Commenting on the publication of the Smith Commission report this morning on behalf of the Scottish National Party, Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP said:
"The Scottish National Party took part in the Smith Commission in good faith, and we have been pleased to work with Lord Smith and the four other political parties to deliver some additional powers for the Scottish Parliament. We thank Lord Smith and his secretariat for their hard work and commitment.
"We welcome the new powers - as we support all progress for Scotland - and pledge to use them when they are in place in the best interests of the Scottish people. We also welcome the acknowledgement of the 'sovereign right' of the people of Scotland, and our ability to proceed to independence if we so choose.
"But the proposals clearly do not reflect the full wishes of the people of Scotland, and also fall far short of the rhetoric from the No campaign during the referendum. Then, Gordon Brown promised 'nothing less than a modern form of Scottish Home Rule' and 'as close to a federal state' as the UK can be. That was the context for the "extensive new powers" promised in the Vow.
"Regrettably, the Westminster parties were not prepared to deliver the powerhouse parliament the people of Scotland were promised - under these proposals, less than 30 per cent of our taxes will be set in Scotland and less than 20 per cent of welfare spending will be devolved to Scotland. That isn't Home Rule - it's continued Westminster rule.
"As polling has shown, two-thirds of people want Scotland to have all powers apart from defence and foreign affairs - Devo Max - including majorities among supporters of all political parties. 71 per cent want control of all taxation in Scotland, 75 per cent want control of the welfare and benefits system, 65 per cent want control of policy regarding the state pension, and 68 per cent want control of oil and gas revenues.
"Most significantly, the proposals do not include the job-creating powers that Scotland so badly needs to get more people into work and grow the economy, or welfare powers to tackle in-work poverty.
"Control of employer national insurance contributions, tax incentives for research and development, the personal allowance to lift more low earners out of tax and make work pay, corporate taxation, child and working tax credits, and the ability to shape a welfare system that helps rather than hinders the path to employment - these all stay with Westminster.
"This was a missed opportunity to devolve the welfare system in order to help build a fairer, more prosperous society - as the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and many other expert organisations in civic Scotland called for - and the minimum wage, as the STUC wanted.
"We will use all the new powers Scotland gets wisely, to improve the lives of the people we serve.
"But the opportunity of the Commission was to make this the strongest package of self-government possible short of independence - which is effectively what the people voted for in the referendum. Unfortunately, this falls short because it could only go as far as the Westminster parties were prepared to go.
"Next year's General Election offers the people of Scotland the opportunity to have their say, and the SNP will propose improvements to the package for which we will seek popular support in May. The Westminster parties have now gone as far as they are ever prepared to go in terms of powers for Scotland -and it is not as far as they indicated during the referendum. They have drawn their final line in the sand - and it is on the wrong side of majority opinion in Scotland.
"The General Election enables the voice of the people to be heard over the powers that Scotland needs to boost employment and tackle inequality - and we look forward to their verdict."
Further expert backing for the devolution of energy policy has been welcomed by the SNP –and adds to the emerging consensus amongst energy experts that Scotland’s oil revenues should be in Scotland’s hands.
In an article published today, Alex Russell, Professor of Petroleum Accounting at Robert Gordon University, and Peter Strachan, Professor of Energy Policy, have backed calls for responsibility for the North Sea fiscal regime to be transferred to Scotland - along with calls for Scotland to play a leading role in setting UK-wide energy policy and having greater responsibilities over renewable energy.
Professors Russell and Strachan said:
“There is no reason why Holyrood should not have full responsibility for tax-raising from oil and gas production, especially where vast economic assets lie in already-established territorial waters.”
In calling for Scotland to play a greater role in energy policy, the article states:
“Scotland should also play a leading role in setting UK-wide energy policy and assisting Westminster in overseeing regulation. Scotland’s voice at the industry regulator Ofgem should be increased to that of a full partner, a co-driver in energy oversight – right now Scotland is not even a backseat passenger.”
Professors Russell and Strachan also highlight the necessity of greater Scottish control over renewables, saying that:
“There is no getting away from the fact that the Scottish government is much more committed to renewables while England is keener on nuclear power. The only way to allow both countries to pursue their own individual policy goals, while having a properly joined-up approach to national energy security, is to give Scotland greater say in these areas.”
Welcoming the comments, SNP MSP Maureen Watt said:
“This is a substantial and constructive contribution to the debate on Scotland’s future from two well respected industry experts – and only adds to the growing consensus that revenue from Scotland’s vast natural resources should be in Scotland’s pocket, rather than Westminster’s.
“The Westminster parties promised extensive new economic powers for Scotland in their Vow before the referendum – and now that the experts are lining up to back the devolution of energy policy, there are no excuses not to deliver.
“Polls show that the vast majority of people in Scotland support the devolution of oil and gas revenue – and it’s not difficult to see why.
“For decades successive Westminster governments have simply used our North Sea resources as a cash cow. With control over taxation and licensing in Scotland’s hands, we can ensure we extract maximum benefit from our natural resources – and will see the revenue benefit the people of Scotland, rather than flowing to the Treasury in London.”
Labour’s disastrous poll ratings in Scotland would continue no matter who their leader is, new polling analysis has shown – confirming that the party will continue to pay the price for standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories in the No campaign even if Ed Miliband is forced out.
New polling evidence has shown that support for the SNP remains consistent and shows a strong lead over Labour regardless of who their leader is – confirming the toxicity of the entire Westminster establishment amongst people in Scotland.
Analysis of the YouGov poll reported in the Sunday Times shows SNP support at 43 per cent – 19 points ahead of Labour – which remains consistent at between 43 and 44 per cent whether Labour is led by Ed Miliband, David Miliband, Alan Johnson, Ed Balls or Yvette Cooper.
Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson said:
“While some figures in the Labour Party may have taken comfort in trying to pin all their woes on the flawed leadership of Ed Miliband, these figures make clear that Labour’s problem’s run far deeper than that.
“This poll confirms that Labour’s fundamental problem is that people in Scotland won’t soon forget or forgive their toxic alliance with the Tories in the No campaign.
“That Labour stood shoulder to shoulder with a right-wing government engaged in a relentless assault on the most vulnerable people in society will see them pay a heavy price at the ballot box – no matter which Westminster establishment figure is at the party’s helm.
“Labour in Scotland will also be hamstrung by their status as nothing more than a ‘branch office’ of London - run by a Westminster establishment that people in Scotland also view as toxic.
“While Labour is consumed with internal plots – both north and south of the border – the SNP is getting on with the job of representing the aspirations of people across the country as Scotland’s party of social democracy.
“That is why the SNP are in such a strong position as we approach next year’s General Election, but we take nothing for granted. And we stand in stark contrast to a mistrusted and discredited Labour party which is in disarray no matter who leads it.”
The folly of Westminster’s Euro-hostile agenda has been highlighted again today –after it emerged that any moves to pull out of the European Arrest Warrant would cost the UK £100m per year in tax evasion and increased risk of financial crime.
The figures reported in today’s Financial Times come ahead of a vote in the House of Commons on Monday in which it is expected a substantial number of Tory MPs will vote to pull out of the European Arrest Warrant – which would make it more difficult to prosecute financial crime and would come at a substantial cost to the economy.
This is just the latest example of the potential cost of Westminster’s Euro-hostile agenda – after it emerged that EU migrants have contributed £20bn to the economy over the last 10 years despite David Cameron’s plans to curb migration.
Commenting, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said:
“This is yet another example of the massive economic risks posed by the Tories’ Euro-hostile agenda – and shows why it is so wrong for Westminster to allow the political agenda to be dictated by UKIP.
“The European Arrest Warrant allows us to extradite suspected terrorists and bring white-collar criminals to justice – that a substantial number of Tories want to put this at risk just to make a political point and flex their Eurosceptic muscles is ridiculous and demonstrates exactly why Scotland needs its own voice on the European stage.
“The European Arrest Warrant is a concrete example of how Scotland benefits from being in the EU – and highlights the very real dangers any EU exit would pose for people in Scotland.
“That’s exactly why it’s so essential that measures are put in place to ensure that Scotland or any of the other UK nations cannot be dragged out of the EU against their will by a Westminster establishment dancing to UKIP’s tune.”
The Institute of Fiscal Studies has criticised David Cameron for comments he has made on the UK government’s proposed spending cuts, and has warned the next government will have “the same amount of pain as this one.”
The Prime Minister wrote in the Times yesterday (Thursday) that the Coalition “will have made £100bn of savings” during this parliament, with “£25bn in further savings planned” for the next parliament. However the thinktank’s director Paul Johnson said today that the two numbers were “measured in really quite different ways” and that “really, we’re about halfway through.”
Commenting, SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP said:
“David Cameron is trying to wash over the figures when we can expect more of the same in cuts from the next Westminster government.
“The Prime Minister is repeating a claim he made at the Tory Party conference, but as the IFS has pointed out his numbers don’t add up.
“While it’s right to tackle the deficit, the austerity measures so far have simply made things worse. Tory policy has stifled growth, and as the IFS has made clear today, there is much more pain still to come.
"That's why we need substantial economic and financial powers in Scotland - as the Westminster parties promised us in their Vow - so that we can grow the economy and invest in public services."
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