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The Scotland Act 2016 is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It sets out amendments to the Scotland Act 1998 and devolves further powers to Scotland. The legislation is based on recommendations given by the report of the Smith Commission, which was established on 19 September 2014 in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum.

Main provisions

The act gives extra powers to the Scottish Parliament and a Scottish Government,[1] most notably:[2]

The act recognises the Scottish Parliament and a Scottish Government as permanent among UK's constitutional arrangements, with a referendum required before either can be abolished. However, according to some commentators, the act institutes a weak statutory mechanism, which does not stipulate provisions or guarantees for such a referendum, or makes duties of Crown Ministers in this respect publicly answerable to the Scottish electorate.[4]

Amendments

The UK Conservative government introduced around 80 amendments to the bill aimed at clarifying and strengthening some sections of it, and the House of Commons approved these. They included:

  • Control over abortion laws is no longer being "reserved matter" outside of control of Scottish Government.
  • Enhanced powers over welfare, including the ability to top-up any cuts to tax credits made by the UK.

About 120 amendments and new clauses were lodged on the bill by opposition parties but these were rejected by the Commons.[5]

Fiscal framework

During the passage of the bill, almost a full year of negotiations took place between the Scottish and UK Governments concerning the fiscal framework that accompanied it. This was necessary because of the intention to reduce the block grant given to the Scottish government by HM Treasury to take account of the additional income the Scottish government will receive through retaining a portion of the revenues from income tax and VAT that are generated in Scotland.

The Smith Commission said that there should be “no detriment” to either government in this context, something which is technically difficult to achieve. A Scottish government proposal was that future adjustment to the block grant should be based on the “per capita index”, which takes into account the growth in tax receipts across the UK, not just Scotland. This is significant because Scotland’s economy and population are not growing as fast as the UK’s. However, the Treasury position was that this would be unfair to the rest of the UK.[6]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Scotland Act 2016". legislation.gov.uk. 2016. Retrieved 11 June 2016. 
  2. ^ "Holyrood gives approval to devolved powers Scotland Bill". BBC News. 16 March 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Douglas Fraser (2 February 2016). "Scotland's tax powers: What it has and what's coming?". BBC News. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  4. ^ Dr Mike Gordon (30 September 2015). "Mike Gordon: The Permanence of Devolution: Parliamentary Sovereignty and Referendum Requirements". scottishconstitutionalfutures.org. Scottish Constitutional Futures Forum. Retrieved 17 November 2015. 
  5. ^ "Scotland Bill: Scottish powers bill backed by Commons". BBC News. 9 November 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  6. ^ "Record View: It's time for Cameron and Sturgeon to bang heads together and deliver what Scots voters were promised". Daily Record. 2 February 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.