SCOTTISH Secretary Alistair Carmichael has revealed that the draft Scotland Bill to hand over more powers from Westminster is set to be published on Thursday three days ahead of schedule.
However, Mr Carmichael was also forced to deny that the government is “dragging its feet” over key measures as he continued to resist pressure to devolve powers over licensing shale gas and job creating powers early.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
The Scottish Secretary’s comments came as Scotland’s three biggest cities Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen wrote to him demanding that the work program powers promised in the commission chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin to be handed over before the election.
Another Smith Commission recommendation on shale gas - agreed by the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens and SNP after the referendum - will also not be devolved early, Mr Carmichael said, despite the government agreeing to remove Scotland from provisions in the Infrastructure Bill.
Mr Carmichael said: “We have got a process which is hardly foot dragging from the publication of heads of agreement to draft clauses is less than two months.
“Now what we have done on shale gas is we have taken the Scottish provisions out of the infrastructure bill because it wouldn’t be right knowing that we are going to devolve it that we should legislate for it at this stage.
“We are hardly foot dragging time that is spent on shale gas is time that is not spent on welfare.”
He said that the work program is the subject of talks between Tory Scotland Office minister David Mundell and Scottish Communities Secretary Alex Neil.
But he said that Labour proposals to devolve it early using section 106 or 63 provisions of the 2012 Scotland Act would fail to properly hand over full powers to Holyrood.
Asked about when he expected to publish draft clauses on the Smith Commission, he said: “I would say a day between Wednesday and Friday might be a good guess.
“They are still in the process of construction. Shared some of them with the Scottish government.”
Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran, who held talks with Mr Carmichael last week over devolving some powers early, said she was disappointed by his rebuff in Scottish questions.
She said: “This is not good enough. Where there’s a will there’s a way – and if the Scottish Secretary accepts it can happen he should make it happen before the election.
“Scotland should not have to wait any longer for job creating powers, especially when the Tory’s Work Programme has failed.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS