Yesterday the government kept its first promise to Scotland by publishing a Command paper setting out the various political party views on further devolution to Scotland. All 3 main parties tabled proposals before the referendum and have resubmitted them for this document. The Green party and the SNP have also decided they wish now to be part of this debate, and have submitted their own proposals. The SNP of course did not table devolution proposals before the referendum vote as they preferred simply to leave the union. No other parties have written in.
The SNP want most powers now to be granted to the Scottish Parliament. The three main parties of the Union propose a wide range of new powers for Scotland. Over the important issue of Scotland’s role in setting and raising taxes, there is some disagreement. The Conservatives propose that Scotland be given the power to set the rates and bands of personal income tax. The Lib Dems also wish Income tax to be “almost entirely the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.” Labour proposes allowing the Scottish Parliament to control three quarters of basic income tax and its rate. Labour would also allow Scotland to increase the higher rates. Conservatives and Lib Dems are happy to devolve Air passenger duty, but Labour is not. Conservatives and Labour agree about devolving certain welfare benefits like Attendance Allowance and Housing Benefit.
The parties now have to get on with hammering out an agreement about the exact range of additional powers and duties that will pass to the Scottish Parliament. I asked Mr Hague yesterday for a further assurance that he will soon know whether or not the Liberal Democrats will allow a government motion to give us English votes for English issues, or whether we need to find another non government route to put it to the Commons and have a vote. He assured me he had set a deadline of the end of November for agreement – or lack of it – on resolving the unfairness to England, and confirmed that if there was no agreement Parliament should still be asked to vote on this crucial matter.