Influential Economic Affairs Committee slams new rules on tax and spend powers for Scotland
THE House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee has published a damning report on the Scotland Bill ahead of its second reading in the Lords.
The report centres on concerns over the new taxing and spending powers that will be available to the Scottish Parliament, and a perception that the Scotland Bill is being rushed through the legislative process with “undue haste”.
The report, “A Fractured Union”, raises concerns over the fiscal framework being negotiated between ministers at Westminster and Holyrood. The new framework will determine what share of the Scottish Parliament’s funds come from the UK Government and what portion is raised by taxes in Scotland. The framework will also determine how much financial contribution is made to the UK by Scotland.
However the committee is concerned that consideration for measures which are far reaching and have long term historic implications has been insufficient. Commenting on a general mood of confusion over the new plans, the report states: “Nobody knows what’s going on.”
The chair of the committee, Labour peer Lord Hollick, quoted in the Herald said: “Without being able to understand how the fiscal arrangements work, it is most unwise that this bill should be enacted.”
“This very significant process of devolution…will impact not only on Scotland but on the other nations of the UK. We are at a moment of time where a very significant, long-term decision is being taken and in the absence of a fiscal framework, it is being taken, frankly, in the dark.”
The SNP have criticised the lack of time set aside to debate the bill in the House of Commons, warning that this reduced the time available for effective scrutiny of the proposals.
Nicola Sturgeon has raised the prospect of refusing legislative consent for the Scotland Bill, on the basis that the fiscal framework of the proposals could damage Scotland’s finances.
The House of Lords, which has a majority of non-Conservative peers, recently successfully opposed the Government over tax credits . The incident led to a high profile dispute over the appropriate role of the second chamber, which is supposed to scrutinise but not block new legislation passed in the House of Commons.
Picture courtesy of David Sheales