Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 16:39 UK

Backing for more Holyrood powers

A majority of those polled want Holyrood to have powers over pensions

The majority of Scots want Holyrood to be given the power to make decisions about income tax and old age pensions, a BBC Scotland poll has suggested.

But 63% still want Westminster to retain control over defence and foreign policy matters, according to the poll.

At present, income tax is mostly settled at Westminster, while pensions are wholly reserved.

The poll of 1,010 people also suggested 56% wanted a referendum before Holyrood's powers are increased.

ICM carried out interviews for the poll, which was commissioned by BBC Scotland to mark a decade of devolution. It asked respondents who they thought should make most of the important decisions affecting Scotland in a range of policies.

Looks like Scots want Holyrood to run the show when it comes to domestic issues - even those that are currently reserved to Westminster. But there's an obvious exception: defence and foreign affairs
Brian Taylor
Political editor

When asked who should make most of the decisions for Scotland about income tax, 62% said the Scottish Government while 34% said the UK Government.

The question of who should have responsibility for old age pensions received a similar response, with 65% saying it should be devolved to Holyrood, but only 32% wanting control retained at Westminster.

An even bigger percentage - 78% - backed the Scottish Government making the big decisions over the NHS in Scotland, with 19% believing health policy should be decided by Westminster. The issue is already devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

However, the poll suggested defence and foreign affairs was the one major issue which Scots believed should continue to be handled by Westminster.

Only 35% believed it should be decided by the Scottish Government, while 63% wanted the UK Government to continue to have responsibility.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said the results of the poll were a "boost" for the parliament on its 10th birthday.

The First Minister and the Scottish Secretary both welcomed the poll

He added: "The poll as a whole is extremely good news for those who believe in the parliament, and those who want to see the parliament grow in influence and regard.

"It is quite clear the parliament is regarded as a success by the people, and it is also clear that people are getting increasingly ambitious to see their parliament as a powerhouse parliament for the people and much less as a pocket money parliament for Westminster."

Scottish Secretary of State Jim Murphy said it was right that the parliament should have more powers.

He told the BBC: "We get the best of both worlds here.

"We have a Scottish Government looking after things like the health service and the education system and we also have the British Government, led by a Scot, dealing with things like the economy, welfare, international development and social security.

"Again, it is the right balance and most Scots seem to think it's just about right."

The Calman Commission into Scottish devolution has recommended handing Edinburgh greater control over income tax and other areas including stamp duty, land tax, airgun legislation, powers over drink-driving and speed limits and the running of the Scottish elections.

The Scottish Parliament has always had the power to vary the standard rate of income tax - the so-called Tartan Tax - by 3p, but this has never been used.

The commission called for a new Scottish-set tax, which would see the UK Treasury deduct 10p from standard and upper rates of income tax in Scotland, accompanied by a cut in the block grant Holyrood gets from the UK Government.

'Tax power'

Holyrood would then have to decide whether to levy the full 10p, allowing the amount of money Scotland received to stay the same, or to cut the tax rate, meaning a possible reduction in public services.

The poll found that 56% of those asked wanted a referendum before Holyrood was handed any further tax powers, such as those put forward by Calman, while 37% said these changes could be reasonably made without a referendum.

However, in response to the figures, Mr Murphy said: "Well I don't think a referendum would be necessary. The tax power is already established at a variable rate within the Scottish Parliament."

When asked which scenario came closest to their view of how Scotland should be governed, 28% said Scotland should become independent, with the Scottish Parliament able to make all decisions about taxation and spending, while 47% backed Scotland remaining part of the UK, but with increased power of taxation and spending being handed to Holyrood.

A further 22% said Scotland should remain part of the UK, with decisions about taxation and spending made by the UK Government.

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