Labour must ‘be bold’ in devolution - Alexander

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LABOUR’S devolution commission must “range widely and act boldly” as it prepares to publish its final report on more powers for Holyrood, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has said.

The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP wants the party to offer further tax and welfare powers under an enhanced devolution settlement.

Mr Alexander will deliver a speech in Glasgow tonight in which he will outline his views ahead of the publication of the commission’s findings at Scottish Labour’s conference next month.

Mr Alexander said: “There is a better choice for Scotland, which is to see enhanced devolution within the United Kingdom, which genuinely gives people a sense of control over some of the key issues in their lives here in Scotland, but not at the cost of the strength, security and stability of the United Kingdom.

“We should be prepared to look at how we can enhance and strengthen the devolution settlement within the UK.”

He continued: “In the speech that I am making this evening I will urge my colleagues in the devolution commission to range widely and to act boldly.

“That means in considering taxation, employment and skills policy, the responsibilities of the Crown Estate, the running of elections.

“We should offer an approach which is right in principle, but also which is proper in practice, as this is what I think Scotland wants.”

Mr Alexander’s speech will urge Labour to offer Scottish people “the best of both worlds - more of the decisions that matter to Scots being taken here in Scotland”.

He will describe the commission’s report as “a defining point” of the independence debate, in which more powers for Holyrood should be “embraced”.

The devolution commission was launched by Scottish leader Johann Lamont in 2012 to look at the current devolution settlement and how that could be enhanced.

It published an interim report in April last year which described income tax as the ‘’best candidate’’ for further devolution.

Corporation tax was ruled out and national insurance was considered too closely linked to the UK-wide benefits system which Labour wants to maintain.

While the devolution of North Sea oil taxation is ‘’technically possible’’, it could create unpredictable effects on spending, the commission found.

Going beyond Holyrood, it proposed devolving responsibility for the Crown Estate commissioners for the seabed and foreshore to local authorities.

Ms Lamont admitted some Labour members may see some of the proposals as ‘’radical’’ and may be concerned about them.