. That is what this deal represents.
The challenge for the SNP is now to ensure that they work with us to ensure the new Scotland Bill can get on the statute book as soon as possible. If they want people to take their commitment to more powers seriously then they cannot be a roadblock to these changes. This includes ensuring that power is not hoarded centrally, but passed down to areas like the Borders where Edinburgh can sometimes feel just as distant as London.
The Smith Commission aimed high. But despite the rhetoric of the Nationalists, there can be no doubt that “the Vow” has been delivered, and delivered handsomely.
• Michael Moore MP is a former Scottish Secretary who sat on the Smith Commission for the Lib Dems.