The Scottish Referendum – Part 6 – May 2015 – the Aftermath of the General Election -Tories On the Backfoot But Recover and Make Their Moves On EVEL





12 May 2015: David Cameron Preparing to offer more powers to Scotland

David Cameron is preparing to offer the Scottish Parliament powers in excess of The Vow proposals agreed by the Smith Commission. New Tory Scottish Secretary David Mundell has signalled that the Prime Minister is open to delivering full tax and spending powers to Holyrood. Speaking in Downing Street after being appointed yesterday, Mundell – the sole Scottish Tory MP – said the all-party commission’s proposals for further devolution would be up for negotiation. Echoing Nicola Sturgeon’s words after Scotland returned 56 SNP MPs, he added: “I can give the absolute guarantee it will not be business as usual.”

The SNP want to go further than The Vow proposals thrashed out after the referendum and have control over welfare, employment, business taxes, national insurance and equality policy. But Cameron could offer Full Fiscal Autonomy, the SNP manifesto policy that gives Holyrood full tax powers and would end the Barnett formula – worth £7.6billion a year to Scotland.

The Tories will expect their proposals for English votes for English laws to be carried in the Commons, locking out Scottish MPs from key budget decisions and increasing the Conservative majority from 12 to a comfortable 71 votes.

Mundell said: When the Smith Commission proposals are put forward, they will provide an opportunity for debate and discussion. The Government have, I think, a very radical set of proposals to bring new powers to Scotland.”

SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie said: “Powers we will prioritise are employment policy including minimum wage, welfare, business taxes, national insurance and equality policy –the powers we need to create jobs, grow revenues and lift people out of poverty. This makes it important that we have a big group of SNP MPs to defend Scottish interests.”




12 May 2015: The First Minister, who greeted her MPs outside Westminster yesterday, said she was “not planning” to hold another referendum but refused to rule it out.

The band of nationalist brothers and sisters gathered at the St Stephen’s entrance of Westminster in a dramatic display of the SNP’s election success. Nicola Sturgeon said she was “not planning” to hold another referendum but refused to rule it out. The First Minister spelled out her position “We had that debate and that vote last year, and Scotland, against my better efforts, opted to stay part of the United Kingdom, to stay part of the Westminster system. I’m not planning another referendum. Why I stop short of saying I absolutely guarantee it is the same reason I don’t think David Cameron has got any right to rule it out.”

Supporters at the Parliament gate wielded a huge saltire to challenge the Union flags that dominate the Whitehall skyline. A massive scrum of photographers shouted at the gathering MPs: “Can you go back, can you go back?” They were not asking the SNP group to turn home, but to move further away so the lenses could fit them all in. Not all could make it. Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil was delayed by bad weather. But almost every other corner of Scotland was represented. Former First Minister Alex Salmond joined the throng at the last minute and enjoyed the moment as much as any. He acknowledged that in light of the electoral progress he made the right decision to stand aside as First Minister and return to Westminster as a humble backbencher. He will not challenge Angus Robertson, the sole nominee for the group leadership position, when SNP MPs meet formally today.

Gordon MP Salmond said: “I loved being First Minister but everyone has his time.” Looking around at his dozens of smiling new colleagues, Salmond added: “I think things are turning out not too badly, as I see it.” As well as representing most of Scotland, the new MPs looked like a cross-section of Scottish society. Dundee West MP Chris Law, like a typical Scottish tourist, was keen to see the spot in Westminster Hall where William Wallace had been tried. Law – pony-tailed, bearded and 6ft 6in – turned up in his three-piece tweed suit. He had vowed to wear tweed for the duration of the five-year parliament. With London beginning to swelter in 24C sunshine, that second referendum can’t come soon enough for him.





15 May 2015: David Cameron will come under pressure today to live up to his vow of more powers for Scotland after MSPs attacked the scale of his offer.

The Prime Minister is meeting Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh where calls for a more wide-ranging deal are certain to dominate talks. The meeting comes a day after a cross-party Holyrood committee warned Cameron’s current plan falls short of proposals in the Smith Commission. Bruce Crawford, convener of the devolution committee said: “We call on the new UK Government to consider our report as a matter of urgency and to work with the Scottish Parliament to help ensure we have legislation that achieves the objectives all five parties on the committee signed up for. We are disappointed that the currently proposed legislation sells Smith short.”

Lord Smith’s commission was set up in the aftermath of last year’s No vote to hammer out a new plan at breakneck speed. It was a key part of the vow Cameron made with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in the run-up to the referendum. Draft legislation was then drawn up by the previous Tory-Lib Dem coalition Government. But in a report published yesterday, the devolution committee warned the draft does not meet “the spirit or the substance” of Smith. The report highlighted a lack of power over benefits and confusion over tax, among other failings. Tory MSP Alex Johnstone, who sits on the committee, said: “What we have here, on studying it, is imperfect. I would highlight for example the area of tax where there is simplicity and clarity, but comparing that with the area of benefits and welfare there is a lack of clarity.”






Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott added “I have no difficulty whatsoever in demanding the full intent of what we agreed on a cross-party basis is implemented by the Government. It doesn’t really matter what has happened in the past.” Cameron is facing calls for more powers which go much further than Smith, after the SNP’s stunning gains in the general election last week. Sturgeon warned on Wednesday that the Prime Minister would be responsible for fast-tracking a second independence referendum unless he meets key SNP demands. Last night, Cameron insisted he “remains true to the promise” that he’ll make Holyrood one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world. He said: “Scotland has two governments and it is the duty of the First Minister and myself to respect each other’s roles and responsibilities and to work together for the benefit of all the people of Scotland. As more powers are devolved to Scotland, it is time to move beyond the debate about processes and focus on those bread and butter issues that affect every family in our United Kingdom – jobs, homes, good schools and strong public services, and dignity and respect in retirement.”

The UK’s Scotland Office, now led by Tory David Mundell, pledged to hold a full parliamentary discussion “where differing views can be heard”. A spokesman said: “The UK Government is committed to delivering more devolved powers through the package outlined by the cross-party Smith Commission. “We will work to bring forward a Scotland Bill on this basis and ensure the Scottish Parliament becomes one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.”

Sturgeon said: “As I have made crystal clear, the general election result last week and the overwhelming mandate that has given the SNP, means that it simply cannot be business as usual when it comes to Westminster’s attitude to Scotland – whether on public spending or on more powers for Scotland.”



15 May 2015: David Cameron arrives in Edinburgh for first talks with Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister pushes for extra devolution powers

David Cameron arrived in Edinburgh for talks with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, with further devolution for Scotland expected to dominate. Ahead of the meeting, he said the UK Government will “remain true” to its promise to implement the Smith Commission agreement on further devolution for Scotland. Ms Sturgeon will press Mr Cameron to go beyond the Smith package and hand even more powers to Holyrood, arguing that it would be “inconceivable” for the UK Government to ignore the democratic will of Scottish people as expressed in the SNP’s election victory.

The Smith package, which would allow the Scottish Government to set rates and bands of income tax and give it control over £2.5 billion of welfare spending, will be taken forward in a new Scotland devolution bill in the first Queen’s speech, Mr Cameron said. A joint Holyrood committee has already backed the Scottish Government’s view that the draft clauses for the bill, published by the UK Government before the election, do not reflect the full Smith Commission proposals. In addition to the Smith package, the First Minister wants powers over employment policy including the minimum wage, welfare, business taxes, National Insurance and equality policy to be devolved as a matter of priority.

Some Conservative politicians have urged Mr Cameron to consider offering a more radical package of devolution to Ms Sturgeon, including full fiscal autonomy – full control over tax and spending – but there are no indications that the Prime Minister intends to go beyond the proposals contained in the Smith Agreement. Ms Sturgeon has dismissed claims in some reports today, which quote a senior SNP source in Westminster that the party would push ahead with a referendum without the Prime Minister’s permission. Her representative said: “These claims are totally wrong – there are no such plans. “The position is crystal clear: the general election was not a mandate for another referendum. There will only be another referendum if and when the people of Scotland back such a proposal at a Scottish Parliament election.”






Speaking ahead of his meeting with Ms Sturgeon, Mr Cameron said: “I am here today to underline my commitment to our United Kingdom and Scotland’s important place within it. That means remaining true to the promise we made to implement the all-party Smith agreement to make Scotland one of the most accountable and powerful devolved parliaments in the world.

It also means recognising those things which unite us in these islands: the achievements we have made together, the institutions we have built together, our great social history, the common economic challenges we face today and the strength which comes from pulling together for the common good in the future. This is our One Nation agenda in action.

Scotland has two governments and it is the duty of the First Minister and myself to respect each other’s roles and responsibilities, and to work together for the benefit of all the people of Scotland.

As more powers are devolved to Scotland, it is time to move beyond the debate about processes and focus on those bread-and-butter issues that affect every family in our United Kingdom – jobs, homes, good schools and strong public services, and dignity and respect in retirement. These are the building blocks we need to provide a brighter future for people in every part of our country.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has said that the parliamentary process for the new Scotland Bill which will take the Smith proposals forward will provide “an opportunity for debate and discussion”. The SNP could table amendments to that legislation but it would have to persuade a majority of Conservative and labour MPs at Westminster to support any changes.

Meanwhile, Holyrood’s Devolution Committee already concluded that the draft clauses for the new bill should not be recommended for legislative consent by the Scottish Parliament in their current state. The committee – which includes unionist and nationalist MSPs – urged the UK Government to undertake “proper consultation” and present redrafted proposals reflecting the full intent of Smith for Holyrood’s consent next year.

Ms Sturgeon said  “I am looking forward to serious and substantial talks with the Prime Minister. We will take forward a constructive and co-operative approach in our dealings with the UK Government. But, as I have made crystal clear, the general election result last week, and the overwhelming mandate that has given the SNP, means that it simply cannot be ‘business as usual’ when it comes to Westminster’s attitude to Scotland – whether on public spending or on more powers for Scotland.

The proposals of the Smith Commission are a good starting point but the election result shows that people all across Scotland are keen to move beyond the extra powers it identified. The endorsement this week by the STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress) of new powers for the Scottish Parliament, including over issues like the minimum wage and employment law, shows the depth of support within civic Scotland for substantial new powers for Holyrood.

Scotland expects these powers to be delivered – and I expect the Prime Minister and his Government to recognise the democratic mandate that now exists to deliver them.”




15 May 2015: Prime Minister David Cameron today opened the door to a fresh round of talks on new powers for Scotland

After a meeting at her official residence, Cameron said: “The First Minister wants to send some proposals for me to look at and I’m happy to examine proposals. There’s going to be a debate, of course there will be a debate. “I don’t rule out making other changes if sensible suggestions are made.” But the Tory leader ruled out the SNP’s plan to raise enough tax in Scotland to pay for services, known as full fiscal autonomy. It is believed further devolution is the main topic of conversation. Full fiscal autonomy was a key plank of the SNP’s election manifesto.

Cameron said: “I don’t support full fiscal autonomy. “I want people in Scotland to know that the whole of the United Kingdom stands behind your pensions, stands behind unemployment benefit, will stand behind Scotland if it has a difficult year, if the oil price goes down. That’s what I believe in, the solidarity union as well as the United Kingdom that’s about defence and foreign affairs and all the institutions we have built together. I think the option of full fiscal autonomy is not a good option for Scotland inside the United Kingdom.”

There was speculation after the election last week from senior Tory strategists that Cameron could put Sturgeon on the spot by offering just such a deal. Cameron is already hearing loud calls to significantly boost his current offer, particularly on welfare, the minimum wage and business taxes.

The SNP secured an astonishing 56 MPs who will relentlessly push for a better deal. And a cross-party group of MSPs this week said the UK Government’s blueprint for devolution falls short of proposals agreed by the Smith Commission. Lord Smith’s commission was set up after last year’s No vote to hammer out a new plan for the rapid transfer of power. Yesterday, Cameron conceded: “We’re going to look again at welfare and make sure the clauses reflect what that agreement was.”

Sturgeon said: “I want Scotland to have full fiscal autonomy, David Cameron doesn’t, but what we said in our manifesto was that there were priority powers over and above the Smith Commission that we wanted to see devolved. So, what we are talking about are business taxes and employment legislation, the minimum wage and more powers over welfare. As a priority, I want to get our hands on the levers that really matter as quickly as possible.”

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray – the only Labour MP left in Scotland – said: “Labour stood on a platform of ensuring that the final say on benefits rests with the Scottish Parliament and promising a Home Rule Bill within 100 days, so we welcome attempts to deliver quickly on further devolution. “Whatever the SNP’s political ambitions, they must not accept a Tory deal that cuts Scotland’s budget.”




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