Calls made at Wesminster for stronger welfare powers in Scotland Bill

Scottish Secretary David Mundell
Scottish Secretary David Mundell

Calls have been made for more welfare powers for the Scottish Parliament in debates on the Scotland Bill in the House of Commons with the SNP calling for full control over working age benefits and other welfare powers.

Today is the third day of debates on the legislation which will also give Scotland more powers on taxation and VAT revenues.

MPs voted against proposals made by the SNP for an “Economic Agreement” between the two governments which would eventually lead to full fiscal autonomy - by 504 votes to 58.

In addition, they voted against Labour’s proposal for an independent commission to examine the effects of full fiscal autonomy.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said he knew full fiscal autonomy would be a disaster without the need for a commission.

The UK government won that vote 376 to 192.

He added that the changes put forward by the UK government would afford Scotland “unprecedented flexibilities” on income tax and that they were a “significant milestone in Scotland’s devolution journey within the UK”.

Mr Mundell called on the Scottish government to choose “difficult practicalities over easy populism” and start laying out the detail and impact of its choices on welfare.

He added: “It is crunch time for the Scottish government.

“They will soon be receiving the powers over welfare which they have long wanted; they now have to tell us how they intend to use them.

“If that means higher welfare payments, they will have to be clear with Scotland how that will be paid for: higher taxes or cuts to services.

“Let’s be clear: they need to come clean with the Scottish electorate. People deserve to know the price tag of their policies and who will be picking up the bill.”

The bill will give the Scottish Parliament control over income tax bands and rates as well as a greater say in welfare benefits and a half share in VAT revenues.

However, the SNP would also like to see the removal of a Westminster veto over the new welfare powers and would like Holyrood to be given full control over working age benefits as well as those relating to employment support programmes and children.

It would also like employment law, equal opportunities and National Insurance contributions to be devolved.

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, urged opposition MPs to support the amendments, which he claimed would show whether Labour supported Scottish control in these areas or not.

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