Brown to deny Scots Parliament more powers

GORDON Brown will this week reject plans to boost the powers of the Scottish Parliament, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

In the wake of Labour's Glenrothes by-election victory over the SNP, the Prime Minister will argue there are no reasonable grounds for changing Scotland's devolutionary settlement.

Nationalist ministers have argued that powers – for example, over gun crime, taxation, broadcasting and electoral law – should be transferred to Holyrood immediately.

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But in a 120-page document to be released tomorrow, Brown's Government will pour cold water over every area, arguing the current division of powers is still the best for Scotland and the UK.

Senior sources close to the Prime Minister declared the move as a bid to show a "more confident" UK approach to the SNP threat in Scotland following the Glenrothes victory.

They also played down claims Brown had backed plans to give Holyrood more taxation powers. Instead, they say Brown had only agreed to review how the "financial accountability" of the parliament might be improved, a measure which stops short of a transfer of tax powers.

The tougher line from Whitehall comes with Labour reinvigorated following last week's victory over the SNP. Despite claims by Salmond last weekend that the party would win, Labour came in first by nearly 7,000 votes.

Salmond said on Friday that he bore full responsibility for the defeat and SNP strategists believe that support will return to them once the full effects of the financial recessions begin to bite.

However, Labour chiefs are now planning to step up the pressure on Salmond, claiming that in a downturn, worried Scots will spurn the choice of a "luxury vote" for the SNP.

The document to be released tomorrow is the UK Government's response to the Calman Commission, the body set up by Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems, to examine Scotland's constitutional future.

Yesterday a spokesman for Salmond said: "All those who engaged with the Calman Commission to achieve more responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament will be sorely disappointed by this negative response.

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"The Labour Party has led them up the garden path. Iain Gray has to answer whether he stands with London Labour, or with his colleagues on the Calman Commission in developing the case for more powers. The Scottish Government's National Conversation is the only genuine and inclusive process setting out how, by the Scottish Parliament securing additional responsibilities, Scotland can become a more successful country."

The UK Government claims the current devolved arrangements have been a success and argues that the settlement has operated effectively, even when the Labour/Lib Dem coalition was replaced by a minority SNP administration.

A Scotland Office source said: "This report reflects the increasing confidence that the UK Government has that the current settlement is the right one."

The paper reasserts the view that North Sea Oil, a key component of the SNP's argument for independence, should remain a UK-wide resource.

On immigration, the paper declares there is a "compelling case" for it to be continued to be controlled by Westminster.

"If immigration rules were more generous in Scotland… there could be an impact on the rest of the UK as migrants established themselves in Scotland before moving to other parts of the UK illegally," it warns.

On council tax, it restates its claim that the SNP's plan to replace it with a local income tax would result in the end of council tax benefit, which amounts to 400m a year.

On social security, it claims that any move to devolve benefits would place "additional burdens" on business, and would necessitate "residence tests" to prevent Scots claiming English benefits, or vice versa.

The paper also dismisses SNP calls to devolve firearms legislation in order to allow Scotland to ban air guns.