Scotland politics

Scottish independence: More powers or just a timetable?

The three main UK political parties - Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems - have pledged to fast-track a deal on new tax and welfare powers for the Scottish Parliament. It came after a poll at the weekend suggested support for independence was at more than 50%.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have endorsed a speeded-up timetable for enhanced powers but what would those powers be?


What is the timetable?

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On the day after a No vote (19 September) the pro-union parties have vowed to get cracking with drawing up the package of new powers.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has been a driving force behind the new plan, said a "command paper" would be published by the present UK government setting out all the proposals by the end of October.

A white paper would be drawn up by the end of November after a period of consultation setting out the proposed powers.

A draft new law would be published by Burns Night next year (25 January) ready for the House of Commons to vote on.

However, with the Westminster General Election coming along in May 2015, the legislation would not be passed until the new parliament began.

Better Together leader Alistair Darling was asked what would happen if UKIP held the balance of power at Westminster after the general election?

He replied that in "their wildest dreams" UKIP would only get a few seats. Mr Darling said the parties who would have the vast majority of the seats had "guaranteed" that the new powers would be enacted.


So what would the new powers be?

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In short, we don't know exactly. The Scottish Parliament is currently funded through a block grant and the amount it gets is defined by the Barnett Formula.

All three parties set out proposals earlier this year that would see changes to the way Scotland raises revenues.

They are all offering considerably more income tax-raising powers than the Scottish Parliament has at present.

And there is also the potential devolution of control over housing benefit, the work programme and other taxes, including air passenger duty or capital gains tax.

Labour's package arguably offers the least change.

It wants Holyrood to control 15p in the pound on income tax as well as all housing benefits and attendance allowance.

This would allow MSPs to scrap the UK government's controversial under occupancy charge, branded the "bedroom tax" by Labour and other critics.

The Tories and Lib Dems want to give Scotland total control over all Scottish income tax rates, as well as other taxes including air passenger duty.

Oil would continue to be managed at a UK level, as would welfare and pensions, defence and foreign affairs.

Corporation tax, paid by businesses, would not be devolved by any of the parties.

The plans would go further than 2012's Scotland Act, which is already scheduled to be implemented in 2016, giving Holyrood the power to vary income tax by 10p.


Is this Devo Max?

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In the years running up to the referendum campaign the Devo Max option - the devolving of all powers to Holyrood other than defence and foreign affairs - was often shown to be favoured by more people than both outright independence and no change to the status quo.

However, following the negotiations that took place between the UK government and the Scottish government to lay down the referendum rules, the Devo Max option was not included on the ballot.

Instead, on 18 September the people of Scotland will be asked a Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said of the last-minute fast-track offer of more powers: "George Osborne and David Cameron, their one red line issue in setting up this referendum was not to allow Devo Max on the ballot paper, so to actually produce something which is far short of that, which is weak and insipid and has already been discounted by the Scottish people, is a sign of the total disintegration of the No campaign."