Overview of the Bill
1 The Scotland Bill will deliver the Smith Commission Agreement, which was published in November 2014 having gained all-party agreement in Scotland.
2 The Bill is an enabling Bill and the majority of the provisions in the Bill set out the powers that are being transferred to the Scottish Parliament and or the Scottish Ministers. In particular the Scotland Bill amends sections of the Scotland Act 1998 and rebalances the devolved and reserved responsibilities between the administrations. The Bill also includes provisions which set out the constitutional relationship of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government within the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements. It does not amend this relationship.
3 In summary the Bill:
· declares that a Scottish Parliament and a Scottish Government are considered permanent parts of the UK’s constitutional arrangements, and that the UK Parliament will not normally legislate in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, whilst retaining the sovereignty to do so;
· gives increased autonomy to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Ministers in relation to the operation of Scottish Parliament and local government elections in Scotland;
· gives increased autonomy to the Scottish Parliament in relation to the power to amend sections of the Scotland Act 1998 which relate to the operation of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government within the United Kingdom;
· increases the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament through devolution of the rates and bands of income tax, Air Passenger Duty and the Aggregates Levy, and assignment of VAT revenues;
· increases responsibility of welfare policy and delivery in Scotland through the devolution of welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament and / or the Scottish Ministers;
· gives significant responsibility to Scotland for areas such as road signs, speed limits, onshore oil and gas extraction, consumer advocacy and advice amongst others by devolution of powers in relation to these fields to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Ministers; and
· increases scrutiny for the Scottish Government of specific bodies and increases the ability of the Scottish Government to design schemes relating to energy efficiency and fuel poverty by the devolution of functions to the Scottish Ministers.
4 The Smith Commission Agreement increases the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament. A new fiscal framework will be agreed for Scotland to accompany the further powers included in this Bill, in order to set and coordinate sustainable fiscal policy for the UK as a whole. This will give the Scottish Government the tools to manage the powers in this Bill while ensuring consistency with the fiscal framework in the rest of the UK. It is intended that that framework will be negotiated in parallel to the passage of this Bill.