Scotland Bill: SNP to seek more taxation powers

SNP MPs will push for more taxation powers to be included in the Scotland Bill. Picture: Alistair Pryde
SNP MPs will push for more taxation powers to be included in the Scotland Bill. Picture: Alistair Pryde
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SNP MPs will push for more powers over taxation and welfare in the Scotland Bill as the legislation makes its way through Westminster.

The party confirmed it would concentrate on securing additional devolved powers over job creation and wages as “early priorities” when the Bill has its second reading in the House of Commons tomorrow.

Opposition parties attacked the Nationalists for “completely abandoning” plans to press for Holyrood to be given full control over all tax and spending.

First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon maintained her commitment to the policy of full fiscal autonomy during the general election campaign, despite opponents saying it would leave a £7.6 billion hole in Scotland’s economy.

Last week Deputy First Minister John Swinney suggested that the party’s 56 MPs could table amendments to the Bill calling for full fiscal autonomy.

Instead the SNP amendment states the party “believes that the legislation would be strengthened by the inclusion of additional devolved powers over job creation, taxation, welfare and wages as early priorities as Scotland moves to a position in the medium term where the Scottish Parliament and Government are responsible for all revenue raising”.

The amendment reiterates the SNP position that the Bill fails to fully implement the recommendations of the cross-party Smith Commission, set up after last year’s referendum on independence to agree a package of further devolution for Scotland.

It points to the conclusion of the Scottish Parliament’s Devolution Committee that the legislation does not meet ‘’the spirit or the substance’’ of those recommendations, a claim disputed by the UK Government, which insists it is delivering on the promise for further devolution in full.

The SNP also argues that its landslide victory north of the border in May reflects a desire in Scotland for the proposals to be strengthened.

Angus Robertson MP, the party’s Westminster leader, said: ‘’The Scotland Bill published by the UK Government is woefully lacking - failing to meet even the limited powers set out in the Smith Commission and falling far short of the aspirations of people in Scotland as expressed so firmly at the general election.

“The Smith powers are widely seen as the bare minimum which should be delivered to Scotland and yet every party in the Scottish Parliament - even the Scottish Tories -have backed the view of the cross-party Devolution Committee that the Bill as it stands simply doesn’t measure up.

“It is abundantly clear that there needs to be substantial changes and improvements to bring the Bill up to scratch - and to deliver the powers people in Scotland want to see.

“As it stands, major powers over social security, the minimum wage and other key economic powers would remain in the hands of David Cameron and George Osborne - it is time these powers were delivered to Scotland to allow us to take real action to grow our economy and tackle poverty.”

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray, Labour’s only MP north of the border, said his party would seek to amend the Scotland Bill “to ensure the Smith Agreement is delivered in full alongside greater powers over welfare”.

He said: “The SNP promised in their manifesto to deliver full fiscal autonomy, but they have barely settled into their Westminster offices before completely abandoning it.

“The SNP know their policy of full fiscal autonomy would be a disaster for Scotland, they just won’t admit it.

“The First Minister said during the general election that her MPs would vote for it this year, their amendments to the Scotland Bill confirm that they won’t.

“The reality is that full fiscal autonomy would mean a level of austerity to our public services in Scotland that even George Osborne wouldn’t dream of, which is why the SNP are sprinting away from their own flagship policy.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “This is typical SNP game playing.

“First it was full fiscal autonomy then full fiscal responsibility - now both of those have been forgotten.

“The SNP know that their economic plans are bad for Scotland. If they really had the courage of their convictions they would have tabled an amendment mentioning full fiscal responsibility.

“Once again when reality meets rhetoric the SNP sidestep the opportunity to put their much talked about plans into play instead carping from the sidelines.”

A UK Government spokesman said:”These claims are factually wrong on a number of counts.

“First, the UK Government is delivering the Smith Agreement in full through the Scotland Bill. Second, there are no vetoes. Third, the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the UK last year and this Bill delivers new power in that context.

“Finally, the Scottish Government already has a wide range of powers to create economic growth and tackle poverty - and it is about to get more.

“The real thing lacking is any detail on how it plans to use these new powers in future. As the Prime Minister said, it is time to stop talking and start doing.”

An SNP spokesman said: ‘’The amendment clearly says we want Scotland to have responsibility for full revenue raising in the medium term - that could not be clearer and there has been no change since the election - and it also makes clear our immediate priority is getting new powers over welfare, wages and the economy so we can begin to sort out the mess being created by the UK Government in Scotland.

“The other parties are trying to misrepresent the SNP position because they are determined to stop Scotland’s parliament getting meaningful new powers.

“If the UK Government believes that what is presented matches the letter and spirit of the Smith Commission, then they need to read the recent report of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party Devolution Committee, which set out the significant gaps between the two in comprehensive detail - gaps which the SNP will be seeking to rectify this week.”