On 21 March, I tabled a written ministerial statement to confirm that agreement had been reached with the Scottish Government on the Scotland Bill. The Scottish Government have tabled a legislative consent memorandum recommending that the Scottish Parliament support the Bill, and Members of the Scottish Parliament will vote later today.
The new Scotland Bill will pass significant powers to the Scottish Parliament, including those relating to tax. Among the representations that the Secretary of State has received, has there been a request from the First Minister to work jointly with him to highlight and promote those new powers, to show that we can maximise devolution while maintaining the integrity and strength of the partnership of the United Kingdom?
The right hon. Lady will not be surprised to hear that I have not received a representation on that particular subject. I agree with her that the Scotland Bill is a significant piece of legislation; it represents the most significant transfer of financial powers from London to Edinburgh since 1707. After the agreement on the legislative consent memorandum and, I hope, their lordships’ approval of the Bill’s Third Reading, we must quickly get on with its implementation in the right way, to show that devolution works, and works well for Scotland.
The Scottish Government and the majority of Members of the Scottish Parliament believe that the Scotland Bill could have been significantly improved, through the inclusion of job-creating powers among others, but that has not happened. Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to confirm that the UK Government have agreed to safeguards ensuring that the Scottish Parliament will need to be satisfied that funding arrangements will not be detrimental?
I have a very different view of the future of Scotland from that of the right hon. Gentleman; I want to see Scotland continue to be a strong part of the United Kingdom. On his specific question, I am pleased that the Scottish Government have now accepted the Scotland Bill. We have worked carefully together to ensure that we have the right measures in place to implement it carefully for all the people of Scotland.
Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that, in the wake of the historic Scottish National party victory last year, every single political party is now miraculously in favour of more powers being devolved than are currently contained in the Scotland Bill? Which further powers does he want to see being exercised in Scotland?
Once again, we are seeing fantastic diversionary tactics from the right hon. Gentleman. He never talks about independence. Why not? Because his party cannot answer the fundamental questions about it. I am delighted that he wants to work with us, and I can tell him that devolution has always worked on the basis that we promote ideas, reach consensus and implement them. The debate on devolution will continue, but we must resolve the issue of independence. Why does he not want to get on with that debate?