Scotland politics

Nicola Sturgeon critical of newly published more powers Scotland Bill

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionScottish Secretary David Mundell and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon disagree on what the Scotland Bill means for Holyrood

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has criticised the newly published Scotland Bill saying it falls short in "almost every way".

However, the UK government insisted the legislation fulfilled promises made after the Scottish independence vote.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs the Bill did not contain the welfare powers promised.

The 76-page document was published the day after the Queen's Speech outlined the Conservative government's plan to give tax-raising powers to Scotland.

Prime Minister David Cameron believed the plan would make Scotland the most powerful devolved assembly anywhere in the world.

Its key elements include:

  • allowing Holyrood to set thresholds and rates of income tax on earnings in Scotland and keeping all the money raised in Scotland
  • giving the Edinburgh parliament control over the first 10 percentage points of standard rate VAT revenue raised in Scotland [and 2.5% reduced rate]
  • new welfare powers worth £2.5bn
  • enabling the Scottish government to vary the frequency of Universal Credit payments in Scotland
  • providing power to set the rules over a range of benefits which affect carers, disabled people and the elderly
  • and giving control over programmes which help people find work.

The Scotland Bill follows recommendations made by the cross-party Smith Commission which was set up to look at devolving more powers to Scotland.

In response to a question from SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson during First Minister's Questions at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: "The UK government, I think, had a very clear test today to deliver a bill which lived up in full, in spirit and in letter, to the Smith Commission.

"The bill has been published within the last hour or so and from my glance at it, I think it falls short in almost every area.

"The bill, for example, doesn't contain the full welfare powers recommended by the Smith Commission and in some key powers it retains, unbelievably in my view, given the amount of concern that was expressed about this, it retains a veto for the UK government on key policy areas.

"So, for example, if this parliament wants to abolish the bedroom tax, as I hope we do, the UK government would still have a right of veto over whether we could do it or not. Now I'm sorry, but that is not devolution."

Income tax

However, Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, disagreed with the Scottish government's assessment.

He said: "The government will be delivering the Smith Commission in full, we are starting that parliamentary journey which will lead to the Scottish Parliament having control over income tax in Scotland, over £2.5bn of welfare spend and a raft of other measures which will help economic and job creation."

Mr Mundell added: "Scotland will still hold on to the benefits of being part of the UK that people voted for in the referendum last September.

"Sharing risks and resources with the rest of the UK is good for everyone in the UK when it comes to vital matters such as pensions, currency, trade and national security."

Image caption The Scotland Bill came off the printing presses and was presented to Wesminster

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, said that the Scotland Bill must be "grasped as an opportunity to move past the divisions of the independence referendum".

He explained: "The Scotland Bill is an opportunity to move past the divisions of the independence referendum. It is a big package of powers and a big moment for Scotland.

"With £20bn in tax raising powers and £3bn welfare budget, these powers offer flexibility to do things differently if we choose. But it also retains the pooling and sharing of resources which come from being part of something bigger."

Labour's Ian Murray said his party was committed to seeing the "vow", made by Unionist parties for more Scottish devolution, fulfilled.

But he believed it right to pursue an amendment to the Scotland Bill that would enable the Scottish Parliament to have the final say on welfare and benefits.

Mr Murray said: "Labour amendments to the Scotland Bill will give the Scottish Parliament the power to top up UK benefits, and create new benefits of our own. Scotland will have the powers to defend the vulnerable against Tory austerity whilst retaining the UK wide pooling and sharing of resources offered by the Barnett Formula. It's about simple fairness."

If the bill passes the usual parliamentary hurdles it could become law early next year, ahead of the Holyrood elections in May 2016.

What next for Scotland?

Image copyright PA

A new Scotland Bill will be based on recommendations made by the Smith Commission - the cross-party group formed after the independence referendum to look at what additional powers might be handed to Scotland.

But how were its foundations laid? Find out more...

More on this story