Salmond fury at Calman plan to give powers back

ALEX Salmond was last night outraged after it emerged the Calman Commission wants to partially reverse devolution by clawing back powers from Holyrood to Westminster.

The commission set up to examine Scotland's constitutional position has admitted that it will look at taking powers from the Scottish Parliament, raising the prospect of new nuclear power stations being built north of the border against the wishes of the SNP.

At the moment, the devolution of planning laws to the Scottish Parliament means that the anti-nuclear power SNP administration can frustrate plans to build new power stations, even though energy policy is reserved to Westminster.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Planning and other Holyrood powers being taken back into the jurisdiction of Westminster came up at this month's meeting of the group, which is chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman and supported by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

A minute of the meeting held on March 12 revealed "re-reservation" was discussed and added that individual cases would be considered on their merits.

The idea that some of Holyrood's powers could be diluted by a body set up to look at devolving more powers to Scotland infuriated Salmond.

A spokesman for the First Minister said: "The Calman Commission should be focused on gaining economic and financial responsibilities for Scotland – including borrowing powers – so that we can take the decisions needed to reflate the economy and combat recession.

"It is extraordinary that Calman should even be considering handing powers back to Westminster – which after all were secured by the people of Scotland in a referendum."

The spokesman added that there would be "absolutely no support" for ending the Scottish Parliament's effective veto on the building of new nuclear power stations.

"The Calman Commission has got to be clear about what exactly they are proposing. In our view, the need in Scotland is for the powers of the parliament to be extended so that we can compete economically. There is no case for stripping powers away from the parliament in any area."

But the transfer of powers to Westminster was welcomed by those who believe that constructing new nuclear power stations in Scotland is the only way the UK's energy needs can be met.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Scotland's two existing reactors are due to close soon. Hunterston in North Ayrshire is due to shut down in 2016, while Torness in East Lothian is scheduled to close in 2023.

SNP ministers have argued Scotland does not need nuclear power because of its vast potential supply of renewable energy.

Scottish Labour MP Brian Donohoe said: "I think this is a victory for common sense. It is clear it is wrong for the Scottish Executive to hold Westminster and the whole of the United Kingdom to ransom over our energy requirements."

Other powers which could be moved from Holyrood to Westminster include corporate insolvency, which is currently dealt with at Holyrood.

The Commission has also taken evidence suggesting that the Food Standards Agency, currently run in Scotland from Edinburgh, should be reverted to Westminster control. Such a move would be controversial given Scotland's history of food-related diseases, including E.coli outbreaks.

A Commission spokesman said: "It is a ludicrous misrepresentation to suggest that the Commission discussed stripping the Scottish Parliament of its powers.

"All that the minutes say is that changes to reserved matters to Westminster are not ruled out as a matter of principle and we look at them on their merits."