The Scottish Parliament should consent to Westminster passing the Scotland Bill, the Holyrood committee scrutinising the bill reports today.
MSPs on the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee unanimously recommend that legislative consent be given to the Scotland Bill, a conclusion described as a “significant milestone in a remarkable political process” by Committee convener Bruce Crawford MSP.
The report examines both the detail of the Scotland Bill and the new powers it will devolve to Holyrood, and the recently agreed fiscal framework that confirms the funding Scotland will receive from Westminster over the next five years. A chart in annex A sets out the areas where the committee previously felt the bill fell short of the Smith Commission proeposals, whether the bill has been amended to meet these concerns, and the committee's final position.
It is still not fully satisfied as regards the permanency of the Scottish Parliament, the legislative consent convention, employment programmes, the Crown Estate, payday loan shops, fixed odds betting terminals, and intergovernmental relations. In certain other areas it states that the position is still unclear and a more detailed assessment will be needed.
Mr Crawford commented: “There are still some areas where we feel the Scotland Bill continues to fall short of the spirit and substance of Smith, notably in relation to the devolution of employment programmes and the future operation of the legislative consent provision.
“Nevertheless, the bill has been improved during its passage through our detailed scrutiny, and we welcome the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland listened to our arguments – most notably on enshrining in the bill the need for a referendum of the Scottish people on any proposal ever to abolish the Scottish Parliament.”
Regarding the fiscal framework, he added: “On the basis of information provided by both the Scottish and UK Governments, we are prepared to endorse the fiscal framework that underpins the powers to be devolved.
“The agreement that has been signed off by both Governments ensures there will be no detriment to the Scottish budget. This represents a fair and sustainable position.
“However, more clarity is still needed on the five year transitional arrangements and for the review process for the fiscal framework, including what happens in 2021-22 if both governments don’t agree on next steps."
He observed that the new Parliament that will follow May's election will have "a big job to do" in scrutinising legislation that will flow from its new powers.
The full Scottish Parliament will debate a legislative consent motion on Wednesday 16 March. If consent is given, the Scotland Bill will be able to proceed and complete its parliamentary passage at Westminster.