‘New Scottish powers’ Bill published – but is it any good?

The Smith Commission, which included members of the SNP [Image: PA].

The Smith Commission, which included members of the SNP [Image: PA].

Today’s big news has to be the publication of draft legislation to give the Scottish Parliament more powers – in line with the recommendations of the Smith Commission and three days ahead of the government’s self-determined deadline, Burns Night.

As Vox Political has previously reported, the Smith Commission was set up to find ways of enacting the promises made by the UK’s unionist political parties in what has since been dubbed ‘The Vow’. It reported back in November with recommendations that, in fact, added and expanded on those in The Vow. Scottish Nationalists condemned the report, claiming the opposite – that promises had been “watered down”.

It is worth noting that the Smith Commission gave equal representation to members of all main parties in the Scottish Parliament, including the SNP, and its recommendations were supported unanimously.

The new draft legislation is written in a form that seems to go out of its way to demonstrate that it is taking nothing away from either the Smith Commission recommendations or The Vow. It is available for download here.

This blog is not going to offer an opinion on the draft legislation at this time. Instead, readers are invited to download the document, compare it with what was offered, and then provide an informed opinion in the ‘Comment’ column.

Be aware that “It’s a load of pish” is not an informed opinion; if you disagree with any part of what is on offer, you should state where the offending passage can be found and how it diverges from what was promised.

Does the offer live up to the promise?

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14 thoughts on “‘New Scottish powers’ Bill published – but is it any good?

  1. Robert Mac

    No it doesn’t s it doesn’t amount to Devo Max or Home Rule as promised in the Vow …….this par for the course from Brit Establishment ………very limited tax raising powers …welfare ………….Scotland will have to raise more in tax to make up for the loss under Barnett formula
    not tax raising powers for jobs
    not enough welfare powers to end SNP’s plans for no bedroom tax in Scotland
    Fool me once ……Fool me twice ………along with the revelations senior civil servants worked to stop any impartial vote on Indie Ref then easy to see it was all a big con
    without Scots resources UK Gov is in trouble
    they want the resources but alas don’t want to use them to help Scots

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’m publishing this an example of what I said wasn’t wanted. Where are the references to passages in the document? Where is the explanation of what is missing between what was promised and what is in those passages?
      Anybody could come to this article and say: Rubbish. It DOES amount to Devo Max and Home Rule. The tax-raising powers are exactly as promised. The welfare powers are exactly as promised – the SNP’s plans to end the Bedroom Tax in Scotland are a single party’s policy and may not be considered in relation to the framework being set up for the running of government… etc. Again, with no references to any factual evidence.

      What is this revelation that senior civil servants worked “to stop any impartial vote on Indie Ref” – and by that, are you saying they were vote-rigging? Where’s the reference to it? No “impartial” vote is ever possible – everybody would abstain. All those voting in a poll have an opinion and that makes them partial.

  2. Angus Rae

    Civil servents have to remain neutral but given they were used by Westminister as a weapon against a yes vote I would consider the code under which they work to have been broken. On Smith no power is truely devolve when that power is subject to a veto from outwith the body gaining that power so no this is not anywere near Home-Rule or Devo-Max. As the FM said any new powers are welcome but this legislation is holed below the water-line by the inclusion of the Veto for Westminister.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Step back a second – who SAYS they were used by Westminster against a ‘Yes’ vote. You. Where’s your evidence? I haven’t seen any.
      Oh, don’t tell me – you simply ‘know it’s true’. Give us all a break.
      Regarding the veto – which powers are you discussing? All of them? Now, why do you think the central legislature in a nation would want power to veto measures by a sub-legislature? I can think of one – rather important – reason very easily.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        I’m about to post an answer to Angus Rae, who has quoted the passage. In short: I’m not sure about this at all.

      2. Angus Rae

        The Treasury’s most senior civil servant has confirmed that the department set aside its supposed impartiality to support the Better Together campaign for a No vote.

        Sir Nicholas Macpherson confirmed in a lecture at the Treasury on Monday night that his teams had reached a “strong recurring conclusion” that independence would be against the interest of the Scottish people.
        Sir Nicholas Macpherson: Civil servant took a partisan view
        The Permanent Secretary to the Treasury (left) used colourful phrases during his lecture, stating that “people are seeking to destroy the fabric of the state”, and to “impugn its territorial integrity”.

        He had concluded that therefore the normal rules of civil service impartiality did not apply, according to a report in The Independent

        So The head of the civil servants in the Treasury has said that they or civil servants at the Treasury had an active part in the Better Together campaign.

        And pray tell which of the new powers if used in a certain way would be so damaging to Westminster that it requires a Veto.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        I’m not sure about this at all. I think you are reading too much into it.
        Consider the function of the UK Treasury. It is there to ensure the nation’s continued financial viability. As such, in situations such as the request for a currency union, the Treasury has a duty to provide an opinion that is in the best interest of the United Kingdom. Look at the letter (there’s a link in the original Independent article). Everything in it is supported by details showing how each conclusion was reached. It would be wrong to expect a UK Treasury official, in possession of such evidence, to make a recommendation that may be against the UK’s interests, simply because people who want to be part of another country say he should be impartial. In any case, if the evidence had suggested that currency union was in the UK’s best interests, you can bank on him having said so; the UK’s best interest is his business.
        None of the information in the Independent article suggests that the Treasury actively supported the No campaign, though. Its job was to advise on the possible effects of the changes being discussed, and the evidence suggests that this is what it did.
        I’m at a loss to understand why the article’s author has taken this to mean Sir Nicholas Macpherson had decided to abandon impartiality. I notice that none of the suggestions that he did are direct quotations.
        The best quote I can find to explain his thinking is as follows: “An independent Scotland could be successful, he said, but there would be a price to be paid and he had a ‘duty’ to point that out.”
        That does not correspond with what you were claiming – that civil servants “were used by Westminister as a weapon against a yes vote”. They were doing their duty.

        In addition to the above, I find it strange that independence supporters are saying the UK government was biased against Scotland in this instance, but are quite happy to accept the UK government’s comments about pensions, after Gordon Brown raised the National Association of Pensions Funds’ concerns and sparked a controversy. Double standards?

        I note also that the SNP’s Treasury spokesperson has written to request an explanation. Let’s see what response it gets, shall we?

  3. Angus Rae

    There is a difference between making a recomendation based on a certain reading of the stats but the Treasury leaked those recomendations and actively briefed against acadmics who offered the opposite opinion. In the referendum we saw the tactics employed by HM government the use of resources which are supposed to be unbiased and the neturality of the civil services eroded I expect that trend to continue in an Brexit referendum.

    And the reason we believe he ababonded his dept neutrality is because that is what he said. And I quote.

    “He had concluded that therefore the normal rules of civil service impartiality did not apply,”

    Is that not an omission of that abandoning a postion of neutrality what is ?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Your quote – as I stated in my previous reply to you – does not use any of the words spoken by the gentleman concerned. How do we know that he said it? How do we know that it’s not something the article’s author concluded on his own? We don’t.
      As for the other issues you raise – proof please.
      What is “an Brexit referendum”?

  4. jaypot2012

    No matter what anyone says, or if anyone provides evidence, you Mike, will always find another way around it and blame the SNP.
    Do you not realise the amount of people in Scotland that did vote Yes in the Referendum? Doesn’t that tell you something?
    Now, not only has the SNP membership grown substantially but the amount of people who wish that they could turn back the clock and vote Yes instead of No is growing.
    Labour may very well need the SNP, but the SNP will want other things in return.
    As for the “New Powers” for Scotland, most are a waste of time – how can we have Devo Max when we have to “ask” Westminster if we can go ahead and change things? How are we supposed to drop the Bedroom Tax if Westminster won’t allow us?
    Feels more like we are schoolchildren who have to ask the teachers permission to go to the toilet.
    Scotland will become Independent, maybe not in my lifetime, but it will break away, with or without a referendum.

    1. jaypot2012

      Also, why have your posts stopped coming to me? I haven’t done anything and yet not one post comes through for the last 5 days. I’ve checked that everything is alright with the email and the server, so the only thing I can do is subscribe again?

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        You’re with BT – check your spam folder. Joan Edington notified me today that notifications had been going there. If it’s true, then it’s a WordPress problem and I’m in the process of notifying them at the moment.

    2. Mike Sivier Post author

      That’s a cop-out and you know it. If the evidence doesn’t stand up on its own, then it deserves to be knocked down – and it that can be done by me, then it really isn’t going to withstand expert scrutiny.
      I’ve seen the figures so I have been aware of exactly how many people voted ‘Yes’ in the referendum – it tells me that more people voted ‘No’.
      SNP membership has indeed grown substantially, and now stands at very nearly one-eighteenth of the total number of ‘Yes’ voters.
      The number of people who have been persuaded to change their minds is an issue. Have they been provided with impartial evidence or just ‘Yes’ propaganda (which we know is easy to disprove with a little time and the right references)?
      Labour may ask the SNP for help after the election. It’s also entirely possible that Labour won’t have to. You don’t know what the result will be and must therefore be arguing this case in order to persuade people to vote SNP and help it come true. Am I right?
      I wrote the article about the ‘new powers’ precisely because I wanted to see the evidence against what the government is putting forward but, yet again, your comment lacks the substance necessary. Where are the references?

Comments are closed.