Belfast Telegraph

Smith Commission recommendations: Devolved powers for Scotland

By Amanda Ferguson and PA reporters

The Smith Commission has recommended full control over income tax rates and bands be devolved to Holyrood.

The commission, set up to strengthen devolution after September’s ‘No’ vote in the Scottish independence referendum, reached an agreement at its final meeting.

It says a Air Passenger Duty should be fully devolved and a share of VAT should be assigned to the Scottish Parliament.

It also says 16 and 17-year-olds should get the vote in Scottish elections and powers to create new benefits in devolved areas and make discretionary payments in any area of welfare.

Lord Smith said he will scrutinise the forthcoming legislation very carefully but said he has been given a cross-party assurance that his recommendations will be delivered.

“There is nothing sure in politics but I would be very surprised if this is not delivered in full,” he told journalists.

“When I took this job on I was assured the leaders of the three Westminster parties were absolutely convinced they were going to deliver.

“When we spoke to the Prime Minister this morning he said: ‘We intend to deliver in full.’

“I will be reading the clauses on January 25 very carefully.”

He declined to comment on whether “the vow” of substantial devolution given before the referendum had been delivered, insisting the five political parties may have different interpretations.

“Some people feel it doesn’t go far enough, some people feel it is very extensive, I am just the referee,” he said.

He dismissed suggestions that the Smith Commission was a deal struck in secret, saying he received more than 18,000 emails, including correspondence from 402 civic organisations, and also made personal trips around Scotland to canvass opinion.

He also admitted there were times when he thought he would not reach a consensus.

“Like most good gatherings of Scots, we could be having a right good go at each other and then laughing with each other,” he said.

“I never got a sense that anyone was actually going to walk away but there were times when I went home at night thinking ‘I’m not going to find a way through this’.

“But I have thought that on nearly every board that I have sat on. There was humour as well as the occasional fiery moment.

“But I’m a glass half-full kind of guy and I thought we would get there in the end, and we did.

“All five signed up - that’s historic.”

The Smith Commission agreed that nothing in the report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.

It also hands the Scottish Parliament all powers in relation to elections to Holyrood and local authorities - but not the power to unilaterally hold another independence referendum.

“My understanding is that referendum powers are not included,” Lord Smith said.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the three main Westminster parties had fully delivered on promises made during the referendum campaign.

“We have not only delivered on our vow, we have actually over-delivered on it now,” the Lib Dem leader said on his weekly LBC radio phone-in.

“Call it ‘vow-max’ if you like, ‘vow-plus-plus’.

“It shows what can happen when politicians get together and agree across parties to set their differences aside.

“I think that contrasts quite starkly with the politics of confrontation which you get from the SNP, which wouldn’t deliver any of this at all.”

Business leaders have been reacting to the new developments.

On air passenger duty (APD), Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, said: “APD must be axed across the UK - not just in Scotland - to avoid a domino effect across the country.”

Travel association Abta said: “ Any inconsistencies between what a passenger pays flying from Scotland compared to elsewhere in the UK could create an uncompetitive and damaging situation for travel businesses.”

 

 

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