STUC say new proposals are “very welcome”, but should have been in the Smith Agreement
THE Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has said Labour’s new proposals on devolving welfare and pensions powers to Scotland are a “very welcome” step, but added that they should have been in the Smith Commission Command Paper which Labour signed up to.
STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith, stated: “The STUC is on record as saying that the Smith Commission proposals should have proposed greater devolution in a number of areas.
“Scottish Labour’s proposal to introduce the power to create new benefits, except in the areas in which named benefits are specifically reserved, is the correct interpretation of Smith and should have been reflected in the Command Paper. We will continue to press, in the weeks ahead, for the introduction of legislative clauses which achieve this.”
CommonSpace reported earlier Scottish Labour’s new plan, dubbed by party leader Jim Murphy as ‘Vow plus’, would allow Scottish ministers to raise the state pension, child benefit and other payments as well as giving the Scottish Government full control over housing benefit and its PS1.8bn budget.
Murphy spoke in Edinburgh on Monday alongside former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, stating: “Scottish Labour’s commitment to delivering the Vow is absolute.
“However, delivering the Vow is a starting point not an end point for Scottish Labour.
“Smith was a consensus between five parties. A Labour approach to powers, and to the use of powers, will reflect our different values and different ambitions for Scotland.”
The STUC general cecretary added that: “Labour’s other proposals – to extend the top-up power to include pensions and to fully devolve housing benefit – are also very welcome. There is absolutely no reason, assuming the cost of additional payments and administration is borne by the Scottish Parliament, why its powers should not be developed in this way.”
Scottish Labour have until now been arguing that the Smith Agreement was the time to “draw a line” under the debate over more powers, and focus more on what parties would do with the new powers.
The announcement is therefore a shift from that position, and Grahame Smith believes it shows the debate over more powers is still alive and kicking.
“This development confirms our view that there is a continuing and very live debate over which powers should be devolved and how that should be implemented,” Smith said, “and we will continue to press for the greatest public involvement in that debate over the coming months.”
SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie responded to Murphy’s ‘Vow plus’ commitment by arguing that there was “sheer panic setting in at the heart of the Labour campaign.”
“This is absolutely farcical from Labour,” Hosie said. “Having claimed authorship of the Vow, declared it delivered and called for everyone to move on from the debate they are now admitting that what is on offer is woefully inadequate and scrambling around trying to make it sound more substantial.”
“But they are ‘offering’ nothing new that they haven’t previously said was already being delivered through the Smith proposals,” Hosie added.
Picture courtesy of Anthony Mckeown