SCOTTISH Secretary David Mundell has urged Nicola Sturgeon to work with the Conservative government to achieve more Holyrood powers and create Scottish jobs.
Writing in this newspaper, in a plea for the Scottish and UK governments to work together, Mundell has claimed “far more unites than divides us”.
Mundell says both governments must find common cause to deliver a stronger Scottish Parliament and use the new powers to create a more prosperous Scotland.
Mundell called on Sturgeon and her deputy John Swinney to replicate the “collegiate” approach adopted in the Smith Commission, which saw all five main Scottish political parties sign the agreement on more powers.
Despite the mutual distrust that exists between the Conservatives and the Nationalists, Mundell suggested that differences should be set aside for the good of the country.
“I have worked well with John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon in the past – we’re old colleagues from the Scottish Parliament’s first days up on The Mound. Far more unites than divides us,” Mundell said.
“We agree on the need to create jobs, so more families can have the security of a regular pay packet. We want to help businesses to expand and take on more staff, so more of our young people can get a good start in life. And we want to target help and support to those who need it most. Neither of us can do it alone – we have to work together.”
Tomorrow the House of Commons examines the Scotland Bill, the proposed legislation drafted to deliver more powers to Holyrood by February next year.
The SNP’s Westminster group will lodge amendments designed to beef up the powers contained in the draft legislation. But the Nationalists are not expected to go as far as calling for immediate full fiscal autonomy, the constitutional settlement promised in its general election manifesto which would see all taxation and spending go to Holyrood.
Instead, the SNP will call on Scotland to move to a position in the “medium term” where Holyrood and the Scottish Government are responsible for all revenue raising.
The SNP amendment will repeat the party’s claim that the UK government retains a veto over key areas and argue for additional devolved powers over job creation, taxation, welfare and wages as early priorities.
Conservative ministers are also to be asked to agree to a constitutional convention for the whole of the UK when the Bill is debated in the Chamber. The proposal, which is already the subject of a bill in the House of the Lords placed by Lib Dem peer Jeremy Purvis, is to be put down as an amendment by Labour.
The idea is that the new powers, including control of income tax and £2.5 billion of welfare agreed by the all-party commission chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, will be devolved to Scotland but then a convention would be set up to discuss the implications for the rest of the UK.
The proposal has strong cross-party support, including from former Tory Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth, and would include discussions on English votes for English laws.
Labour intends to also put down an amendment to devolve all of housing benefit, which would effectively see control of the controversial welfare cap pass to Holyrood.
However, in a move which will irritate the SNP, Labour wants to put in a condition that the power is only devolved if SNP ministers in the Scottish Government agree to use the extra money to build more social housing.
Last night, Swinney’s spokesman said: “We will work constructively with anyone who wants to deliver more powers, but the problem for Mr Mundell is that the Scotland Bill as presented does not even meet the recommendations of the Smith Commission – let alone the promises of extensive new powers made to the people of Scotland in the days before the referendum.”