Power game has its ups and downs

More movement on the seesaw anent the further transfer of powers to Holyrood - but no clear view yet of the endgame.

Scotland's Finance Secretary John Swinney has produced a paper on borrowing powers for Holyrood. Not, as you might surmise, endorsing the version currently contained in the UK government's Scotland Bill.

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Image caption John Swinney presented his paper to Danny Alexander

He presented the paper to Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, during talks on the margin of the British Irish Council meeting in London.

The Scotland Bill itself is due to receive its Third Reading in the Commons on Tuesday before going to the Lords.

In asking MPs to endorse the Bill, UK Ministers will draw attention to the changes - for example, the power to issue bonds - which have been introduced since the measure was last before the Commons.

These changes involve responses to the previous Holyrood committee, chaired by Labour's Wendy Alexander.

But, of course, since then, there has been an election, an SNP majority victory - and now a new Holyrood committee to consider the Scotland Bill, with that SNP majority reflected in the make-up.

Further verdict

Which means what? Which means that there will now be enhanced pressure upon the UK government to make further concessions, to reflect the new electoral position.

Which matters, in practical terms, because it has already been agreed that Holyrood will be invited to deliver a further verdict upon the Bill before it gets final clearance at Westminster in the autumn.

Specifically, MSPs will be asked to carry a further Legislative Consent Motion (or LCM, formerly known as a Sewel motion).

So does that mean Holyrood has a veto over the legislation? Yes and no. Yes in that the UK government's choreography involves consent from Holyrood prior to a final Westminster decision.

But no in that neither side - Holyrood nor Westminster - seriously envisages that the veto would be exercised.

Of course, both sides are shadow boxing to some extent, each stressing the justice of their case. Understandably, the Scottish government lays great stress on its recently obtained Scottish democratic mandate.

For UK ministers, the strategy is to appear as consensual as possible in order to make it difficult for Holyrood to reject the Bill out of hand.

For Scottish ministers, the strategy is to exert as much pressure as possible to gain further concessions - while privately aware that it would be tricky and might be seen as curmudgeonly to reject legislation which involves more clout for Holyrood albeit less than they desired.

But ministers at Holyrood are pursuing their objectives seriously and in a planned fashion. Their six core demands will be subject either to affirmative votes at Holyrood or to a summer consultation process.

The whole would then, presumably, form part of a new report by the new committee to go to Westminster for final answer in the autumn.

Do SNP Ministers expect to get all that they request at that point? No. But they will ask. Those requests which are rejected would then form part of another political choreography, that leading to the referendum.