Queen’s Speech promises more powers to Scotland

Devolving more power to Scotland was put at the heart of the Queen’s Speech when a programme of 21 Bills was unveiled amid pomp and ceremony at Westminster.

Queen Elizabeth II delivers the Queen's Speech from the House of Lords in 2014. Picture: AFP/Getty

The Scotland Bill to make Holyrood stronger was, as expected, a key part of David Cameron’s programme for Government along with a EU referendum.

In her traditional speech in the House of Lords, the Queen announced the Prime Minister’s intention to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Europe before holding a referendum on EU membership before 2017.

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Representatives of the new intake of 56 SNP MPs were among those who crowded into the Upper House to listen to her speech.

Queen Elizabeth II delivers the Queen's Speech from the House of Lords in 2014. Picture: AFP/Getty

Wearing white roses in their lapel in homage to the Hugh MacDiarmid poem “The Little White Rose”, the SNP MSPs heard a Queen’s Speech that was heavy on constitutional matters.

Although characterised as a “One Nation” speech, greater devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was promised as well as English Votes for English Laws.

Also on the agenda was the Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to devolve more powers to English cities to build a Northern power house that would also benefit from the construction of high-speed rail.

The Conservatives pre-election pledge to freeze VAT, National Insurance and income tax for the next five years was included as were Trade Union reform and Mr Cameron’s promise to create a seven-day-a-week NHS.

The Queen announced new legislation to ban “psycho-active” drugs.

There was also legislation to turn “failing or coasting” schools into academies.

Increasing the real value of the state pension, increasing the rights of victims of crime and protecting the public from extremism were other measures announced.

An Investigatory Powers Bill, aiming to give the authorities greater access to internet data, was part of the legislative programme. Also included were plans to give 1.3 million people in England the right to buy their housing association homes.

Mr Cameron’s plan to scrap the Human Rights Act was mentioned in passing, although the proposal has been delayed in the face of opposition from Labour, the SNP and some members of his own backbenches.