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Summary

  1. The Scottish Conservatives lead a debate on the Smith Commission agreement
  2. MSPs took evidence from Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead on the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Rachael Connors

All times stated are UK

That's all folks

That ends our coverage of the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 10 December 2014.

Holyrood
BBC

Remember you can watch all the chamber business and the Welfare Reform Committee on demand at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

Crucial role

Purse and coins
BBC

In closing Ms Burgess says today's debate has highlighted the crucial role credit unions can play.

Role of credit unions

The welfare minister says very often it is the people on low income that are bearing the brunt of welfare reform and credit unions can play a role too.

Ms Burgess praises the First Alliance Credit Union in her own constituency.

hand
BBC

She says the government has been working to raise the awareness of credit unions and how they can help people.

The government is also working with schools to promote credit unions as a viable option for saving.

'Significant contribution'

Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess congratulates those who have worked to make the outpost a reality

She says she is "delighted to see how actively engaged the church is" with the union.

Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess
BBC
Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess

Ms Burgess adds that she hopes Penicuik will be a resounding success and similar partnerships will be rolled out elsewhere.

The government recognises the significant contribution of credit unions, she says.

'Non profit'

SNP MSP Christine Grahame says an 'outpost' may sounds like something from the wild west but it is in fact a partnership between volunteers and Capital Credit Union

The Capital Credit Union is non profit making, she says.

SNP MSP Christine Grahame
BBC
SNP MSP Christine Grahame

Ms Grahame says credit unions encourage all members to save.

It provides, she says an affordable source of credit, affordable being the key words.

The credit union is more responsible than so called responsible banks, she says.

Credit unions

Ms Grahame's motion wishes it well in its endeavours to encourage responsible saving and borrowing and in allowing people to access ethical products at fair rates of interest without having to turn to pay day lenders.

loan company Website
PA
Many people borrow at high rates of interest from pay day lenders

It adds an expression of thanks the church for providing the free premises, the Lothian Presbytery for contributing office furniture and all of the volunteers and everyone else involved in what it sees as this exciting and much needed project, and hopes to see other initiatives of this sort coming into being across Scotland.

Capital Credit Union's Penicuik Outpost debate

SNP MSP Christine Grahame is leading her member's debate on the Capital Credit Union's Penicuik outpost.

Her motion states that the parliament commends the credit union's launch of an outpost at Penicuik North Kirk.

Money
PA

She states that this will be a pilot for a possible wider extension of the credit union across Midlothian.

The outpost features the active involvement of the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopalian Church through the partnership, Penicuik Churches Working Together; notes that the credit union facility is staffed by church volunteers with support from Capital Credit Union.

Decision time

MSPs pass the Scottish government amendment from the Conservative Smith Commission debate, with 64 MSPs backing it and with 49 voting against.

The Conservative motion as amended by the SNP was passed, with 62 MSPs backing it and with 48 voting against and there were three amendments

MSPs
BBC

The amendment from the Lib Dems was defeated.

Tory closing

Conservative MSP Gavin Brown says the Scottish government has genuinely struggled during this debate.

No wonder the government didn't want a debate, he says, preferring to give a statement to the chamber.

He says the powers devolved by the Smith Commission report are "significant powers".

Scottish Labour MSP Gavin Brown
BBC
Scottish Labour MSP Gavin Brown

Mr Brown says in order to measure the "significance" we must examine the control of expenditure, control of revenues and control of legislative power.

He explains there are "strong powers on expenditure", with the additional of welfare powers.

On control of revenues, he accepts, there was a weakness in the original Scotland Act, "a vertical fiscal imbalance", which will be "improved vastly" now.

"We've always had great powers in terms of legislative power" he says.

The Conservative finance spokesman says "nobody can say in any objective capacity" that the Smith Commission agreement is not significant.

Scottish government closing

Deputy First Minister John Swinney says he is happy to tell the parliament today that he agreed the proposals in the Smith Commission report and welcomes the new powers it suggests.

However Mr Swinney says it would be "dishonest if he said the agreement was the summit of his ambitions" for more powers for Scotland.

The deputy first minister refuses to say the package of powers in the Smith Commission agreement are "significant", despite prompting from Tory MSP Gavin Brown.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney
BBC
Deputy First Minister John Swinney

He insists the agreement is only part of a journey and there is nothing in the report that prevents Scotland voting to become independent in the future.

Mr Swinney also insists he has always accepted the outcome of the referendum and that is why he participated in the Smith Commission, but he wants to see a settlement that meets the ambitions and needs of the Scottish people.

Labour closing

Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray says during the debate members have been concerned with what the so-called 'vow' was.

He says "the vow was simple"; the Scottish parliament permanent and entrenched and a substantial transfer of tax and welfare powers.

Labour MSP Iain Gray
BBC
Labour MSP Iain Gray

"The Smith agreement is the vow delivered on time and in spades", he added.

Mr Gray described the SNP reaction to the Smith report as "dismal".

The former Scottish Labour leader says the Smith commission report provides "substantial powers" for the Scottish parliament.

He says any government which thinks the most important thing is "not the new powers but who gets to write the draft legislation", as detailed in Mr Swinney's amendment, has got the wrong priorities.

Lib Dem closing

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott says on the whole he believes the Smith Commission process had much to commend.

Mr Scott defends John Swinney and Linda Fabiani against, what he perceives as the attacks on them from within the SNP.

Tavish Scott Lib Dem MSP
BBC

Mr Swinney and Ms Fabiani, of course, both sat on the Smith Commission and signed the agreement and many SNP back benchers believe the vow made by three main Westminster party leaders has not been met.

The Lib Dem MSP says, more seriously, that the Smith Commission will allow the Scottish government to make a range of choices and it will eventually welcome its recommendations more fully.

'Multi-speed approach'

Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who sat on the Smith Commission, says during the process of trying to reach an agreement on further devolution they were hampered by the "fast forward nature of it".

Mr Harvie says the "break neck speed" of the commission contributed to the inability to take proper, in-depth evidence.

However now the Smith Commission report has been published it is clear we need a multi-speed approach, says the Green MSP.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie
BBC

On extending the Holyrood franchise to 16 and 17 year olds, it requires top speed to be ready for the 2016 election, he says.

He also accepts there are aspects that cannot be ready to be included in the clauses by the end of January 2015, like additional borrowing powers which require longer negotiations between the UK and Scottish governments.

The Scottish Green Party co-convener says, in conclusion, the Smith Commission, in time, will be viewed as "just one more little step in the road".

Analysis: BBC Scotland political correspondent Glenn Campbell

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg promised Holyrood "extensive new powers" in the event of a 'no' vote in the independence referendum.

The three pro-union leaders believe the Smith commission agreement on further devolution, when enacted, will redeem what became known as their vow.

The commission recommends a package of extra tax and welfare powers that Lord Smith said would amount to the biggest transfer of power from Westminster to Holyrood since devolution.

Smith commission members
PA
Representatives of five political parties attended meetings chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin

But in parliament Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that was not extensive enough. "The vow" he said "has quite simply not been delivered".

In response, Labour's Iain Gray said the Smith agreement would result in "more extensive powers devolved than in federal Germany or in federal Australia.

"This is the vow delivered" he said.

Expect the battle for public opinion over Smith to intensify as the UK general election draws nearer.

The Vow

Paper
PA

The Smith Commission had its roots in the '

Vow'.

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg promised Holyrood "extensive new powers" in the event of a 'no' vote in the independence referendum.

The three pro-union leaders believe the Smith commission agreement on further devolution, when enacted, will redeem what became known as their vow.

The commission recommends a package of extra tax and welfare powers that Lord Smith said would amount to the biggest transfer of power from Westminster to Holyrood since devolution.

Smith Commission

Lord Smith commission panel
BBC
All five Scottish political parties have two representatives to the commission

Lord Smith's commission, which was made up of 10 party representatives, published its recommendations last week.

It said the Scottish Parliament should be able to;

  • set income tax rates and bands
  • be given powers to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Scottish elections
  • have control over Air Passenger Duty
  • and be given a part share in VAT receipts.

Vow row

The vow, Record front page
Daily Record
The vow was signed by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg

Last week the politicians at Holyrood argued about whether the pre-referendum vote "vow" pledging more powers for Scotland had been met.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said promises by the three UK party leaders had "simply not been delivered".

The Scottish Tories, Scottish Lib Dems and Scottish Labour strongly disagreed with the SNP MSP.

The argument was sparked during a

statement by Mr Swinney about the Smith Commission on new Holyrood powers.

The 28-page Smith report
PA

So who exactly is Lord Smith?

Lord Smith of Kelvin has been appointed to oversee the process of devolving more powers to Scotland. But who is he?

From Glasgow the peer has a reputation in the business world as a safe pair of hands.

Lord Smith of Kelvin
PA
Lord Smith of Kelvin was involved Glasgow's Commonwealth Games

When his home city was selected to host the Commonwealth Games, the Scottish government asked him to be chairman of the organising company.

He has been chairman of National Museums Scotland and described the opening of the new Museum of Scotland as one of the proudest days of his life.

Lord Smith is also a former BBC governor, head of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland and chairman of the BBC's Children in Need.

For more than a decade he was chairman of global engineering company the Weir Group until stepping down in 2013.

Lord Smith became the first chairman of the UK Green Investment Bank and also chairs energy giant SSE.

Married with two daughters, he owns Inchmarnock, a small uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland where he breeds Highland cattle.

Highland cattle
Reuters
Lord Smith has an interest in breeding Highland cattle

50p tax rate

Mr Smith says his party will have a "constitutional convention for the whole of Britain".

He says power should be exercised in the interest of people and at the level where the people's voices can be heard.

Piggy bank
BBC

The Labour MSP says he is committed to devolving power away from central government so local government gain more powers.

He pledges to reinstate the 50p tax rate and stand by Labour's commitment to devolve more power to the islands and therefore will support Tavish Scott's amendment.

Labour

Labour MSP Drew Smith says the Smith Commission promises much greater responsibility for taxation and welfare to Holyrood.

For the first time the Scottish government will have the power to create new benefits, giving a real choice to the government.

BBC
BBC

No longer will it be good enough for Scottish government ministers to just complain about powers they don't have, says Mr Smith.

The Smith Commission proposals will deliver a "strong and ambitious extension of the parliament's powers".

Local devolution

Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott says there is an "ever mightier central government" and communities across Scotland have been stripped of control over services that they need and the power is in Edinburgh.

Tavish Scott MSP
BBC

"We want something rather different", he says, and calls for further devolution from Holyrood to local authorities.

Mr Scott says the Crofting commission, Scottish Enterprise and other agencies have been centralised.

He says the creation of a national police force was a "terrible decision."

Services were meant to be flexible and responsive to local needs, he says, something which is not happening.

Lib Dems amendment

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott:'s amendment says Lord Smith stated 'there is a strong desire to see the principle of devolution extended further, with the transfer of powers from Holyrood to local communities'.

The amendment says, having persistently centralised services over the last seven years, the Scottish government must fully devolve powers in Scotland in a manner that is consistent with the recommendations of the Smith Commission agreement.

Callanish Stones
PA
Views on the Our Islands - Our Future campaign are to be sought from the public

Mr Scott states that responsibility for the management of the Crown Estate's economic assets and the revenue generated from these should be devolved to local authority areas such as Orkney, Shetland and Na h-Eilean an Siar following the transfer of these powers to the parliament as detailed in sections 32 and 33 of the Smith Commission report.

SNP amendment

Mr Swinney's amendment welcomes the publication of the Smith Commission's report and welcomes the agreement of all five parties to devolve further powers to the parliament

The SNP amendment calls on both the Scottish and UK governments to work together
BBC
The SNP amendment calls on both the Scottish and UK governments to work together

It calls on both governments to produce draft clauses for the recommendations jointly to maintain this agreement and looks for early action from both governments on implementation where possible and especially to allow the Parliament to extend the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds for the 2016 Scottish election.

It also welcomes the contribution of stakeholders and the public to the work of the commission, and recognises the need for continuing meaningful public consultation and engagement to ensure the credibility of the process in Scotland."

'Lets get on with it'

Deputy First Minister John Swinney says he has welcomes the devolution of the powers but has pointed out "the limitations of the settlement" which Lord Smith has reflected upon.

John Swinney
BBC

There are three material and serious points raised in his amendment, he says the following needs to happen:

  • both governments to produce draft clauses for the recommendations jointly to maintain this agreement
  • early action from both governments on implementation where possible and especially to allow the parliament to extend the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds for the 2016 Scottish election
  • need for continuing meaningful public consultation and engagement to ensure the credibility of the process in Scotland.

Mr Swinney says there are powers which can be devolved without primary legislation and he thinks there can be some powers devolved much more quickly than is happening.

'Focus on powers we have'

Ms Davidson says however difficult, our political leaders can work together and reach agreement

Iain Gray, Willie Rennie and Annabel Goldie
BBC
Iain Gray, Willie Rennie and Annabel Goldie rejected John Swinney's argument over "the vow" not being kept

Voters in Scotland expect us to focus on the powers we have and will get, rather than "stoke false grievance" over powers that will remain reserved, she says.

Ms Davidson added that "the Smith commission has given us the tools for a stronger Scottish parliament so lets get on and use them."

Smith Commission on welfare

Ms Davidson also highlights the "big challenges" on the devolved welfare powers in the Smith Commission proposals.

She says she supports the reform of welfare which she believes will encourage and help people get back to work.

Swinny Smith and Goldie
Getty Images
John Swinney wanted greater devolution of welfare but Annabel Goldie said Universal Credit could not be unpicked

The Conservative MSP says she also backs the cap on how much money in benefits can be given to one family.

She says the SNP are against both of these measures.

Income tax

The Scottish Conservative party leader says the proposals in the Smith Report present a "massive challenge for us all", saying MSPs will have to "add to our skill set" to get ready to make use of the new powers in their extended role.

More money
Getty Images

The proposals in income tax will mean "serious choices" with Labour and the SNP wanting to raise taxes, but the Conservatives "want to reduce the taxes we will be responsible for" says Ms Davidson.

That's why the Tories have set up its Low Tax Commission to find a way to "better use the basket of taxes we will have control over".

She also intends to grow the tax base and increase Scotland's income tax receipts to the UK level, which she believes will raise £2bn.

'Significant' powers

Ms Davidson describes the burning of

the Smith commission's report by SNP councillors as a "pathetic spectacle".

SNP councillors burning report
YouTube
Councillors Brian Lawson, Will Mylet and Mags MacLaren were involved in the incident

She says the SNP "signed it on Wednesday, whined about it on Thursday and burned it on Friday" pointing to the Craig David song 7 days.

She tells MSPs assigning VAT is significant, having increased borrowing powers is significant, the power to top up existing benefits is significant and she goes on to list many more "significant" powers.

Devolution timetable:

Ms Davidson highlights the timetable for further devolution:

BBC
BBC

'Big decisions' for Scotland

Ms Davidson says Lord Smith and all the nominees should be congratulated for reaching this deal.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson
BBC
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson

She says there will be more decisions made in Scotland but we keep vital elements of the UK, including the shared currency, state pensions and single market.

It will take time for reforms to be put in to practise, she adds.

Smith Commission debate

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is leading a debate on The Smith Commission.

In her submission she states that the parliament agrees with the Smith Commission's proposals to devolve significant new powers to the Parliament.

Smith Commission, party representatives
PA

It welcomes the fact that all five parties represented at the parliament came together to reach an agreement on these powers, and now recognises the need to move on from a debate about what powers are devolved to one that focuses on how best to use these significant new powers for the betterment of the people of Scotland.

Alex Neil

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil says ideally all father including those on out of work benefits be able to spend time with newly born children.

He says there are a range of initiatives focussing on the early years, and this is a restriction imposed by the UK government and from a humanitarian point of view it needs to think again.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil
BBC
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil

Paternity leave

Paternity leave
BBC

SNP MSP Christian Allard asks the Scottish government what the equalities impact will be in Scotland of the UK government's decision not to honour the legal entitlement for paternity leave for fathers who are in receipt of jobseekers allowance and are in mandatory work or community placements.

Rural challenges

Housing Minister Margaret Burgess
BBC
Housing Minister Margaret Burgess

Housing and Welfare Minister says the challenges of living in rural areas are well understood, but require wide ranging measures to address them.

Ms Burgess highlights the revised child poverty strategy, pointing to investment of over £300m since 2009 and a further £94m this year and next.

Poverty

Children playing on a run-down street
Getty Images

SNP MSP Dave Thompson asks the Scottish government what specific anti-poverty measures it considers are needed to support people in the Highlands.

Labour leadership

Labour MSP Sarah Boyack asks the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the impact of an aging population on pensioners' rights.

Social Justice and Pensioner's Rights Secretary Alex Neil wishes Ms Boyack well in the Labour leadership electiong, saying if he had a vote he would surely vote for her.

Ms Boyack points out the ballot is now closed, but thanks Mr Neil.

Jim Murphy, Sarah Boyack and Neil Findlay
PA
Jim Murphy, Sarah Boyack and Neil Findlay are taking party in the leader contest

The three candidates seeking to replace Johann Lamont as head of the party are MSPs Ms Boyack and Neil Findlay and MP Jim Murphy.

The deputy leadership post is also vacant and two candidates - MP Katy Clark and MSP Kezia Dugdale - are contesting that role.

The winner of the online ballot will be announced on Saturday.

The leadership contest was sparked after

Ms Lamont resigned from her post accusing Westminster colleagues of treating the party in Scotland like a "branch office".

'Positive impact'

Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi tells MSPs the retail vacancy rate in Scotland has fallen from 14.5% in 2013 to 13.7% this year

Marco Biagi
BBC

It doesn't reflect local variations, he says, but it does suggest the Town Centre Action Plan might be having "a positive impact".

He's also asked about independent business start up support.

Ms Biagi says the Town Centre Action Plan recognises the values of small businesses.

He adds there is a generous package of support for businesses strengthened further by the Community Empowerment Bill.

Empty shops

SNP MSP Roderick Campbell asks the Scottish government what its response is to the Local Data Company's recent report on empty shop numbers

The number of in the past year, according to the report.

Empty shops
PA

Research by The Local Data Company (LDC) and the University of Stirling found the average retail vacancy rate dropped from 14.5% to 13.7%.

East Kilbride has the highest rate of all Scottish towns, at 33%, while Inverurie has the lowest, at 1%.

The study found that 40% of Scotland's empty shops have remained vacant for more than three years.

It also suggested that town vacancy rates have improved at twice the rate of Scotland's cities.

Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights

It is now the turn of the social justice, communities and pensioners' rights ministers to be quizzed:

1. Murdo Fraser: To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to encourage more new homes to be built in town centre locations. (S4O-03801)

2. Roderick Campbell: To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the Local Data Company's recent report on empty shop numbers. (S4O-03802)

3. Sarah Boyack: To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the impact of an aging population on pensioners' rights. (S4O-03803)

4. Angus MacDonald: To ask the Scottish Government what benefit it expects the additional £10 million being invested in funding and empowering communities to bring. (S4O-03804)

5. Christina McKelvie: To ask the Scottish Government how it will ensure that the high level of democratic participation seen in the referendum continues. (S4O-03805)

6. Paul Martin: To ask the Scottish Government when the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights last met representatives of Glasgow City Council and what matters were discussed. (S4O-03806)

7. Dave Thompson: To ask the Scottish Government what specific anti-poverty measures it considers are needed to support people in the Highlands. (S4O-03807)

8. Richard Lyle: To ask the Scottish Government when the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights last met North Lanarkshire Council. (S4O-03808)

9. Christian Allard: To ask the Scottish Government what the equalities impact will be in Scotland of the UK Government's decision not to honour the legal entitlement for paternity leave for fathers who are in receipt of jobseekers allowance and are in mandatory work or community placements. (S4O-03809)

10. Elaine Murray: To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting town centre regeneration in Dumfries and Galloway. (S4O-03810)

DWP

Fair Work, Skills and Training Secretary Roseanna Cunningham says SCVO and Cosla have expressed the view they could run the programme if it were devolved.

SNP MSP Bob Doris asks the Scottish government what engagement it has had with the UK government regarding the extension of the Department for Work and Pensions' Work Programme.

Roseanna Cunningham Skills Minister
BBC

Ms Cunninghame says the UK government decision to extend the work programme was incompatible with the Smith Commission.