Holyrood “could get new powers early”


David Mundell: Holyrood could get new powers within months

Image caption
The Scottish Parliament could have control over issues such as Air Passenger Duty soon after the Holyrood elections.

New powers for the Scottish Parliament could be in place shortly after the Holyrood elections in May, according to Scottish Secretary David Mundell.

He was speaking to MSPs after a deal was reached on the fiscal framework underlying increased devolution.

Mr Mundell said there was “no impediment” to the early transfer of powers subject to the passing of the Scotland Bill.

He is expected to give more details of the fiscal agreement to MPs later.

The Scottish Secretary told Holyrood”s devolution committee he expected control over income tax to pass to MSPs by April 2017, in time for the next budget of the new Scottish Parliament.

The time-scale for the transfer of new powers over welfare remains to be agreed by the two governments through the joint ministerial group on welfare, he said.

But he added: “My envisaged timetable is that, subject obviously to parliament bringing forward its legislative consent motion and the Bill proceeding to Royal Assent ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections, a number of the powers will be in place almost immediately after the Scottish Parliament elections.

“One of the other tax powers for example, Air Passenger Duty, can be transferred at the point that the Scottish government has its model ready for that transfer.

“If the arrangements are available shortly after the Scottish Parliament election we would be able to transfer them.

“In relation to the wider powers and the wider tax, we place no impediment in relation to the transfer of those powers.”

Media captionNicola Sturgeon: “This deal will not allow a single pound, or even a penny to be taken from the Scottish government”s budget”

His comments followed a last-minute agreement on the fiscal framework – the detailed financial arrangements underlying the transfer of more powers from Westminster to Holyrood.

The talks, which began in March 2015, had stalled over different interpretations of a key line of the Smith Commission agreement, which said there should be “no detriment” to either the UK or Scottish budgets as a result of the changes.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the deal, reached after 10 rounds of negotiations, meant “not a single penny of detriment to the Scottish government”s budget” for six years, followed by a review of future arrangements.

Chancellor George Osborne said the agreements were “fair to Scotland and fair to taxpayers in the rest of the UK”.

Media captionGeorge Osborne: “We have secured a stronger Scotland in a stronger UK. ”

Lord Smith of Kelvin, who chaired the cross-party Smith Commission set up after the “No” vote in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, said the deal on new powers for Holyrood could now be “delivered in full”.

He said: “The next term of Scottish parliamentarians will be debating and taking decisions over large parts of Scotland”s tax and welfare policy. I believe this will be transformational for our parliament.

“There should be no doubt that this was a highly complex package of measures to agree. It is difficult to imagine a bigger test of inter-governmental relationships and while it was obviously a very tough negotiation, what matters is that an agreement was reached.

“This provides an excellent basis for constructive engagement between the governments long into the future.

“When the Smith Agreement was passed to the prime minister and first minister, both gave their word that they would deliver it into law – they have met that promise in full.”