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Devolution and Local Government

Volume 605: debated on Wednesday 10 February 2016

7. What recent discussions he has had with Ministers of the Scottish Government on the effect of devolution on the powers and autonomy of Scottish local government; and if he will make a statement. (903491)

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity to read my speech of 21 December, in which I set out that I fully support the devolution of power from Holyrood to local communities, as Lord Smith recommended in his commission agreement. This is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament to implement, and I encourage them to do so.

Will the Secretary of State condemn those who use devolution to centralise power in Holyrood—whether it is the centralisation of the police, the fire service, health spending, local government spending, courts, colleges and enterprise companies? Will he ensure that he stands together with those who feel that devolution does not stop at Holyrood, but goes down to the Scottish local authorities and to the Scottish people?

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I can tell him the best way to achieve it, which is, under Ruth Davidson, to elect more Scottish Conservative MSPs to the Scottish Parliament.

In the interests of the record, can the Secretary of State confirm that, under the powers that are being devolved as part of the current Scotland Bill, the Scottish Government will be able to vary rates and bands of the Scottish rate of income tax—[Interruption.]

Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman. The Secretary of State and the Minister could not hear the question because of a rude eruption of noise. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can ask his question again, and perhaps Members will have the common courtesy to allow him to be heard by their own Ministers.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. We are getting used to interruptions. In the interests of the record, can the Secretary of State confirm that, under the powers that are being devolved as part of the Scotland Bill, the Scottish Government will be able to vary rates and bands of the Scottish rate of income tax, allowing the Scottish Government to make progressive choices on these additional powers, and that the half-baked Labour plan to raise Scottish income tax for everyone before these additional powers are transferred—

Order. Members need to learn the merits of the blue pencil. If they used the blue pencil and questions were shorter, they would benefit.

The Scottish Parliament will indeed take on those very significant tax powers, which it will be able to use as it sees fit. I hope it will use them to make Scotland a more attractive place for business and commerce and to grow the Scottish economy and the Scottish population.