Comment: a missed opportunity for Scotland

07 May 2011..Stewart Maxwell MSP West Scotland / Scottish National Party pictured in the garden lobby during the MSP registration session. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
07 May 2011..Stewart Maxwell MSP West Scotland / Scottish National Party pictured in the garden lobby during the MSP registration session. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

The Smith Commission, led by Lord Smith of Kelvin, was set up to examine what additional powers should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament following a No vote in the independence referendum.

During the referendum campaign, the people of Scotland were promised extensive new powers to help tackle poverty, reduce inequality and create jobs, should they decide to vote against independence.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions following the publication of the Smith Report, the First Minister praised Lord Smith for his work and welcomed the new powers that he recommended to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

The First Minister went on to say that although any strengthening of the Scottish Parliament’s powers is to be welcomed, Lord Smith’s proposals fall short of what many people in Scotland had hoped for.

While the recommendations will see Scotland get control over road signs, around 70% of tax powers and 85% of welfare powers will still be reserved to Westminster.

According to the latest opinion polls 71% of people support control over all tax raised in Scotland, while 75% would like to see Holyrood control all welfare and benefits, and 66% support the full devolution of all powers except defence and foreign affairs.

It’s clear that the people of Scotland want to see the fullest possible transfer of powers to Holyrood to ensure that we can grow the economy and build a fairer and more prosperous country.

It’s disappointing then that the Smith Commission’s proposals fall well short of delivering the ‘powerhouse parliament’ promised to the people of Scotland.

Just weeks ago, we heard that a No vote would herald a modern form of Home Rule for Scotland—as close to a federal state as the UK can be.

If only that were the case. Instead, we have a set of lukewarm proposals that are likely to be watered down even further when they come before Westminster.

It’s no surprise that many civic organisations have spoken out about their disappointment regarding Lord Smith’s report.

The SCVO has said that full powers over the welfare system should be devolved, while the STUC’s call for the Scottish Parliament to have control over the minimum wage was also overlooked.

The Scottish Government has said it will use any new powers granted to Holyrood to better the lives of the people of Scotland.

I can’t help but think that the Smith Commission is a missed opportunity that could have done so much more to change Scotland for the better.