Smith Commission: A Scottish Conservative plan for Scotland

27 Nov 2014


The Scottish Conservatives have enthusiastically endorsed the Smith Commission’s radical new blueprint for a truly powerful and responsible Scottish Parliament.

In a major victory for the party, every one of its recommendations on tax has been accepted by the SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens – including the full devolution of income tax, full control over Air Passenger Duty, and the assignment of VAT revenues.

The Scottish Conservatives have also gone further and agreed with the other parties to increase welfare powers at Holyrood, honouring a promise to voters to do so.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:

“Lord Smith and all the parties who have been negotiating in these talks are to be congratulated for coming up with what is a durable, radical and practical set of recommendations that will make Scotland a better place.

“We give them our firm support.

“Our commitment at the start of these negotiations was that our Strathclyde Commission plans would be a ‘floor not a ceiling’ on our ambitions.

“We have delivered on that pledge. This is a package designed, built, and delivered by Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Conservative ideas.

“The Strathclyde Commission has become the foundation for the Scottish Parliament’s new financial future.

“We have now added to that with a real and lasting package on welfare to ensure we will now have one of the strongest parliaments of its kind in the world.”

The deal will also make a reality of the party’s long standing campaign to devolve Air Passenger Duty (APD) to Holyrood, giving the power to reduce taxes on Scottish passengers.

Scrapping APD will mean cheaper air fares for passengers in Scotland, while making airports here more competitive in attracting new flights to other parts of the world.

Ruth added:

“This is a plan which, for the first time since devolution, brings real accountability and real responsibility to the Scottish Parliament.

“Future Scottish governments will have to look Scottish taxpayers in the eye when they are spending their money.

“Successive administrations have been able to claim credit for public spending, and then blame Westminster when it runs out.

“That now ends. The powers are there to do as they please.

“No more excuses, no more grievance politics. No longer can the Nationalists peddle their agenda of blaming everything on Westminster.”

Ruth also predicted the deal could herald an end to the constitutional division of the last seven years.

She said:

“This deal today will bring real choice back to Scottish politics between those of us who want to lower the taxes of Scotland’s workers and let them keep more of the money they earn, and those who want to charge our working men and women more for irresponsible government spending.

“That is the real divide in Scottish politics, not the old choice of Nationalist versus Unionist.”

On the substantial new welfare plans, Ruth added:

“The UK welfare state is one of the bedrocks for our country and that remains the case, but Scotland will be given the flexibility to decide on new benefits to meet our own particular needs.

“At the same time, the basic building blocks of our UK remain firmly intact – your pension, one jobs market – and a currency that works for us all.”

Ruth concluded:

“This deal is very close to the Strathclyde Commission report the Scottish Conservatives set out in June, pharmacy-no-rx.net/levitra_generic.html with a few notable enhancements.

“Both Annabel Goldie and Professor Adam Tomkins, who served on that commission, represented the Scottish Conservatives in these talks and it is a testament to their hard work and dedication that this deal has been done to deliver for the people of Scotland.

“I thank them for their tremendous efforts.

“Throughout the referendum campaign there was a clear demand for constitutional change from voters on both sides of the debate.

“Today’s agreement on more powers delivers on that, giving Scotland a stronger parliament within the UK.

“Let’s now get on with making this plan work to build a fairer, more prosperous society, in Scotland and right across the United Kingdom.”

Notes to editors:

Strathclyde Commission vs. Smith Commission 
Scottish Conservatives went into the Smith Commission negotiations in good faith making it clear that the Strathclyde Commission’s proposals were a “floor, not a ceiling”.
The table below outlines the main constitutional proposals in the Strathclyde report and compares them with the main proposals of the Smith Commission.
Strathclyde   Commission
Smith Commission
Income tax rates and bands devolved
As Strathclyde
Income tax on dividends and savings reserved
As Strathclyde
Personal allowance and reliefs reserved
As Strathclyde
VAT share assigned
As Strathclyde
National Insurance reserved
As Strathclyde
Capital Gains Tax reserved
As Strathclyde
Inheritance Tax  reserved
As Strathclyde
Corporation Tax reserved
As Strathclyde
Air Passenger Duty devolved
As Strathclyde
Fuel duty and excise duties reserved
As Strathclyde
State pension reserved
As Strathclyde
General top-up power on benefits
As Strathclyde (on reserved benefits)
Attendance Allowance devolved
As Strathclyde
Housing Benefit devolved (if it can be disentangled from   Universal Credit)
Control over housing element in Universal Credit devolved
Other cash benefits if closely related to a devolved   policy area
Range of disability benefits devolved due to link to   social/health care
New power to introduce new benefits in areas of devolved   responsibility
Strengthen the Scottish Fiscal Commission
Strengthen the independent scrutiny of Scotland’s public   finances
Inter-parliamentary relations need to improve
Proposals to improve inter-parliamentary and   inter-governmental relations
Proposals that   go beyond Strathclyde
Powers over Scottish elections, Parliament and   Administration
Crown estate devolution
Remaining transport policy
Additional equalities powers
Energy efficiency scheme implementation
Administration of tribunals
Onshore oil and gas licensing
The Scottish Conservatives have consistently campaigned for the devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD), with proposals contained in the Strathclyde Commission:

“Indeed, we consider that Air Passenger Duty should be devolved. Originally conceived as an environmental measure, Air Passenger Duty is site-specific to airport location. We believe that Scotland, with a relatively small number of airports, would be better able to manage this tax locally.”

In our judgement there is no need for fresh legislation in order to allow this to occur. We referred above to the provision of the Scotland Act 2012 which allows further or new taxes to be devolved to Holyrood by Order in Council. This requires the agreement of the Scottish and UK Governments but it does not require a fresh Act of the UK Parliament. The White Paper, Strengthening Scotland’s Future, published by the UK Government in 2010, explains how the power to devolve further taxes by Order will work. The process is straightforward. We see no reason why it should not be used where the Scottish Ministers are of the view that the UK’s smaller taxes and duties should be devolved. It is an important part of the flexibility of our devolutionary arrangements which has already been legislated for.