Scotland politics

MSPs 'unable to recommend' Scotland Bill plan

Image caption The Scotland Bill promises more powers to Holyrood

A Holyrood committee has said it is "unable to recommend" that MSPs support UK legislation to transfer new powers to the Scottish Parliament.

The Scotland Bill Committee found the plans were "not yet fit for purpose".

The SNP majority, with Green support, want the package to include the devolution of full tax powers, plus welfare and benefits.

But the committee's Labour, Tory and Lib Dem members said it would be "perverse" to reject the new powers.

The plans to boost Holyrood's powers are in the Scotland Bill, presently before Westminster.

MSPs have made 45 recommendations to the legislation, including greater control of taxes and borrowing powers.

The UK government had said it would not pass the bill unless it had prior consent from the Scottish Parliament.

The committee's convener, Linda Fabiani, said that there were elements of the bill which the "whole committee can welcome".

She added: "However, overall, we believe that the bill does not go far enough and its provisions, if enacted, represent a significant risk to public finances in Scotland.

"Our report concludes that whilst the bill delivers a very limited amount of financial accountability, it does not deliver what Scotland needs - which is full fiscal autonomy."

More controls

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said he was grateful for the committee's report and would consider it "carefully".

He added: "The report introduces new issues which are being presented for the first time as potential amendments to the Scotland Bill and for which we have not seen or been given supporting evidence.

"It is evident that not even the committee has been able to reach consensus on them.

"The impact these new measures would have on Scotland is not clear.

"I remain hopeful that, when the Scotland Bill is considered by the parliament as a whole, MSPs will continue to support the largest transfer of financial powers from London to Scotland since the creation of the UK."

Despite broad opposition support for the bill, Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems would like control over the Crown Estate to be devolved.

On Wednesday, the UK government ruled out devolving control of the Crown Estate in Scotland to the Holyrood parliament.

In evidence to the Scottish Affairs committee, Mr Moore and Economic Secretary to the Treasury Chloe Smith said it would remain a UK-wide body.

The Crown Estate in Scotland manages a diverse property portfolio, including mineral and salmon fishing rights.

Reacting to the committee report, Labour's James Kelly said the Scotland Bill represented "the biggest ever devolution of tax powers and responsibilities" and makes MSPs "responsible for raising money, not just spending it".

Income tax

Mr Kelly said: "If the SNP throw the baby out with the bathwater and block this powerful package of additional powers, the SNP will be turning down crucial job-creating powers and will be guilty of putting party politics before the interests of the people of Scotland.

"Scottish Labour welcomes the additional borrowing powers, the flexibility that will allow the possibility of issuing bonds and the power to increase the amount borrowed.

"While we agree that the limits on borrowing could be significantly greater, it remains the case that the borrowing powers currently in the bill are not only welcome, but will provide vital funds to invest in infrastructure and create jobs."

The UK government has said the Scotland Bill would give Holyrood ministers £12bn of financial powers.

Under the legislation, Scotland would be handed more controls, including the ability to set rates of income tax and control over drink-drive, speeding and airgun legislation.

The Lib Dems' Willie Rennie said his party supported the powers outlined in the bill.

He added: "We support the changes which will make members at the Scottish Parliament responsible for the taxes they raise as well as the money they spend.

"The Scotland Bill was made in Scotland and delivers major new powers for the Scottish Parliament. Yet, the SNP threaten to block these new powers that will give the Scottish Parliament more powers to determine Scotland's future."

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