Scotland Bill 'transparency' call

Scottish Parliament building
Image caption The bill will not now be passed until after the Scottish elections

A Commons committee has called for greater "transparency" over the financial calculations made by the UK government in plans to give Holyrood further tax and borrowing powers.

The Scottish Affairs committee said it supported the Scotland Bill, which is currently going through the Commons.

But it argued planned borrowing limits were too low and should be higher.

The bill was to have passed its remaining Commons stages but has been delayed by debates on the Libya crisis.

It will not now be passed until after the Scottish elections in May.

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

The UK Treasury would deduct 10p from standard and upper rates of income tax in Scotland and give MSPs the power to decide how to raise cash.

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

Parallel inquiry

The changes would be scheduled to come in after the 2015 Scottish elections.

The Scottish Affairs Committee's examination of the bill coincided with a parallel inquiry at Holyrood, which has already delivered its report, along with scrutiny of the legislation in the Commons.

The committee's report said ministers needed to provide further explanation of how the reduction in Scotland's block grant would be calculated, once Holyrood is able to raise income tax.

It said: "We believe there is a need for transparency of figures used to calculate all parts of the financial arrangements in the Scotland Bill, not only to diminish the scope for manufactured grievance but also to enhance decision making.

"We want to keep this area under review and want regular reports to this committee on the progress being made on opening up figures for scrutiny."

Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford, the only SNP member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, lodged a minority report on the bill.

She described the bill as a "missed opportunity".

Dr Whiteford called for borrowing powers to be higher and to brought forward sooner.

She also called for powers to issue bonds to raise money on the markets - which a similar committee at Holyrood recommended - but the Treasury has already ruled out.

A Scotland Office spokesman added: "The Scottish Affairs Committee report is a welcome addition to the scrutiny of the Scotland Bill.

"It has now been examined by committees at both Holyrood and Westminster and will continue its passage through the House of Commons and Lords in due course.

"The UK government has always recognised the adjustment of the block grant to reflect the Parliament's new taxation powers is pivotal to the success of the new finance system set out in the Scotland Bill.

"We set out the principles of how this adjustment would be calculated in the command paper.

"This has to be done is a way that is fair to both UK and Scottish governments and must be based on actual, rather than estimated, Scottish tax receipts."

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