SNP drops push for devolution of abortion powers

John Swinney

A source in the SNP has said the party has dropped attempts for abortion laws to be devolved to Holyrood.

The issue proved controversial during the cross-party Smith Commission talks, with Labour at one point implying it would not sign off on any deal involving the devolution of powers over abortion.

The Smith agreement eventually concluded that “further serious consideration should be given to its devolution and a process should be established immediately to consider the matter further”.

However, it is understood that there has been no major discussions nor are any talks scheduled.

An SNP source said: “The SNP’s priorities for more powers were set out in our manifesto and are clear – employment policy, including the minimum wage, welfare, business taxes, national insurance and equality policy.

“We did not include abortion in these priorities.”

Following publication of the Scotland Bill yesterday Deputy First Minister John Swinney accused the UK government of breaking its promise to deliver the Smith agreement.

He said: “There is no mention in Smith of the UK Government having the ability to veto Scottish government decisions – yet there are eight vetoes in this legislation, including on Universal Credit.

“In key areas, particularly the restrictions the bill places on employment support and carers benefits, the lack of an explicit power to create new benefits in devolved areas, and the devolution of the Crown Estate this bill falls far short of what the people of Scotland have been promised.

“The Scottish government made extensive and constructive suggestions to improve the draft legislation, while all parties in the Scottish Parliament backed the Devolution Committee’s findings that the draft clauses did not translate political agreement into legislation.

However, Mr Swinney was criticised over his reticence on full fiscal autonomy.

Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish Secretary, said: “The SNP ran a general election campaign on the basis of full fiscal autonomy and abolishing the Barnett Formula.

“Yesterday SNP MPs would not commit to bringing amendments forward to the Scotland Bill to deliver it and, today, John Swinney couldn’t say whether they would keep their promise to amend the bill to deliver fiscal autonomy.”

He added: “They should just be honest and admit that they agree with us that if Scotland loses the pooling and sharing of resources across the UK it would mean an additional £7.6bn gap in our funding, meaning tax increases or swingeing cuts on a scale David Cameron can only dream off.”

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