7. Further powers
"including a range of recommendations around tax powers, to negotiate own trade agreements and control immigration law, as well as other recommendations that do not explicitly reference constitutional change but which have constitutional implications, for example, around green tax breaks, reducing the pension age and around employment laws"
'Doing Politics Differently'
Summary of recommendations
Recommendations 50 – 54 are themed as 'Further powers'. These recommendations are all concerned with areas of policy which are at present fully or partly reserved to the UK Government but which the Citizens' Assembly recommends should be devolved to the Scottish Government and Parliament. These policy areas include: taxation; trade and industry; employment; and immigration.
The Scottish Government has published a range of proposals for further devolution of responsibilities to Scotland. Most recently, following the vote to leave the EU in 2016, the Scottish Government produced proposals to mitigate the effects of withdrawal for both Scotland and the UK as a whole, including the enhanced powers needed for the Scottish Parliament to balance the UK Government's assertions of Westminster sovereignty.
However, the approach of the UK Government since 2016 has been to constrain and undermine, rather than enhance, the responsibilities of the devolved institutions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish Government does not believe the UK Government is likely to engage in discussions on the proposals made by Citizens' Assembly for further devolution, however well-reasoned or well supported these may be. The Scottish Government will, nonetheless, press the case for further devolution with the UK Government and encourage public debate on these proposals.
On tax (recommendations 50 and 52), The Scottish Government has published proposals for devolution of further tax powers to the Scottish Parliament, including taxes such as National Insurance (employers and employees contributions) and corporation tax. Further devolution of powers for green taxes could help change behaviour supporting the transition to a net zero economy. Most recently, the Scottish Government proposed to the UK Government that the current review of the arrangements for financing devolved government in Scotland (the "fiscal framework") considered these issues. However, there seems little realistic prospect of the current UK Government agreeing to the devolution of further tax powers to Scotland.
On a four day week (recommendation 51), the Scottish Government has long supported the devolution of employment law to the Scottish Parliament, especially as EU exit has now removed important safeguards from workers. Within current devolved powers, the government will establish a £10 million pilot fund to support companies explore the benefits of a 4-day working week.
On international trade negotiations (recommendation 53), the government has again published detailed proposals for a greater involvement for Scotland in negotiating international trade deals. Within the current devolution settlement, the government has set out its ambitions for Scotland as a trading nation and plans to enhance Scotland's economy and international competitiveness. The Vision for Trade will ensure decisions related to trade are aligned with the government's values and that trade supports the economic recovery. The Inward Investment Plan is focused on attracting sustainable values-led investment that matches ambitions for Scotland, helping achieve a Net Zero, Fair Work, and Wellbeing Economy.
Immigration (recommendation 54) has long been a priority for further devolution to Scotland, especially following the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Again there seems no prospect of the current UK Government considering the detailed proposals that have been published, nor engaging with the differing circumstances and needs for migration in Scotland. Within current powers, the government will build on the Stay in Scotland campaign, providing advice and support to EU citizens, and develop a Migration Service for Scotland to support those who have chosen to make Scotland their home. The government has also committed to refresh and expand the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy and to help support local authorities to accommodate unaccompanied asylum seeking children arriving in Scotland.
The Assembly's recommendations on further powers have identified areas that the Scottish Government also considers the highest priority for enhancing the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament within the UK: tax, employment, migration and international trade. The government believes that withdrawal from the EU has made the argument for these powers stronger and more urgent, and the recommendations of the Assembly reinforce this view.
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