In the aftermath of the Referendum on Scottish Independence in September 2014, the cross-party Smith Commission produced a report which recommended the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament.
The Commission’s proposals were, in 2015, translated in to legislation which amends both the Scotland Acts of 1998 and 2012. The result, the Scotland Act 2016, which was enacted in March, is an enabling act which sets out the powers being devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Ministers, as well as setting out in statute the constitutional position of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government within the UK’s present constitutional arrangements.
New Devolved Powers for Scotland?
There was much discussion during the passage of the Bill through the UK Parliament as to whether it properly reflected the agreement reached by the members of the Smith Commission. After initial debate in the House of Commons and in Parliamentary Committee, the UK Government tabled substantive amendments to the Bill late last year. The result is an Act which confers on the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament a raft of new powers, which include the following:-
- Powers which will allow the Scottish Government to create any number of income tax rates across any number of bands, which will apply only to Scottish taxpayers, and to all income except dividends and bank interest.
- Powers allowing the Scottish Government to set the rate of Air Passenger Duty.
- Control over the licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction underlying Scotland.
- Control over management of the Crown Estate in Scotland.
- Powers over welfare, including the ability to top-up any cuts to tax credits made by the UK Government.
The text of the Bill as enacted can be found here.
It remains to be seen, after the Scottish Parliamentary elections on 5th May, what the elected party does with the powers conferred under the new Act.