Scottish government calls for Scotland Bill dialogue

John Swinney

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has called for dialogue with the UK government over the Scotland Bill and a fair fiscal framework for Scotland.

Mr Swinney said yesterday that he has “no hesitation” to refuse to recommend a Bill that “did not properly allow us to address our own priorities”.

The UK government has not accepted any amendments to the Bill proposed by the SNP or the Labour Party.

Mr Swinney said: “The Scotland Bill is a series of missed opportunities. It could have given the Scottish Parliament powers over employment law and trade unions, or all of social security - protecting people in Scotland from the policies of the UK Government.

“As it stands, the Bill constrains our ability to use new its limited new powers and retains vetoes for UK Ministers if they don’t like our plans. That’s not devolution, and flies in the face of the spirit and letter of the Smith Commission.

“It must be rectified. Sadly, the UK Government’s response has been to reject every amendment put forward by a range of Westminster parties in the House of Commons. ”

He added: “Alongside the Scotland Bill, we also need a well-designed, agreed fiscal framework that gives the Scottish Government flexibility to use the powers distinctly and effectively to boost the economy and create a fair and prosperous country.

“Without a framework that is fair to Scotland, the Scottish Government will not recommend that Parliament approves the Scotland Bill. I would have no hesitation to refuse to recommend a Bill that did not properly allow us to address our own priorities.”

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead (pictured) has also criticised the Scotland Bill, saying that its proposals on the Crown Estate are “needlessly complex”.

He made the remarks yesterday during the first meeting of the Crown Estate Devolution Stakeholder Group.

Mr Lochhead said: “The UK Government’s proposals in the Scotland Bill on the Crown Estate are needlessly complex, include carve outs for reserved issues and scope for UK Ministers to limit devolution and exclude economic assets in Scotland that are not wholly owned by the Crown Estate such as the valuable shareholding in Fort Kinnaird.

“We are focused on making the proposals simple and workable and to deliver a faithful and effective implementation of the Smith Commission’s recommendations. Devolution of the management and income of the Crown Estate in Scotland presents a genuine opportunity to deliver benefits to communities across Scotland.

“It will also ensure we retain income in Scotland, introduce greater transparency and take advantage of our natural assets. I want to minimise disruption and provide certainty and I believe this Stakeholder Group will help give a voice to those who have an interest in this process.”

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