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Party leaders must decide whether to back SNP

Swinney urges parties to unite to demand end of Westminster veto

John SwinneyDeputy First Minister John Swinney today urges all political parties to put their rivalries aside and demand that the Westminster government scraps its veto over 12 new powers granted to Holyrood.

Mr Swinney will say that it is in the interests of all parties to ensure all clauses recommended by the Smith Commission are delivered as intended.

The Scottish Government has already condemned the proposed Westminster legislation on the new powers for what it believes is a “significant watering down” of the commission’s promises.

Mr Swinney today goes further by calling for a united voice to force Westminster to remove statutory requirements on Holyrood to consult with Westminster in key legislative areas.

“We have acknowledged that the draft legislation represents progress, however, too much of what is set out imposes restrictions and, whichever way you read it, the UK’s proposals would hand a veto to UK ministers,” he says.

“There are a total of 12 instances across key areas such as welfare, universal credit and fuel poverty, where we will have to consult UK Ministers before acting and in eight of these ‘permission’ from the Secretary of State must be sought: a veto.

“For example, the proposals on welfare do not allow us to vary Universal Credit without the permission of the UK Government. That means – under the current proposals – we will not have the independence to take action to abolish the bedroom tax.

“The Smith Commission recommendations were explicit in the powers to be transferred: that is exactly what the UK Government’s legislation must also be.

“We remain committed to this process and we will continue to work with the UK Government and other stakeholders to ensure that the changes are made ahead of the Bill being taken through Westminster.

“It is in the interest of all political parties in Scotland to support the Scottish Government in our call to the UK Government to ensure the Smith recommendations are delivered as the Commission intended.

“Scotland should not – and will not – accept anything less, and the people of Scotland deserve all parties in Holyrood to call for the delivery of what was promised to voters.

“The Scottish Government is focused on securing economic growth, tackling inequality and protecting our public services, and the new powers being delivered must help deliver those goals. We will be working closely with stakeholders to ensure these proposals are right for Scotland and that they reflect the views of ordinary people.”

Daily Business Comment: Mr Swinney’s calls will test the resolve of those Scottish party leaders who will have to decide whether or not to challenge their own parties in Westminster.

Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, is positioning his party towards Home Rule and a measure of independence within the wider Labour party. Mr Swinney’s challenge could therefore be the first test of Mr Murphy’s claim soon after his election that he will not take orders from Westminster.

Mr Murphy does at least have the benefit of being in Opposition on both sides of the Border and can therefore afford to be critical of the Westminster coalition.

That is not the case for Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, and Willie Rennie for the Liberal Democrats, whose parties have argued that the legislation already gives Scotland more devolved power than any other state in the western world.

This is clever politics by Mr Swinney who is in a win-win situation. If he persuades his rivals to back him he will be seen to be leading the most important of debates and could even secure the climbdown on the veto that he demands.

If the other parties refuse to join him he will be seen as the injured party and the others as less caring about Scotland’s political powers.

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The full list of  UK Government clauses that demand consultation or permission from the Secretary of State are:

Clause 6 – Elections (franchise and registration)

Regulations to make any changes to the digital service (individual electoral registration arrangements)

Clause 20 – Universal Credit: costs of claimants who rent accommodation

Regulations to determine the liability of claimants in respect of accommodation costs

Clause 21 – Universal Credit: persons to who, and time when, paid

Regulations relating to the person to who, or time when, universal credit is paid

Clause 27 – Road: traffic signs etc.

Power to give Ministerial direction about road signs

Clause 28- Road: speed limits

Power to make an order relating to speed limits

Clause 28 – Roads: speed limits

Power to give Ministerial directions on speed limits

Clause 29 – Roads: procedure for regulations and interpretation

Regulations on speed limits for certain types of vehicles or temporary speed limits

Clause 38 – Fuel poverty: support schemes

Regulations to make schemes relating to fuel poverty support

Clause 39 – Energy company obligations (promotion of reductions in carbon emissions: gas suppliers)

Regulations to impose obligations on gas suppliers to reduce carbon emissions

Clause 39 – Energy company obligations (promotion of reductions in home-heating costs: gas suppliers)

Orders to impose obligations on gas suppliers to reduce home heating costs.

Clause 39 – promotion of reductions in carbon emission – electricity suppliers

Orders to impose obligations on electricity suppliers to reduce carbon emission

Clause 39 – promotion of reductions in home heating costs – electricity suppliers

Orders to impose obligations on electricity suppliers to reduce home heating costs

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