Vow ‘not delivered’, warns John Swinney

Deputy First Minister John Swinney will today warn that the post-referendum package of more powers don’t go far enough - on the anniversary of the Vow which pledged sweeping new controls for Holyrood.
On the anniversary of 'The Vow', John Swinney is set to warn that it hasn't been fulfilled. Picture: Ian GeorgesonOn the anniversary of 'The Vow', John Swinney is set to warn that it hasn't been fulfilled. Picture: Ian Georgeson
On the anniversary of 'The Vow', John Swinney is set to warn that it hasn't been fulfilled. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Scottish Parliament is today likely to back a Scottish Government motion calling on the UK Government to make changes to the Scotland Bill to deliver the Smith Commission findings in full.

But pro-union parties insists the changes will make the Scottish parliament one of the most powerful devolved institutions in the world and urge the SNP to stick to their pre-referendum claims that the vote would be a “once-in-a generation” event.

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The plans for more devolution do hand Holyrood control of incomes tax rates and bands, as well as some welfare. Other controls over areas like air passenger duty and Crown Estate have also been devolved.

But MSPs will today be told that the package doesn’t go far enough and leaves Westminster with a series of “vetoes” over key welfare controls.

Mr Swinney said ahead of today’s debate: “Exactly a year ago today, people across Scotland were promised extensive new powers for this Parliament.

“Every party in this Parliament took part in the Smith Commission, yet the resulting Scotland Bill limits new powers and is a series of missed opportunities.

“The Bill takes every opportunity to constrain and limit new powers and utterly fails to deliver the spirit of the Smith Commission. It maintains vetoes over Universal Credit and energy schemes and waters down the Smith proposals on social security, employment support and the Crown Estate.”

There are also concerns that no amendments to the Bill were accepted at its committee stage in the House of Commons.

Mr Swinney added: “Parliament can unite to urge the UK Government to amend the Bill to implement the Smith Commission recommendations supported by all parties in Holyrood. That is the absolute minimum the people of Scotland expect and deserve.”

But Tory MSP Annabel Goldie says that the Smith Agreement proposes “a very significant transfer of powers” to the Scottish Parliament in an amendment today.

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She insists this will “make it one of the most powerful sub-national legislatures in the world.”

She added: “In the context of rejection of independence by voters in Scotland in the 2014 referendum, the Smith Agreement and the Scotland Bill, reflecting changes to the original draft clauses, deliver on pledges to provide more powers for the Scottish Parliament.”

Nicola Sturgeon revealed at the weekend that the SNP’s manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election will set out provisions for a possible second referendum on independence.

But Ms Goldie called for the Scottish Government to “respect the result of the referendum by repeating its assurances that such a poll would be a once-in-a-generation event.”