Smith Commission ‘fails to live up to the Vow’

Lord Smith (back centre) headed the commission in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
Lord Smith (back centre) headed the commission in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
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THE SNP will claim the new ­Holyrood powers to be outlined by the Smith Commission today lack job-creating powers.

Despite containing plans for the largest transfer of powers to Holyrood since devolution, the SNP will argue that it fails to live up to the rhetoric of the pre-referendum “vow” made by the pro-Union parties.

Full devolution of income tax bands and rates, as well as substantial welfare powers, are to come to Scotland as a result of a deal thrashed out by the main political parties.

The SNP has taken part in the commission, announced by David Cameron in the aftermath of the referendum, and is expected to welcome the additional powers. It will also say that the plans do not go far enough and will call for further powers.

The party will argue that power over national insurance contributions, minimum wage legislation and corporation tax ought to have been handed over as well. In addition to the power to control income tax bands and rates, the SNP will also say that the Scottish Parliament should have been given control over income tax personal allowance to help lift Scots out of “in-work” ­poverty.

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“We will welcome the more powers but we will also see it as a bit of a missed opportunity,” one SNP insider said yesterday. “This idea that it was going to be as good as devolution could be is not going to be fulfilled. We do not feel that it is going to do enough in terms of job-creating powers.”

The insider said today’s report, which will be launched at the National Museum of Scotland, would fall short of the pre-referendum rhetoric of Gordon Brown, who suggested that the “vow” would amount to “home-rule” or “federalism”.

After September’s referendum, Lord Smith of Kelvin was appointed to chair the commission which has seen two representatives from Labour, the SNP, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and Greens negotiate a deal in terms of new Holyrood powers.

The Scotsman understands that the commission’s welfare proposals will give Holyrood flexibility to tread its own path on benefits, which are being merged into Universal Credit as a result of UK government welfare reforms.

Universal Credit is a single payment taking in Jobseekers’ Allowance, income-related ­employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit.

The commission will also recommend devolution of income tax bands and rates and powers over the voting franchise – a move that could allow Holyrood to give 16-year-olds the vote in the 2016 Scottish election. It is minded to devolve abortion law but believes the issue requires further investigation.

In Holyrood yesterday the Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the Smith Commission would result in “an agreement on more powers that will match the spirit and unique ­experience of the referendum and deliver for the Scottish Parliament the power to be flexible and agile.”

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