Royal Assent has been given to the Scotland Bill, making it the Scotland Act 2012.
The fresh piece of legislation will allow MSPs to set income tax rates in Scotland and enable Holyrood to borrow more money. The coalition government at Westminster said it represented the biggest transfer of fiscal power to Scotland in more than 300 years. But the Scottish government believed the bill was a missed opportunity.
As well as bringing in a new Scottish rate of income tax and borrowing powers worth Â£5bn, the Scotland Act (2012) will hand powers over air guns, drink-driving and speeding limits to Holyrood. It will also devolve stamp duty, land tax and landfill tax, and give the Scottish Parliament a role in appointments in broadcasting and the Crown Estate. In addition, there will be new procedures for Scottish criminal cases that go to the UK Supreme Court.
The bill officially became law after receiving Royal Assent, but Holyrood will not be able to use the new powers until 2016. The SNP administration at Holyrood, which intends to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in the autumn of 2014, backed the Scotland Bill, but said it had been “bypassed by events”.
However, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore told BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I’m confident when we get on to debating independence that in Scotland we are going to judge we are far better to continue to be part of the most successful partnership of nations in history, rather than going our own separate way. But in the meantime, I am confident that we can do that and we will do that. It is important that we pay attention to the detail of what will soon be the Scotland Act and get on with the change.”
However, the Scottish government’s minister for strategy, Bruce Crawford, said the legislation could have gone further. He told the BBC: “The bill does give us some useful additional powers on air weapons, on drink driving, with speeding, although on taxation powers and income tax, on stamp duty, on landfill taxes, it’s more limited. It’s not quite as big a deal as I heard Michael Moore making out.”
Did anyone see this mentioned on any news channel in England? I didn’t… but then, I’m not that surprised. At least the English Broadcasting Corporation put it on the Scottish news pages!