Beyond Royal Assent: implementing the Scotland Act

Last year, against the odds, Michael Moore successfully piloted the Scotland Act through Parliament. This gives the Scottish Government, from 2015, some pretty major new powers, including more accountability for setting its own revenue. They will also have borrowing powers. The powers include:

  • a Scottish rate of income tax
  • borrowing powers for Scottish ministers
  • the power to create new devolved taxes
  • enabling the replacement of UK Stamp Duty land tax and UK landfill tax with new Scottish equivalents

The Scotland Office recently published its first annual report detailing the progress in implementing these powers. It gives quite a good insight into the practical process of putting into practice what Parliament has decided. You may be unsurprised to know that it involves setting up committees. For me, what’s most interesting, is that this transfer of power is being approached methodically, over three years. However, Alex Salmond thinks that he can sort out an independent Scotland with all its international memberships, sorting out pensions, the taxation system, welfare benefits and the like in just 18 months following the Independence Referendum on 18 September next year. This seems to be to be a timetable that borders on the reckless.

Let’s take welfare as an example. The Universal Credit was first mooted 3 years ago. The Bill introducing it was passed last year. Only now are we starting to get limited pilot programmes in place ahead of full implementation later in the year.

Going back to the progress on the Scotland Act, I hope that they haven’t forgotten that they need to make provision for people who move between Scotland and England around the time of implementation and beyond. If they re not marked as moving from one tax rate to another, it could get messy at the end of the year. I’m sure it’s easily sortable, but I am just curious as to how it’ll work.

On the publication of the first report, Michael Moore, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland said:

The issue of the referendum may be taking up a great deal of public attention at the moment but the devolution settlement which has served Scotland and the UK so well continues to grow and strengthen.
Scotland is benefiting from the best of both worlds: an integral place within the UK family balanced with a Scottish Parliament receiving more devolved powers to address issues in ways that suit Scotland. It is the best combination of security and flexibility. It also brings a much higher level of accountability for tax and spending to the Scottish Parliament.
Both of Scotland’s governments, working together, are making good progress in preparing the financial powers for use and I am proud to be playing a key role in delivering these for the people of Scotland.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Like all breakups, there is plenty of precedents to them. Just look at recent examples in Eastern Europe. Or taking the reunification of Germany as another example. All done without a great deal of bother. And to the benefit of many.

    I am assuming you would not agree that Latvia and Russia, for example, are “better together”?

  • Its more a case study of evolution v revolution

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 2nd May '13 - 10:01am

    Angus, how can you possibly compare Russia’s dominance of Latvia, against the will of the people, to a mutually beneficial and mutually legitimate union as we have in the UK?

  • Angus – Russia (or rather, the Soviet Union) invaded an independent Latvia during WW2 as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and thereafter repressed the Latvians from expressing their identity, with thousands in the early years being deported to the Soviet Gulags. I’m pretty sure that, even in his craziest moments, Alex Salmond wouldn’t claim that the UK is anything like the USSR.

    I’m also pretty sure that many people in Germany wouldn’t describe the reunification as having been “done without a great deal of bother.” The economy of East Germany was basically non-existent at the time of reunification, and Helmut Kohl had to do a lot of convincing to get the reunification through. Subsequently East Germany for a long time became a real drain on the West German economy, with bitterness towards the “Ossies” from the former West Germany.

    As for Czechoslovakia, when it originally split both countries continued with the old currency to start with, but the bigger and wealthier Czechs began to get worried that the less economically strong Slovaks would pull the currency down and it quickly split – Slovakia entered the Euro in 2009. Incidentally, while saying that this was popular, an opinion poll just before the split put support for divorce at aroung 30% in both countries!

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