PM Envisages "Powerful" Holyrood

22 January 2015, 15:50 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

Plans for new powers for the Scottish Parliament are "the best of both worlds'', the Prime Minister has said.

David Cameron said the plans meet the pre-referendum vow of the Westminster parties and are "guaranteed'' to be delivered by the next UK government.

But Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said they had been "significantly watered down'', claiming that UK ministers would get a veto on Scottish powers in key areas.

Mr Cameron was speaking in Edinburgh after draft clauses that will form the basis of new laws devolving more powers to Holyrood were published by the UK Government.

Along with the other main Westminster leaders, he had pledged to deliver new powers to the Scottish Parliament if Scots rejected independence in last year's referendum.

A total of 44 draft clauses, which will underpin new legislation, have now been published.

He said: "What we are publishing today is the best of both worlds.

"Our vow kept, Scotland's place in the United Kingdom strengthened, the Scottish Parliament more powerful, responsible and accountable to its people, and powers that are built to last, securing our united future.''

The Westminster parties have already pledged to take forward the legislation after the general election.

"Be in no doubt, whoever forms the UK government after May 7, these new powers are guaranteed,'' the Prime Minister said.

"The Scottish Parliament will have more control over tax and spending, making it one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.

"The Scottish Parliament will combine the freedom to decide what happens in Scotland's schools, hospitals, surgeries, police stations, with the responsibility of determining how around 60% of public money in Scotland is spent.

"A strong Scotland with its own identity and its own powers, all within the safety and the security of our United Kingdom.

"Scotland spoke, we listened, and now here we are delivering.''

Ms Sturgeon, who met the Prime Minister at Holyrood earlier in the day, said welfare provisions set out in the draft clauses will not allow the Scottish Parliament to create new benefit entitlements in devolved areas, and would also mean UK ministers would need to give their approval to any changes to the Universal Credit, including the so-called "bedroom tax''.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Throughout this process, I have been clear that, despite it falling short of the real home rule powers we need to create jobs and tackle inequality, the Scottish Government would be a constructive participant, working with the UK Government to bring forward what Lord Smith recommended.

"The legislation published today does not represent the views of the Scottish Government, but it does represent some progress.''

But she added: "Too much of what the Prime Minister has set out imposes restrictions on the recommended devolved powers and would hand a veto to UK ministers in key areas.''