Scotland politics

Holyrood gives approval to devolved powers Scotland Bill

Scottish Parliament Image copyright PA
Image caption MSPs can have a say on the Scotland Bill thanks to a special legislative consent motion

Holyrood has unanimously given consent to legislation devolving new powers to the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs were given a vote on Westminster's Scotland Bill thanks to a special legislative consent motion lodged by John Swinney.

The legislation will see new authority given to Holyrood on a range of issues. A financial deal underpinning it was agreed in February.

The Scotland Bill is to be discussed by MPs at Westminster next week.

The UK government legislation, which was based on the Smith Commission recommendations in the wake of the 2014 independence referendum, includes greater control over areas including income tax, VAT and welfare.

Holyrood's devolution committee had recommended MSPs give their backing to the bill, although members said there were some areas where it fell short of the "spirit and substance" of the commission.

Protracted talks over the fiscal framework deal supporting the legislation were concluded in February, after almost a full year of negotiations.

Image caption John Swinney was praised by MSPs for his part in the fiscal framework negotiations

Mr Swinney, who led for the Scottish government during the talks, lodged a legislative consent memorandum, a special motion allowing Holyrood to have a say on Westminster laws.

He told MSPs: "This session has seen a remarkable journey for Scotland and her parliament, from the 2012 Act through the legislation on our own referendum, to the referendum itself, the enormous engagement of members of the public on the constitutional question, followed by promises to the people of Scotland of federalism and home rule.

"I believe that the more we exercise self-government here in Scotland, the more the benefits become clear to members of the public, then the stronger the argument becomes for extending our powers even further."

'Hard choices'

Opposition politicians praised Mr Swinney's negotiations, and gave their backing to the bill during a morning of harmony at Holyrood.

Labour's Iain Gray said the finance secretary "deserves all our thanks", but said there was now "no excuse for timidity".

He said Holyrood now had to "make the hard choices" to "transform" the lives of Scots.

Former Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said "no one can dispute the muscle and clout coming" to Holyrood, while devolution committee convener Bruce Crawford said the bill was not perfect, but said he would support it "on balance".

There were emotional scenes in the chamber as Labour's Duncan McNeil made his final speech before retiring, with Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick paying tearful tribute to the long-serving MSP.

Former first minster Alex Salmond also made his valedictory address, although he closed by saying "goodbye from me - for now".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Scotland Bill will hand a raft of new powers to the Scottish government

What powers are being devolved under the Scotland Bill?

  • The permanence of the Scottish Parliament is recognised, with a referendum needed in order to abolish it;
  • The bill will also devolve powers to set the rates and bands of income tax on non-savings and non-dividend income;
  • A share of VAT receipts in Scotland will be assigned to the Scottish government's budget;
  • Powers over certain aspects of welfare and housing related benefits, including DLA/PIP, Attendance Allowance, Carers Allowance and others will be devolved;
  • The bill will devolve Air Passenger Duty and Aggregates Levy; powers over speed limits and road signs, and rail franchising;
  • Control of the functions of the British Transport Police, Ofcom and the management of the Crown Estate relating to Scotland will also be devolved;
  • The Scottish Parliament will be given powers over abortion laws and welfare foods (for example, milk and infant formula for pregnant women and children under 5 years of age in low-income families),
  • Holyrood will take control of its electoral system, subject to a two-thirds majority within the parliament for any proposed change

The bill and documents relating to it can be read in full here

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