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We have fulfilled vow, insists PM

Westminster has fulfilled its vow on more powers for Holyrood, David Cameron said, as he warned the Scottish First Minister it would be wrong for SNP MPs to vote on English only issues.

The Prime Minister was speaking in Edinburgh as draft clauses which should form the basis of new devolution legislation were published by the UK Government.

The proposals, which include giving Holyrood new tax and welfare powers, are "the right resting place" for devolution arrangements, Mr Cameron said.

He told Scots: "If I am your prime minister after May 7, you will get in full these measures set out in a document, in a Bill in the first Queen's Speech of any government I lead.

"But there will also be very clearly set out rules put in place, so that English MPs have the decisive say on issues that affect only England."

Nicola Sturgeon claimed the draft clauses had been "significantly watered down" from the proposals originally agreed by the Smith Commission, which had been set up to consider the issue of new powers for Holyrood after last year's independence referendum.

The First Minister also said they would allow UK ministers to veto any changes to the Universal Credit, including the so-called ''bedroom tax'', put forward by Holyrood.

Ms Sturgeon hit out: ''Too much of what the Prime Minister has set out imposes restrictions on the recommended devolved powers and would hand a veto to UK ministers in key areas.''

Mr Cameron, along with the other main Westminster leaders, had pledged to deliver new powers to the Scottish Parliament if Scots rejected independence.

A total of 44 draft clauses, which will underpin new legislation, have now been published.

''Be in no doubt, whoever forms the UK government after May 7, these new powers are guaranteed,'' the Prime Minister said.

''The Scottish Parliament will have more control over tax and spending, making it one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world."

He insisted: ''Scotland spoke, we listened, and now here we are delivering.''

In contrast Ms Sturgeon welcomed the draft clauses "as far as they go", and added: " I think in some key respects, there has been a significant watering down of what the Smith Commission proposed."

The SNP leader said yesterday that her MPs at Westminster would be prepared to vote on matters relating to the NHS in England in the event of another hung parliament after the general election.

With support for Ms Sturgeon's party reaching record levels in the wake of last year's independence referendum, the party could hold the balance of power.

Polls suggest the SNP could significantly increase the number of MPs it has in May's general election, with former leader Alex Salmond potentially returning to the House of Commons.

Mr Cameron said: "We have seen a very big change from the SNP overnight which I think is hard to explain, because, of course, overall spending decisions have consequences for the Barnett formula and so therefore consequences for Scotland, but to argue MPs from Scotland should be able to vote on the minutiae of health and education in future, I just think she is wrong."

But he argued that the issue was "easy to settle", saying the "key thing is that, when it is a matter that affects English and Welsh voters, it's important that English and Welsh voters have the decisive say".

The Prime Minister said: " If I win the election, the government I will lead will put in place the measures necessary to make sure that key element of English votes for English laws is delivered."

Under the changes MSPs will for the first time be able to control and set income tax rates and bands, with cash raised from the levy north of the border staying in Scotland - although the block grant from Westminster will be reduced to reflect this.

Powers over air passenger duty (APD) are to be devolved, with the clauses including ''provision for appointing the day when APD will be switched off in relation to Scotland''.

Meanwhile, new powers over welfare mean that, while Universal Credit will remain under Westminster control, the Scottish Parliament is to be given the power to vary the housing cost elements of this, including the controversial under-occupancy charge - branded the ''bedroom tax'' by its opponents.

''Scottish ministers will be able to decide whether to apply any under-occupancy reductions,'' the command paper states.

The draft clauses reveal that Holyrood ministers will not be able to exercise this function unless they have consulted the Secretary of State.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The proposals on welfare do not allow us to vary Universal Credit without the permission of the UK Government. That means - under the current proposals - we will not have the independence to take action to abolish the bedroom tax."

The First Minister, who had talks with Mr Cameron at Holyrood, insisted: " 'The legislation published today does not represent the views of the Scottish Government, but it does represent some progress.''

The changes put forward are " short of the real home rule powers we need to create jobs and tackle inequality", Ms Sturgeon declared.

''In these crucial areas the clauses set out today appear to be a significant watering down of what was promised by the Smith Commission and need an urgent rethink by the UK Government.''

Mr Cameron however insisted: " It's very clear this is absolutely the vow fulfilled with every dot and comma in place."

He told an audience in Edinburgh: " I believe it is a great day for Scotland and a great day for the United Kingdom too."

When asked if new legislation would represent the end of the road for devolution, he stated: "This is the right resting place because we've not got a very strong Scottish Parliament raising a majority of its revenue with more powers than most of the devolved parliaments in the developed world."

He added: " I certainly don't want to spend the next five years debating is that the right balance of powers.

"We should talk about how the powers are going to be used, talk about the outcome, talk about the things the people care about, which is what happens in our schools and hospitals and businesses and apprenticeships and opportunities."

He stressed: "Now it is time for all of us to move on to the next great debate - not what the powers should be but how they should actually be used. We need a battle of ideas about the economy, about jobs, about schools and hospitals."

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