UK government to make “substantive amendments” to Scotland Bill

Scottish Secretary David Mundell
Scottish Secretary David Mundell

The Scotland Bill introduced to take forward the recommendations of the Smith Commission will be amended substantially by the UK government in the Autumn.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell fended off criticism of the landmark devolution bill and said he would make “substantive amendments in the House of Commons”.

These could potentially include a retreat on introducing a “veto” on the Scottish Parliament exercising new welfare powers and a move to exempt Police Scotland from paying VAT, as is already the case with local police forces in England.

Pressure has been building on the UK government to address criticisms that the provisions of the bill did not yet meet the letter of the Smith Commission Report, which was produced by a cross-party committee after last year’s independence vote.

A report in May from the Scottish Parliament’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee said it “has concerns with a number of the welfare provisions and considers that the relevant clauses do not yet meet the spirit and substance of the Smith Commission’s recommendations and potentially pose challenges in any attempt to implement them”.

Mr Mundell said the UK government’s amendments would “come forward at report stage and be debated in this House”.

A series of amendments tabled by the Labour Party and the SNP, designed to extend the devolution package, have so far been defeated - but Mr Mundell said he was reflecting on “serious” and “constructive” amendments put to the House.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said he wanted the Scottish Parliament to be able to “design a welfare system fit for the Scottish people”.

SNP MP Pete Wishart, chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, said: “Tory vetoes should never have been in the Scotland Bill in the first place.

“As well as bringing the legislation into line with what the Smith Commission recommended last year, the UK government should also strengthen it with the economic and welfare powers that the people of Scotland voted for in the general election - these powers should be in Scotland’s hands, not Tory hands.”

The date for consideration of the bill at report stage and third reading has not yet been announced.

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