Scotland politics

'No veto' on Scots benefit changes

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Media captionScottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael and John Swinney from the Scottish government on whether the new powers for Scotland can be 'veto-ed" by Westminster.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has said the UK government will not be able to stop Scotland from making changes to areas of welfare benefits when they are devolved.

A Command Paper containing 57 pages of draft clauses which could become a new Scotland bill was published last week.

The SNP claimed it contained "vetoes" which could stop Holyrood making its own decisions on welfare.

Mr Carmichael insisted there was no veto in the draft clauses.

The clauses, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in Edinburgh, are the latest stage in ensuring that the proposals from the Smith Commission on further devolution meet the timetable set out shortly before the independence referendum in September.

The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have all pledged to ensure the new Scotland Bill becomes law, whoever wins the election.

Image caption Alistair Carmichael said there was no veto in the clauses
Image caption John Swinney said the power of devolution was being constrained

The Scottish government complained that the Smith proposals had been "watered down" by clauses that required Scottish ministers to consult the UK government before making decisions.

They said that some clauses gave the UK government a veto over their plans to amend Universal Credit and get rid of the bedroom tax.

Mr Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP, told the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland that the Scottish government had a "duty to consult" the UK government over any changes to welfare provisions but he said this was "in no way, shape or form a veto".

He said: "Having had the consultation, if the two governments take different views at the end of the day then the Scottish government is still entitled to go ahead with what they want to do.

"In no way could that possibly be described as a veto."

Mr Carmichael said the date of a change of welfare benefit did have to be agreed with the UK government but that agreement "could not be unreasonably withheld".

The Scottish secretary said the date needed to be agreed for practical reasons such as changes to computer systems.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said Mr Carmichael's comments had brought some clarity to the matter.

But he said the Scottish secretary now needed to go away to re-write the clause.

He pointed out that there was a no limit to how long the UK government could claim that the timing was not practical and this was not true devolution.

Mr Swinney said: "The point of devolution is that when a power is devolved, we are then able to exercise that power on our terms and take the consequences or the benefits of that decision.

"The power of devolution is constrained by us having to seek consent from UK ministers."