News In Focus
Governments agree package of changes to Scotland Bill
The UK and Scottish Governments have agreed the package of changes to be made to the Scotland Bill and will recommend to their respective Parliaments that the bill be passed, it was announced today.
Under consideration at committee stage in the House of Lords today, the bill has been the subject of intense discussion as the Scottish Government attempted to win further tax powers beyond those already proposed, along with other concessions.
Among the agreed amendments are changes to the capital borrowing powers to be devolved by the bill, so that loans will be available over longer periods.
Adjustments have also been agreed to the Scottish block grant, to take account of the Scottish Parliament’s new fiscal powers. Each government should also provide assurance to its Parliament before relevant provisions of the bill are brought into force and before implementation arrangements are brought into effect.
Proposals that risk the integrity of Acts of the Scottish Parliament referred to the Supreme Court, and the Parliament’s role in international obligations, will be removed. It has also been agreed that there will be a review in three years of the need for certification of cases by the High Court for Supreme Court consideration, to be chaired by the Lord President. For the time being there will be no certification requirement, despite pressure from the Scottish Government following the recommendation of the working group under Lord McCluskey.
The proposed reservations of insolvency procedures and regulation of health professions will be removed, preserving the Scottish Government’s existing legislative competence for these areas.
Among the extended powers resisted by the UK Government are substantially higher limits for both revenue and capital borrowing; devolution of the management and revenues of the Crown Estate; devolution of corporation tax and alcohol excise duty, as well as greater control over income tax rates and bands; devolution of greater responsibilities in broadcasting; full devolution of responsibility for local and Scottish Parliament elections; and a guaranteed role for the Scottish Government in EU meetings.
The bill also includes tax powers over land transactions and disposals to landfill, and a Scottish rate of income tax; legislative powers in relation to air weapons, and for drink driving and speed limits on the roads; and a new procedure for Scottish criminal cases appealed to the UK Supreme Court