Smith Commission welfare powers plan ‘watered down’

Greater welfare powers for Holyrood were watered down by the Smith Commission. Picture: PA

Greater welfare powers for Holyrood were watered down by the Smith Commission. Picture: PA

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PROPOSALS to hand greater welfare powers over to the Scottish Parliament were watered down by the Smith Commission in its final report, it has emerged.

One of the members of the Commission has confirmed that the signals coming from the UK Government on welfare “ changed from day to day” which thwarted progress on the issue.

The Commission published its final report yesterday which said Holyrood should get control over income tax levels and new powers over benefits.

But a draft report seen by BBC Scotland suggests that the Commission had been poised to call for key elements of the new Universal Credit to be devolved which could have allowed MSPs to significantly redesign the welfare system north of the border. In the end, only the power to vary the housing element was in the final report.

English backlash over Smith Commission proposals

Green co-leader Patrick Harvie, who sat on the Commission, admitted the welfare discussions had been difficult.

“There were signals coming from the UK Government to the parties that are part of the UK Government, signals which changed from day to day and that was a stumbling block,” Mr Harvie said

“Certainly in some of the discussions on welfare we could’ve made a great deal of progress if we had had greater clarity from the word go what the three UK parties were willing to tolerate.”

Mr Harvie said the Liberal Democrats were “more open to devolution on that issue” than Labour and the Tories.

The Commission was established after pledges by the pro-union parties in the referendum to hand significant new powers to Holyrood in the event of a No vote.

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