The time has come for Scotland’s political parties to focus on using new powers, Scottish Secretary David Mundell has said, adding it was “beyond doubt” the “vow” had been delivered.
But SNP MPs criticised the Government for bringing forward hundreds of new amendments to the Scotland Bill at the start of a bad-tempered report stage debate.
The UK Government is honouring its commitment in the Edinburgh Agreement, accepting the result of the referendum and moving forward to give the Scottish Parliament significant new powers within our United KingdomDavid Mundell
A maximum of six hours is available to discuss the legislation, intended to implement further devolution as recommended by the Smith Commission following the independence referendum, before it completes its Commons scrutiny. Hundreds of amendments have been laid down in a 76-page book of possible changes to the Bill.
The Bill came about as a result of “The Vow” made by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg shortly before the end of the Scottish independence campaign.
Opening the debate, Mr Mundell insisted the Government has listened to arguments and concerns about the legislation before bringing forward the changes.
He said: “The Government’s amendments will strengthen the Scotland Bill’s provisions and clarify its delivery of the Smith Commission agreement. With that done, it will be time for Scotland’s political parties to work together to make the new powers a success for everyone in Scotland.
“The amendments put beyond doubt the Bill fully delivers the Smith Commission agreement.”
Among the Government’s proposed changes are new constitutional language and new or revised powers on taxes and welfare.
In later amendments, ministers will add powers over abortion law to the Bill.
Mr Mundell said: “It’s a bit rich both to be criticised both for taking no amendments (at committee) and then in the same breath for lodging too many amendments. We took the committee process seriously, we took the contribution by the devolved powers committee in the Scottish Parliament very seriously, and that has determined our thinking in lodging these amendments.
“The House will not be surprised the Government still considers full fiscal autonomy is not in the interests of the people of Scotland.
“I believe Scotland’s parties, rather than re-running the referendum, need to work together to understand how the powers in the Bill will be used for the benefit of the people of Scotland.
“The UK Government is honouring its commitment in the Edinburgh Agreement, accepting the result of the referendum and moving forward to give the Scottish Parliament significant new powers within our United Kingdom.”
The Scotland Bill proposes handing new powers from Westminster to Holyrood, with the promise of more control over taxation, VAT revenues and welfare spending.
The cross-party Smith Commission was established to look at how to deliver the additional powers promised by the then three party leaders.
Before the main debate began, SNP frontbencher Pete Wishart condemned the Government’s handling of the Bill.
He said: “We are profoundly disappointed with the time available to discuss very significant and important issues, amendments, for the Scotland Bill - a critical piece of legislation for our nation.
“There are over a hundred amendments selected for debate this afternoon and that follows the 76-page document of amendments submitted by MPs across this House.
“We know how this place works - there will be divisions, 20 minutes taken up with this 18th century, arcane practice of wandering through a lobby to be counted.”
He added: “How could this possibly be allowed that we have such little time?
“Scotland is watching these proceedings and it will just not understand the gross disrespect shown to our nation... it will feel like Scotland has been given an almighty slap in the face and told to just get on with it.”