Scottish election: SNP press Cameron on Scotland Bill

SNP parliamentary group The SNP's 69 MSPs have gathered for the first time at the Scottish Parliament

The SNP has urged the prime minister to improve plans on increasing Scotland's financial powers, after the party's landslide victory in the Scottish elections.

The Nationalists took 69 of the 129 seats to give them the parliament's first working majority.

SNP finance spokesman John Swinney said the result increased pressure to strengthen the Scotland Bill.

The bill is designed to create greater financial accountability at Holyrood.

Aside from indicating it will bring forward a referendum on independence in the second half of the parliament, the SNP has set a goal of the Scottish Parlaiment moving to full fiscal autonomy in the debate over increased powers for Holyrood.

The SNP's call came as the party gathered outside the Scottish Parliament to celebrate victory at the polls.

Mr Swinney, the Nationalist's finance spokesman, told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "The first minister made clear yesterday his intention to discuss with the prime minister the importance of recognising the difference that yesterday's result produces for Scotland.

Alex Salmond said further economic powers were necessary for Scotland's recovery

"The difference is the people of Scotland have made it very clear that they want to see progress made on the questions of economic opportunity in Scotland, and on constitutional progress.

"The short-term opportunity to do that is by improving and strengthening the Scotland Bill, currently going through the UK parliament, and that is the message that the first minister gave to the prime minister."

The Scotland Bill is being considered after the Calman Commission examined the progress of devolution.

Under the Bill, the Scottish Parliament will take charge of more of the income tax raised in Scotland.

The new powers would be combined with a cut in the block grant, currently about £31bn, which Scotland receives from the UK government.

But the SNP wants to reinforce the bill to give it more economic teeth.

Mr Swinney said the prime minister and the UK government have to reassess the legislation if they are serious about respecting the Scottish government and the Scottish people.

scotland political map

Mr Swinney, who led the SNP between 2000 and 2004, also rejected suggestions that Westminster could interfere with an independence referendum in Scotland.

He said: "We can legislate for there to be a referendum on independence within Scotland, and we will do that in the latter part of the parliament.

"But the early priority is to get the necessary economic and financial powers that will enable us to work our way out of the economic challenges that we face."

A meeting of the SNP's national executive committee is due to take place in Edinburgh as well as the first gathering of the party's 69 newly elected MSPs.

The first meeting of the new parliamentary session will take place on Wednesday when members are sworn in.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott quit as party leader, after his party slumped to just five seats.

He said: "Thursday's Scottish general election result was disastrous and I must and do take responsibility for the verdict of the electorate.

"The party needs a new direction, new thinking and new leadership to win back the trust of the Scottish people."

Mr Scott said his party's involvement in the UK government coalition had damaged its Holyrood election chances.

Scottish National Party's priorities

  • Reinforcing the powers of the Scotland Bill to give economic teeth to that legislation
  • To identify borrowing powers to keep the revival in the construction industry of Scotland moving
  • To identify the need to devolve corporation tax powers

Elsewhere, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Murdo Fraser called on Mr Salmond to launch an immediate independence referendum.

He said: "Nothing would be more damaging for Scotland than to have four or five years of a long running debate over whether we will be independent or not."

Mr Fraser said the UK government should give "very serious consideration" to launching its own referendum on the UK's constitutional future.

He said: "If Alex Salmond is feart to bring forward his referendum to the Scottish people now, perhaps that is something that should be done for him."

Scottish Labour deputy leader Johann Lamont addressed the challenge to her party of choosing a new leader, now that Iain Gray plans to step down in the autumn, after the party was reduced to 37 MSPs.

She said: "Very often the world defines big hitters in whatever way but under pressure, with the challenges ahead, leadership will always emerge.

"But critically, although we will be diminished team, the first place to go will be to build the team itself and rebuild our confidence inside the parliament."

Ms Lamont also suggested that she could be up for the job. She said: "I'm a potential leader because I'm deputy leader, but I've barely slept since Thursday so I'm not going make that decision now."

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