Move to probe new Holyrood powers under Scotland Bill

SNP ministers have moved to ensure a full debate of planned major new powers for Scotland, despite branding them a "trap" for budget cuts.

The UK government's Scotland Bill will see new tax and borrowing powers worth £12bn devolved to Holyrood.

Scottish external affairs minister Fiona Hyslop said she had made arrangements to scrutinise the bill.

But she told parliament it lacked full financial powers for Scotland and was a "missed opportunity".

Although it is a piece of Westminster legislation, the Scotland Bill, will be fully probed by MSPs, through a Scottish Parliament committee and by the full parliament.

Launched on Tuesday by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, the new bill would give Holyrood increased income tax powers from 2015, setting a Scottish income tax rate each year which would apply equally to the basic, higher and additional rates.

There would also be a corresponding cut in the Treasury block grant, while borrowing powers, worth £2.7bn, would also be devolved.

In a statement to parliament, Ms Hyslop welcomed some of the other powers which will be handed over, including controls over speed limits, drink-drive laws and air guns.

On the financial proposals, she said: "The Scottish budget would remain at the mercy of UK changes to tax policy and we would not have adequate levers to mitigate volatility in our budgets.

"There are those who feel that the UK Treasury has long wanted to cut the Scottish budget and these measures are effectively a trap amounting to budget cuts by the back door."

Following demands from Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems, Ms Hyslop said she had made arrangements on Wednesday to ensure the maximum amount of time was available to consider the bill, through the laying of a legislative consent memorandum, a mechanism allowing Westminster to legislate in devolved areas.

The Scotland Bill, launched in Edinburgh, follows the findings of the Calman Commission review of devolution, and concerns Scotland was not accountable enough for the £30bn it spends every year.

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