Scotland Bill a “missed opportunity”


AS THE Scotland Bill nears the end of its parliamentary processes at both Westminster and Holyrood parliaments, the UK and Scottish Governments have been in negotiation over final amendments, Cabinet Secretary for Government Strategy Bruce Crawford said today.

Having agreed a package of changes to the Bill, and undertakings on its implementation, both Governments will now recommend that their respective Parliaments support the Bill.

The Scottish Government has secured important changes to the sections of the Bill dealing with borrowing powers and the Supreme Court and to protect  Scottish interests, particularly in regard to securing agreement on financial implementation including adjustment to the block grant.

Mr Crawford called the bill a “missed opportunity”  Photo:The Scottish Government

However Mr Crawford said the Bill remained a missed opportunity to give Scotland the tools to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

He said: “We fought hard to get more powers in the Scotland Bill, and succeeded in removing the harmful elements, but the UK Government resisted more significant changes.

“We know the people of Scotland want significantly more powers for the Scottish Parliament – the debate around the independence referendum has shown that – and I believe the Scotland Bill will be out of date before reaching the statute book.

“It represents a real missed opportunity.  To stimulate the economy we need much greater financial responsibility that will allow us to boost our recovery, invest in our public services and support long-term sustainable growth.  The Scotland Bill falls way short in terms of delivering the economic levers to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

“The Scotland Bill will provide the Scottish Parliament with some additional powers on borrowing, the principles of devolved taxes, drink driving and air weapons and the reform of the Scottish criminal cases in the UK Supreme Court.

“The UK government pressed for a financial method which would have cut Scottish spending by billions. During the negotiations we have secured important changes that mean the Bill no longer risks Scottish public finances as both Governments should agree the implementation arrangements.  The harmful provisions to take back existing devolved powers have also been removed.

“As the Bill provides the Scottish Parliament with some additional powers the Scottish Government will not stand in the way of this Bill.

“But an opportunity to create jobs, devolve power and respect the Scottish people’s demand for more powers has been missed. This Bill will be remembered for what it did not do. The outstanding question now is, with the UK government committed to giving Scotland more powers, is when will the people be told what those new powers are.

“In any event, people will get the opportunity to vote for the powers that Scotland needs with independence in the autumn 2014 referendum.”