This Week in Scotland: UK Gov publishes draft Smith legislation

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Introduction

The UK Government has published the draft legislation to extend the scope of the powers of the Scottish Parliament, while the Scottish Labour Party continues to reorganise with the backdrop of continuing bad polling ahead of the General Election.

Devolution of Further Powers

The UK Government has published the much anticipated Command Paper, detailing the range of powers which will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as agreed by the Smith Commission.

The paper, which contains 44 draft clauses, was described by the UK Government as being ‘an agreement which was built to last’ and would better serve both Scotland the wider United Kingdom.

The proposals include powers over income tax bands, areas of welfare, some employment programmes, further borrowing powers and air passenger duty, and the Scottish Government receiving a proportion of VAT. The paper also seeks to ensure that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government are permanent institutions in law. Extending voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds are already being fast-tracked by both Governments.

The draft clauses will not come into law before May 2015, but due to the nature of the agreement, whichever party or combination of parties form the next Government, will enact the legislation as part of a new Scotland Act.

The Scottish Government has claimed that the proposals have been watered down, and include clauses would mean the UK Government would have the veto over the use of some of the powers, including the ability to abolish the bedroom tax.

Stamp Duty

Following the changes to Stamp Duty announced by George Osborne, the Scottish Government announced this week a rethink on their initial proposals to change the tax rates of property purchases.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney revised his proposals which were outlined last October, and has now made a commitment that nobody would pay tax on properties costing less than £145,000. However, the 12% marginal rate would be extended from houses worth £1million to houses with a value of £750,000 or above.

The Scottish Government claims that these new proposals will result in half of all home purchases being removed from the tax altogether.

SNP in Westminster

The SNP have this week given their strongest indication that the party would reverse their position of restricting voting in Westminster to matters which had an impact on Scotland. The shift came during an interview with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who said that SNP MPs would do so to protect the health service in England against privatisation.

With the SNP seemingly open to a Coalition with Labour, and Ed Miliband not ruling it out, speculation has grown about such an alliance, with criticism coming from the English media and Conservative Party.

Scottish Labour

Jim Murphy continues his re-organisation of the Scottish Labour Party with the announcement that the former head of Better Together, Blair McDougall has become Director of Policy and Susan Dalgety, Jack McConnell’s chief press officer during his time as First Minister, becomes Director of Communications.

This continues Murphy’s trend of hiring experienced veterans as part of his team. They face a significant challenge in the weeks left before the General Election (see below polling figures)

Elsewhere, the Labour leader appeared in a Party Political Broadcast, outlining some key Scottish Labour policies, including a commitment to build 100,000 new homes, and expand the Living Wage.

By Rob

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