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Referendum Outcome (Government Policy)

Volume 586: debated on Wednesday 15 October 2014

2. What assessment he has made of the implications for Government policy of the outcome of the referendum on independence for Scotland. (905359)

3. What assessment he has made of the implications for Government policy of the outcome of the referendum on independence for Scotland. (905360)

7. What assessment he has made of the implications for Government policy of the outcome of the referendum on independence for Scotland. (905364)

8. What assessment he has made of the implications for Government policy of the outcome of the referendum on independence for Scotland. (905365)

I wish to echo the words of the hon. Member for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran), the shadow Secretary of State, about the sad passing of Angus Macleod. He was a true highland gentleman and a thorough professional, and our political and public life in Scotland will be much the poorer without him.

The referendum result ensures that Scotland remains part of our United Kingdom. I welcome the fact that all parties have chosen to participate in cross-party talks chaired by Lord Smith to deliver further devolution. On Monday, the Government published a Command Paper. Following receipt of Lord Smith’s report, we will publish draft clauses before Burns night.

I, too, welcome the convincing outcome of the Scottish referendum.

Does the Secretary of State agree that in transferring further powers to the Scottish Parliament, we should have commensurate changes for England, and English votes for English laws?

This matter was dealt with at length yesterday in the House. I have always been of the view that completing the job of devolution will unlock the door to further constitutional reform across the United Kingdom. I caution the hon. Gentleman, however, that in seeking to devolve within Parliament without devolving within the Executive, we could be replacing one messy system with another.

I call on the Government to stop the clock on decisions on fracking for ethane in Scotland under the present reserved powers for the UK. It is quite clear that the matter should now lie with the Scottish people in the Scottish Parliament. I am calling for that to be devolved as a policy response to the referendum decision.

I look forward to reading the hon. Gentleman’s full submission, making that case, to Lord Smith’s commission. The hon. Gentleman will be mindful, however, that significant powers have already been given to the Scottish Parliament and Government through control of planning law, which would have a significant effect on the issue that he raises.

In June, the Prime Minister signed a joint statement with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, committing himself to “full representation” for Scotland in the House of Commons. Did the Prime Minister’s commitment extend only to the first UKIP win?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister remains committed to the level of Scottish representation on which he had previously given an undertaking.

In light of the high level of public engagement in the referendum—97% registered to vote, 85% voted, and there was an electrified public debate that debunked the view that people are not interested in politics, particularly in the future of the UK—will the Secretary of State confirm that the Smith commission will engage not only with all parties but fully with the public across the UK before putting forward its recommendations?

I can certainly confirm that. That has been hard-wired into the remit that the Government gave to Lord Smith to undertake his work. It is a very important part of how, over the years, we have built consensus in Scotland about constitutional change. This is too important to be left to the political parties. We must have—I am confident that we will—the voice of business, trade unions, churches and wider civic Scotland.

The UK Government’s devolution policy was outlined in this week’s published Command Paper, which sought to devolve, in a number of ways, about a third of Scotland’s revenue base or less than half of the funding requirements of the Scottish Parliament. Given that this is not the unprecedented devolution of major powers promised by the Prime Minister, will the Secretary of State confirm that the Smith commission will not be restricted in any way by the contents of the Command Paper?

If I may correct the hon. Gentleman, the purpose of the Command Paper was to bring together and to outline the proposals of the three parties. It is not a statement of Government policy. As I said when I launched the paper in a statement on Monday—I cannot remember whether the hon. Gentleman was here or not; I suspect not—it is clear that the publication and the content of the Command Paper are without prejudice and do not seek to limit or prescribe in any way the work that we have given to Lord Smith to undertake.

When the Secretary of State goes to the population summit in Dunoon, will he remind the Scottish Government that devolution should be not just from Westminster to Holyrood, but from Holyrood to local communities in Scotland? Will he tell the SNP Government that they should reverse policies such as centralising the police and fire services and closing local courts, which are taking people and jobs away from rural Scotland and into the central belt?

I am very much looking forward to joining my hon. Friend, leaders of his local council and Ministers from the Scottish Government in Dunoon. What he says is very much the message that Ministers from the Scottish Government will hear. It is a message that they get throughout the highlands and islands. Seven years of SNP Government in Edinburgh have given Scotland the most centralised system of government in western Europe. That has got to change.

As the Secretary of State knows, extensive new powers for Scotland are being proposed by the Smith commission. As he also knows, a number of substantial changes to income tax in Scotland have already been legislated for by this Parliament. A document that I have obtained from the UK Government indicates a number of risks to implementation—notably, that of a decision from the Scottish Government being delayed around the time of a referendum. Will the Secretary of State update us on any delays that are taking place and on what plans he has to begin to communicate with taxpayers in Scotland about imminent changes to the income tax proposals?

I do not know the document to which the hon. Lady refers. If she sends it to me, I will be more than happy to consider it, if I have not already seen it. I can tell her that discussions between Treasury Ministers and Ministers of the Scottish Government about the fine details of the transfer of income tax powers are ongoing. Once those are nailed down, a joint effort by both Governments to communicate what it will mean to Scotland’s taxpayers will obviously be of prime importance.