Wales to come into line with Scottish devolution

The National Assembly of Wales. Picture: Contributed
The National Assembly of Wales. Picture: Contributed
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The powers of the Welsh Assembly are to be boosted to bring the institution more in line with the Scottish Parliament, it was announced yesterday.

David Cameron said the people of Wales will be given the opportunity to vote in a referendum to decide whether to take control of powers over income tax.

The principality will also be given borrowing powers for the first time and control over stamp duty revenues.

Mr Cameron said the measures, part of a package to give more responsibility to the Welsh Assembly, were for “a strong Wales inside a strong United Kingdom”.

Control of stamp duty paid by house-buyers and a landfill tax should bring the Welsh Assembly a £200 million revenue stream.

The new package builds on the recommendations of the Silk Commission, which reported last November and recommended a series of tax and spending powers should be devolved.

Standing alongside his Lib Dem coalition partner Nick Clegg at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, Mr Cameron said: “Power is about building this country up.”

Borrowing powers would help the Welsh government finance improvements to the M4. “This is like a foot on the windpipe of the Welsh Assembly,” Mr Cameron said. “We want to encourage the Welsh Assembly government to take action as soon as possible.”

Mr Clegg added: “This is a milestone in the devolution of power to Wales and a big step forward.

“This package puts the Welsh people in the driving seat on jobs, transport, infrastructure and housing as well.”

Among the other key differences between Scotland and Wales is that in the latter, justice and policing are not devolved.

In Scotland, Holyrood is to get more power over income tax in 2016 when the changes to the tax system proposed by the Calman Commission come into force. The pro-Union parties at Holyrood have also said that there is the possibility of more Scottish devolution if Scotland votes “No” to independence.

Yesterday, Scottish pro-Union campaigners suggested that the Welsh experience showed that more devolution could be delivered within the UK.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “This is now the second occasion on which the coalition government has delivered on promises for extra powers to the Welsh Assembly and we’ve also delivered more substantial powers to the Scottish Parliament through the Scotland Act.

“This is proof that when we say we will deliver powers, we do it.”

Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: “Alex Salmond and the SNP have argued that the UK can’t be trusted to deliver on devolution. It is nonsense.”

Yes Scotland, however, claimed that the only way to gain more Scottish powers is through independence.

A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “The powers on offer to the people of Wales are less than Scotland already has and do not offer the ability to scrap the bedroom tax, to remove Trident nuclear weapons or to tackle energy prices.

“None of the No parties is promising devolution of welfare – Labour’s commission has expressly excluded it from further powers. Only with the full powers of independence can Scotland build the kind of fairer and more prosperous country that Scots want.”

The Prime Minister said certain recommendations of the Silk Commission, such as handing air passenger duty to Wales, would not be implemented.

Wales v Scotland

• Should Wales vote yes if it holds a referendum, the assembly will gain power over around half of income tax.

• The Senedd is also gaining control of Stamp Duty and landfill tax. The Welsh Assembly will be given borrowing powers for the first time.

• The Silk Commission is looking at devolving policing and justice to the assembly.

• The Scottish Parliament has had, but not used, power to raise or lower income tax by 3p in the pound since 1999.

• The 2012 Scotland Act will devolve Stamp Duty and landfill taxes to Edinburgh.

• Holyrood has power over health, education, transport, agriculture, tourism, culture, economic development, housing and local government.

• Scotland differs from Wales in that policing and justice are devolved to Holyrood.