Scotland politics

MPs says Scottish powers draft 'a guddle'

Lord Smith Image copyright Getty Images

MPs have criticised the drafting of the legislation which is expected to transfer further powers from Westminster to Holyrood.

The Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee described the draft clauses for a new Scotland Bill as a "bit of a guddle".

The draft was published in response to the Smith Commission recommendations.

The UK government said it was committed to a balanced settlement for all parts of the UK.

But it said it would consider the issues the committee raised.

The Scottish government reaffirmed its demand for the Scotland Bill to be enacted as soon as possible.

MPs on the committee said the draft clauses fell well short of being a credible bill, and also raised concerns that it did not meet the brief of the cross-party Smith Commission, which was set up to consider what new powers should be devolved to Holyrood in the wake of last September's independence referendum.

Broader consideration

The committee's report said the UK government's draft contained a "legally vacuous" and "potentially contradictory" commitment to enshrine the Scottish Parliament as a permanent institution.

But it acknowledged that the commitment did "constitute a further political (if not a legal) obstacle to any attempted abolition of those institutions" rendering any future abolition "inconceivable."

The committee also expressed concerns at the haste with which the draft clauses were being enacted.

And while it recognised the political requirement to fulfil "the vow" of more powers for Scotland quickly, it said this seemed to have been at the expense of broader consideration of the consequences for the future of the UK.

The report stated: "The timetable for drawing up legislative plans for the devolution of further powers, which all the three main UK parties signed up to during the referendum campaign, can be seen in retrospect to have been somewhat over-ambitious and impractical.

"The result is a set of draft clauses which clearly fall far short of a credible draft bill and require far more work. Some of them are, as we were told by one witness, 'a bit of a guddle'."

'Next chapter'

A UK government spokesman said it had "delivered the next chapter in devolution for Scotland by publishing draft clauses in January".

He added: "We welcome this report on the draft clauses by the committee and will consider the points raised."

Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "The Scottish government supports some of the committee's specific recommendations, notably the need for amendments to strengthen the clause concerning the Sewel convention and the added protection that a written constitution would give to the permanence of the Scottish Parliament.

"We have also put forward to the UK government a number of proposals to improve the clauses, including the removal of any Westminster vetos."