Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

UK government plans new Scottish Parliament powers

Scottish Parliment building

The UK government has announced a list of new powers it wants to transfer from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament, under its response to the Calman Commission review of devolution.

Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy told the Commons a new Scotland Bill would be published after the general election, if Labour was returned to power, and would become law before the Holyrood elections in 2015.

Here, Andrew Black, BBC Scotland political reporter looks at the proposals:

TAX POWERS

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 UK government has proposed a series of new tax powers for Holyrood.

The main proposal would see the Treasury deducting 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.

MSPs would then have to decide what to do - if they levy 10p, the amount of cash Scotland will get would stay the same, through the combination of Treasury grant, UK tax and Scottish tax.

They could choose to increase the levy and people's taxes as a result or cut it - meaning a likely reduction in public services.

In addition, three other taxes - stamp duty, aggregates levy and landfill - would also be devolved, with a corresponding £500m cut in the block grant.

The UK government would also give new powers to Holyrood on capital borrowing, with Scotland having to repay the cash through increasing tax.

AIRGUNS

As well as featuring as one of the Calman Commission's main conclusions, devolving powers on airgun control is also a long-standing SNP commitment.

The Scottish government argues there is a distinct problem with air weapons north of the Border - an argument it says was proved by the death in 2005 of two-year-old Andrew Morton, who was hit in the head by an airgun shot in Easterhouse, Glasgow.

In March 2008, the UK government rejected a call from SNP ministers for a review of gun laws, while turning down an invitation to co-host a firearms summit with the Scottish government, saying at the time that gun law had already been tightened and had brought results.

On reflection, Mr Murphy said airguns caused too many injuries and tragedies in Scotland.

DRINK DRIVING

Holyrood would gain powers to set drink-drive limits under this proposal.

In December 2008, the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of cutting the drink-driving limit from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml of blood - roughly the equivalent of one glass of beer or wine.

Labour and Tory MSPs abstained in the vote, but Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the the 40-year-old limit was outdated and unfit for purpose.

The Scottish secretary expressed a preference for a single limit across the UK, but added there were "no overwhelming reasons" why the power should not be devolved.

SPEED LIMITS

The UK government has proposed to devolve powers on setting national speed limits to the Scottish Parliament, in line with one of the key recommendations of the Calman Commission.

SCOTTISH ELECTIONS

The prospect of control over Scottish Parliament elections being devolved from Westminster seems less likely, given the language used by the UK government.

This was not only a Calman Commission recommendation but also the key finding of the Gould review into the 2007 Holyrood election fiasco, which resulted in more than 140,000 spoilt ballot papers and the suspension of a number of counts.

The Westminster government said it would "consider carefully how certain aspects of executive responsibility for putting in place the framework for the administration of the Scottish Parliament elections might be devolved".

TAKING IT BACK

It has been proposed the Westminster government takes back devolved powers in several areas, where it feels a "consistent approach" is needed.

This includes the regulation of healthcare professionals, regulations on insolvency practitioners and regulation of the charity sector.

CLOSER RELATIONSHIPS

Legislatively speaking this is the simplest recommendation - idealistically it could be the most difficult to make happen.

Following a series of spats between the Scottish and UK governments, the Scottish secretary wants the two administrations to get along better.

Westminster would seek to work more closely with Scottish ministers in areas such as a Scottish member of the BBC Trust and appointment of the Crown Estate commissioner.

Other areas include immigration policy and the Health and Safety Executive.



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