John Swinney steps up calls for full fiscal autonomy

Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney. Picture: Getty
Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney. Picture: Getty
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JOHN Swinney has said that changes to the Scotland Bill could give Holyrood a “better mix of tools” to grow the economy, tackle poverty and create a fairer society, as he called for full fiscal autonomy and the devolution of a raft of other powers.

The Deputy First Minister was speaking as Scottish ministers published details of how they believe the legislation on extending devolution – which has been brought forward by David Cameron’s government at Westminster – could be improved.

Draft clauses proposed by the SNP for the UK Government to add to the Scotland Bill include giving Holyrood full fiscal autonomy, which would see the Scottish Parliament take responsibility for taxation and key elements of domestic expenditure.

The Scottish Government has also set out what powers it believes should be devolved as a priority – including the ability to set the minimum wage, responsibility over employment policy north of the Border and for both working-age benefits and benefits related to children. Such tax and welfare responsibilities would each form part of the full fiscal autonomy package, which would cover the devolution of all powers to Holyrood other than those over foreign affairs and defence.

However, SNP ministers are making specific demands for power over areas such as corporation tax, equality legislation and universal credit if the UK Government continues to refuse the overall demand for full fiscal autonomy.

Westminster rejected moves by the SNP to give Holyrood total control of tax and spend north of the Border at the committee stage of the Scotland Bill, which is aimed at devolving the powers agreed in the Smith Commission including income tax and £2.5 billion of welfare spending. Mr Swinney will press Scottish Secretary David Mundell in talks this Thursday to add full fiscal autonomy and other key tax and welfare powers to the UK Government’s bill when it returns to the Commons.

Mr Swinney said: “The draft clauses we are publishing today would, if implemented, not only provide for agreement on full fiscal autonomy, but would transfer control of business taxes, the minimum wage, working-age benefits, employment and equality laws to Holyrood – new powers that give us a better mix of tools to boost the economy, tackle poverty and build a fairer society.”

But a UK Government spokesman, rejecting Mr Swinney’s demands, said: “Amendments on full fiscal autonomy would leave Scotland with £10bn less to spend by the last year of this parliament and are as far away from sensible as you can get.

“Following last year’s referendum result, people in Scotland are in a place for a new debate – not about what the powers are, but how they will be used and how they will be paid for by Scottish families.”