Scotland politics

Scottish Labour conference: Lamont defends devolution plans

Media captionJohann Lamont says Labour has struck the right balance on its proposals for further devolution for Scotland in the event of a referendum No vote

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has defended the party's plans for further devolution if Scotland votes "No" in the referendum.

In an interview with the BBC, Ms Lamont said devolving income tax fully to Holyrood would be too risky for Scottish budgets.

She said Labour's plan offered a good balance between fiscal responsibility and "sharing resources across the UK".

Ms Lamont also said she would stand for election in an independent Scotland.

In a webcast interview with BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor, answering questions posed by news website readers, Ms Lamont said she did not want a devolution plan that would "would be damaging to the people of Scotland".

Earlier this week, Labour unveiled its proposals for further powers for the Scottish Parliament, including the ability to vary tax by 15p in the pound.

However, the plan made clear that top rates would only be liable for reduction if all rates were cut, to prevent Scotland launching a tax competition with Westminster.

Labour has said under their proposals the Scottish Parliament would be responsible for 40% of spending from tax revenues.

However, think tank Reform Scotland, which set up the Devo Plus group to campaign for more Holyrood powers, has disputed this, saying the true proportion is just 26%.

An interim report by Labour's devolution commission last year said the party was minded to devolve all income tax to Holyrood.

Asked why there had been a change of mind on the issue, Ms Lamont said: "We said we wouldn't do anything that would be damaging to the people of Scotland. That was the test."

She added: "One of the things that emerged for me was...at what point do you create a situation where you've taken too much risk into the Scottish budget, you're so entirely reliant on raising taxation within Scotland, that you don't benefit from the pooling of resources across the United Kindom.

"We decided we would strike the balance between having more fiscal accountability but not turning our face away from the benefits of the pooling and sharing of resources across the United Kingdom."

'No going back'

Ms Lamont denied that the change in Labour's thinking on devolution had come about due to internal pressure from the party's Scottish MPs at Westminster.

And she confirmed that the proposals would form part of Labour's manifesto for the 2015 general election.

Asked whether she would stand for election to the Scottish Parliament following a "Yes" vote in September's independence referendum, the Scottish Labour leader said: "Yes, I would.

"Once the people of Scotland have decided on 18 September there is no going back, but there would still be inequality, there would still be disadvantage, there will still be all the things that I want to do something about, and of course I would hope I would be able to contribute to that."

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