SCOTLAND’S only Tory MP will be able to veto decisions made by the Scottish Parliament.

The Scotland Bill, published yesterday morning requires Scottish Ministers to obtain the permission of the Secretary of State for Scotland if they want to use any of the new powers.

Repeatedly throughout the bill and the explanatory notes, Scottish Ministers are told they “must have consulted with, and obtained the agreement of, the Secretary of State”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has reacted angrily to what she said amounted to vetoes, and said the Scotland Bill, “falls short in almost every area”.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Sturgeon said the bill did not live up to the agreement made in the Smith Commission.

Sturgeon said: “The UK Government, I think, had a very clear test today to deliver a Bill which lived up in full, in spirit and in letter, to the Smith Commission.

“The Bill has been published within the last hour or so and, from my glance at it, I think it falls short in almost every area.”

Answering a question from one of her backbenchers, Sturgeon said: “The bill does not contain the full welfare powers recommended by the Smith commission and it retains – unbelievably, given the amount of concern that was expressed – a veto for the UK Government on key policy areas. If, for example, the Scottish Parliament wants to abolish the Bedroom Tax, as I hope that we do, the UK Government would still have a right of veto over whether we could. I am sorry, but that is not devolution.”

The First Minister appealed for cross party support for a bill that reflected the Smith agreement: “I hope that all parties will support us and the recommendations of the all-party Devolution (Further Powers) Committee as we seek to get a Scotland Bill that lives up to and delivers the Smith commission recommendations.”

A Scotland Office spokesman denied that the power of veto still existed:

“It is factually wrong to claim there are vetoes in the Bill. These are sensible, practical arrangements to ensure the transfer of new powers smoothly.”

The bill published yesterday morning, contains powers to allow the Scottish

Parliament to set the thresholds and rates of income tax in Scotland and keep all the money raised in Scotland, providing the Scottish Parliament with the first 10 per cent VAT revenue raised in Scotland (currently half of those revenues), devolving Air Passenger Duty and the Aggregates Levy to the Scottish


There are also provisions on fracking, tribunals, road traffic, gaming, broadcasting, fuel poverty, energy and competition policy, among others.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “The government has moved quickly on day one of the new Parliament to deliver on our commitment to make Holyrood one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world. We made a promise to turn the all-party Smith Commission agreement into law and we are now doing that at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Labour MSP Lewis McDonald, who sat on the committee that looked into the draft clauses published by the UK government in January, agreed that the bill did not live up to the Smith Commission agreement: “The Tories’ plan to cut £12 billion from welfare would work to £1 billion ripped from Scotland’s poor and vulnerable. Holyrood should have the powers to defend Scots from that.

“That is what was agreed by all parties with the Smith Agreement. It has not been delivered by this Bill as drafted, despite Tory assurances they would deliver Smith in full. Labour will amend the Scotland Bill to give the Scottish Parliament final say on social security. That means Holyrood would have the power to top-up existing benefits, including pensions, and create new benefits to build a fairer nation.”

However, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie claimed the Smith Agreement will deliver. He said: “The publication of the Scotland Bill is further evidence that the powers promised during the cross-party Smith Commission process will be delivered.

“It is a step change in devolution that will make the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world. It will ensure that we are responsible for raising the majority of the money we spend while protecting positive things we share across the whole UK.”

Rennie continued: “We should also be clear about what this Scotland Bill is not. It is not Full Fiscal Autonomy, as defined by the SNP and others. That policy is an unstable formed of devolution that could tip over to independence.”

The First Minister received surprise backing in her call for more powers, from her predecessor Jack McConnell. The former Scottish Labour leader tweeted: “Smith Commission plans were rejected in Scotland at the election. 3 parties supporting them were defeated. They should stop and think again”.


“SHOULD the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” will be the question asked of voters in an EU referendum.

The wording, suggested by the Electoral Commission, was released as the Government presented the EU referendum bill.

Labour interim leader Harriet Harman’s announcement last weekend that her party will support the bill means that a referendum is now a near certainty.

Stephen Gethins MP, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, said: “The SNP is opposed to an EU referendum – and polls show the people of Scotland want to stay in the EU. The SNP will argue the positive case for Scotland’s continued membership of the EU, and if the referendum is to go ahead, the ‘double lock’ democratic safeguard for Scotland that Nicola Sturgeon has proposed absolutely must apply.

“This would mean that for the UK to be able to leave the European Union, each constituent part – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – would have to vote to exit.”