Scotland Bill “missed opportunity and not yet fit for purpose” says Holyrood Committee

15/12/2011

Committee Convener Linda Fabiani MSP with the Report on the Scotland Bill The UK Parliament’s Scotland Bill, as it currently stands, is a “missed opportunity” and is “not yet fit for purpose”, according to a report published today by Holyrood’s Scotland Bill Committee.

Committee Convener Linda Fabiani MSP believes that while the introduction of the Bill is welcome, the proposed increased powers for the Scottish Parliament do not go far enough. 

The two-volume, 200-pages-plus report sets out the committee’s recommendations for a range of increased financial and non-financial powers for Holyrood.

Ms Fabiani said: “The Scotland Bill proposals to devolve new tax-raising powers will mean that, for the first time, a proportion of the spending decisions made in Scotland could have direct consequences for personal taxation in Scotland.

“This Committee does recognise that irrespective of any positions that may be taken in the debate on the longer-term constitutional future of Scotland, poll after poll of the Scottish people shows continued support for greater powers to be devolved than currently in the Scotland Bill.”

Ms Fabiani added:  “There are elements of the Bill which the whole committee can welcome. However, overall, we believe that the Bill does not go far enough and its provisions, if enacted, represent a significant risk to public finances in Scotland.

“Our report concludes that whilst the Bill delivers a very limited amount of financial accountability, it does not deliver what Scotland needs, which is full fiscal autonomy.”

In relation to the Scottish Parliament’s legislative consent, the Committee concludes at paragraph 6 of its report:

  • On the basis of all of the evidence that we have heard, the responses from the UK Government to the amendments suggested by our predecessor and by others in this new Parliamentary session, the Committee, therefore is unable to recommend that the Parliament approve a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) on the Scotland Bill unless it is amended in line with the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations.

The Scottish Parliament is likely to debate the committee’s report in the New Year and set out its view on legislative consent.

Background notes

1. The committee makes 45 recommendations, which are set out in volume 1 of the report – see List of Recommendations.
 
2. While some of the measures in the Bill have the full backing of the eleven-strong committee, most recommendations reflect the majority view position.  Of the 45 recommendations, there was dissent on 26 and division on a further 3.  Key areas of consensus include capital borrowing, the Crown Estate and the case for devolving air passenger duty and aggregates levy.

3. A minority of four Members have set out their views in a 14 page minority report set out in Annex A in Volume 2 of the report.

4. An ‘at-a-glance guide’ is also included in volume 1 which helps draw comparisons between the increased powers as proposed by Westminster, the Calman Commission, the Steel Commission and the first and second Scotland Bill Committees.   

5. The committee met on 15 occasions since being established by the Parliament in June 2011. It received over 90 written submissions of evidence and heard from numerous witnesses. The committee also organised two informal sessions with the business community and a cross-section of organisations from ‘civic Scotland’.

6. Legislative Consent process – Westminster will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. This includes not only devolved matters, but also matters which alter the legislative competence of the Parliament or the executive competence of the Scottish Ministers.