How Did We Do in 2015

“Despite losing the 2014 Referendum the SNP was on a winning streak that would soon be described as unprecedented, including the immense popularity of its new leader Nicola Sturgeon, a surge in membership that made it the third largest party in the UK and the near wipe-out of Scottish Labour as it seized 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats at Westminster in the general election in May 2015.”   The Guardian.

Kevin Pringle was the SNP director of communications at the time of the referendum and the lead up to the General Election.   Read his take on 2015 in this article in the Guardian.

Iain Lawson,  long term SNP member and past National Executive member gives an excellent blog on his view of 2015 and his optimism for 2016 on the Flag In the Wind website.     He also gives advice on how we should be contacting our membership to get geared up for the Holyrood elections.

Here’s a reminder of the year: –

2016 – A Year of Ambition

The First Minister has resolved to make 2016 a “year of optimism and ambition” as she set out enterprise and innovative public services as priorities.

Nicola Sturgeon used her New Year message to hail Scotland’s “can-do culture” as opposition leaders focused their attention on next year’s Holyrood elections.  Read more in the Herald.

Happy New Year to all our members and we look forward to winning the Holyrood election in May 2016.    If you want to get involved in the campaign contact our Organiser.Its good fun and you will meet some like minded folks and have a laugh into the bargain.

31 December 2015.

Land Reform

If you do not know too much about the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill and how long it has taken to get this far please read the article in Common Space where it summarises its progress from 1999 to the current day.

Land Reform Review Group

The Land Reform Review Group was set up by Scottish Ministers in 2012 and their final report issued in 2014 can be viewed here.

Land Reform (Scotland) Bill

The content, scheduling and Parliamentary Committee involved in the consultation of the Land Reform Bill can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.

Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee

This Committee is the Scottish Parliament body responsible for reviewing the BillRural affairs committee through its various stages.    The next stages of the progress of the Bill early in 2016 can be viewed here.

 

The Government’s Land Reform Policy was voted down at the SNP Autumn Conference in 2015.    The National reported with the header of “Victory for Our Land campaign and members as land reform motion is rejected.”

SNP member, Nicky Lowden MacCrimmon, who urged the conference to reject the motion, asked delegates: “Does radical land reform leave 750,000 acres of land in offshore tax havens?  “Does radical land reform leave tenant farmers with no right to buy? “I don’t think as a party we are being as radical as we can be, as we have the powers to be on land reform.”  “When you have radical land reform then we’ll sign up to it,” he said.

Here is an interesting article in the Ecologist which gives a balanced view which highlights the positives but also outlines what still needs to be done to make the Bill fit for purpose.

 

December 2015.

Westminster’s Trade Union Bill

Nicola Sturgeon taking Scotlands view of the Trade Union Bill to Downing Street    Read more in The Herald.

The Scottish government is calling on MSPs to block Westminster’s trade union bill, as ministers step up their campaign against what it describes as the biggest crackdown on workers’ rights for 30 years.

The Bill includes plans to criminalise picketing, permit employers to hire strike-breaking agency staff and restrict the flow of union funds to the Labour party.

The Scottish cabinet secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training, Roseanna Cunningham, said there was a clear case for Scotland to be removed from the bill.

“There is little or no evidence to support its proposals and the UK government has made no attempt to consider the bill impacts in Scotland and in particular on our public services. Our requests to be excluded from the bill have also been ignored.”

“Key stakeholders including NHS Scotland and many local authorities have made their opposition very clear and I am deeply concerned over the wider impact of the bill on all Scotland’s devolved public authorities.

“There is a clear case for Scotland to be removed from the bill or, at the very least, for the regulation-making powers to be confirmed as within the devolved competence of Scottish ministers.

Read more.

The Vow, The Smith Commission and The Scotland Bill 2015

vowWe are agreed that:   The Scottish Parliament is permanent and extensive new powers for the Parliament will be delivered by the process and to the timetable agreed and announced by our three parties, starting on 19th September 2014.  We agree that the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably across all four nations to secure the defence, prosperity and welfare of every citizen.  Because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources, and the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenue, we can state categorically that the final say on how much is spent on the NHS will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament

Smith CommissionThe Smith Commission

What were the key recommendations set out by the Smith commission in November 2014?

 

The Scottish Parliament is to have:

  • UK legislation to state that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government are permanent institutions. The parliament will also be given powers to legislate over how it is elected and run.
  • the complete power to set income tax rates and bands.
  • to receive a proportion of the VAT raised in Scotland, amounting to the first ten percentage points of the standard rate (so with the current standard VAT rate of 20%, Scotland would receive 50% of the receipts). However, the Scottish Parliament would not have power to influence the UK’s overall VAT rate.
  • increased borrowing powers to support capital investment and ensure budgetary stability. These powers are to be agreed with the UK government.
  • to have power to extend the vote to 16 and 17year-olds, allowing them to vote in the Scottish Parliament general election, 2016.
  • to have control over a number of benefits including Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, winter fuel payments and the housing elements of Universal Credit, including the under-occupancy charge (popularly known as ”the bedroom tax”).
  • to have new powers to make discretionary payments in any area of welfare without the need to obtain prior permission from the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • to have all powers of support for unemployed people through employment programmes, mainly delivered at present through the Work Programme.
  • to have control over Air Passenger Duty charged on passengers flying from Scottish airports.
  • responsibility for the management of the Crown Estate’s economic assets in Scotland, including the Crown Estate’s seabed and mineral and fishing rights, and the revenue generated from these assets, to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.
  • the licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction underlying Scotland to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
  • have power to allow public sector operators to bid for rail franchises funded and specified by Scottish ministers.
  • The block grant from the UK government to Scotland will continue to be determined via the operation of the Barnett formula. New rules to define how it will be adjusted at the point when powers are transferred and thereafter to be agreed by the Scottish and UK governments and put in place prior to the powers coming into force. These rules will ensure that neither the Scottish nor UK governments will lose or gain financially from the act of transferring a power.
  • MPs representing constituencies across the whole of the UK to continue to decide the UK’s budget, including income tax.
  • The Scottish and UK governments to draw up and agree on a memorandum of understanding to ensure that devolution is not detrimental to UK-wide critical national infrastructure in relation to matters such as defence and security, oil and gas and energy.

The Scotland Bill 2015

What is included in the Bill (at Commons stage) and does it meet the recommendations of the Smith Commission.

  • The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are a permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements and it is recognised tickthat the Parliament of the United Kingdom will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.
  • A tax charged on the carriage of passengers by air from airports in Scotland is a devolved tax.tick
  • Tax on the exploitation of aggregates is a devolved tax.
  • Additional income tax, above the UK  base rate, is devolved as is the income tax rates and bands.
  • Employment support through work programmes similar to UK Work Programme.
  • First 10% of Scottish VAT receipts devolved.
  • Disability, industrial injuries and carer’s benefits are devolved.
  • Social Security remains reserved for Westminster.   Not devolved are Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit cross-1and Universal Credit.
  • Top ups of reserved benefits (Housing, Tax Credits, Welfare Foods, Winter Fuel) are devolved but not where sanctions have been imposed by DWP.
  • Creation of new benefits is devolved but must come out of the Scottish Consolidated Fund and must be agreed by Westminster if cross-1these benefits stray into reserved areas i.e. Social Security, Pensions.
  • Award of Onshore Petroleum licencing devolved but not the licence fee.
  • Crown Estate management and revenue is devolved but not where assets are in a limited partnership agreement.

There are a number of other devolved areas and you can read the Explanatory Notes to the Bill here.

The Bill is currently going through the House of Lords where various amendments are being discussed.   The major change is the additional clause introduced by Lord Foulkes stating a second tier of government in Scotland is required via a Senate.

We await the final bill, the agreed fiscal framework and whether the Scottish Government accepts the Bill in its amended form.

Dec. 2015

 

Scottish House of Lords?

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (aka George Foulkes, Labour) and Baroness Suttie (aka Alison Suttie, Liberal Democrat) are suggesting the following new clause be inserted into the Scotland Bill.

Scottish Senate

(1)     There shall be a Scottish Senate which shall be the second chamber of the
Scottish Parliament.

(2)     The Scottish Senate shall consist of 46 members, to be elected using the
Single Transferable Vote system in each region of Scotland, in elections to
be held on the same day as the elections for the Scottish Parliament.

(3)     Each electoral region shall return the following number of Members—

(a)   Central Region: 5 members
(b)   Glasgow: 6 members
(c)   Highlands and Islands: 4 members
(d)   Lothian: 7 members
(e)   Mid Scotland & Fife: 5 members
(f)   North East Scotland: 7 members
(g)   South of Scotland: 6 members
(h)   West of Scotland: 6 members.

(4)     The Boundary Commission for Scotland must keep under review the
regions and the number of Members to be returned for each region, and if
appropriate make a report to the Secretary of State recommending changes.

(5)     Any reports by the Boundary Commission for Scotland under subsection
(4) are subject to the requirements, and to the provision for the
implementation of recommendations by Order in Council, contained in
Schedule 1 to the Scotland Act 1998.

(6)     The proceedings of the Scottish Senate shall be regulated by Standing
Orders agreed by the Senate.

(7)     Standing Orders agreed by the Senate shall include provision for the Senate
to—

(a)   undertake pre-legislative scrutiny of proposed Bills;

(b)   consider and propose amendments to legislation agreed by the
Scottish Parliament for future consideration by the Scottish
Parliament before it is submitted for Royal Assent;

(c)   debate and pass resolutions on devolved matters; and

(d)   establish committees with the power to call or require Scottish
Ministers to give evidence on any devolved matter.”

Extract from Scotland Bill Amendments to be Moved in Committee: published
4 December 2015.

Young Carers West Fife

At our recent Branch Meeting, Cllr Kate Stewart made an appeal for little gifts for our Young Carers in the West Fife Villages.   These young people are still at school and deserve a little something for themselves this Christmas.     Please contact Kate for any further information.

By-election Success

Many congratulations to Sharon Wilson and Ian imageFerguson who won the by-imageelections in the Rosyth and Dunfermline North wards.

Mr Ferguson said: My victory is the third SNP success in Dunfermline in 2015. Dunfermline is now undoubtedly an SNP city. The job now is to keep that momentum going.”

Meanwhile, the newly-elected Councillor Wilson said: “I’m proud to succeed Douglas Chapman. I’m delighted to be elected as councillor for Ward 5 and I’ll be vocal in my opposition to austerity.”

Womens Employment in Scotland

Scotland’s Women’s Employment Minister, Annabelle Ewing, is in Brussels to look at how other European countries are addressing female employment issues as Scotland is revealed to have retained the second highest rate in the EU.

Latest figures released by Eurostat, covering the period April to June 2015, show that Scotland’s female employment rate is second only to Sweden, with less than four percentage points separating the countries.

Scotland’s female employment rate for April to June 2015 stood at 70.6 per cent while Sweden’s was 74.0 per cent. The UK rate is ranked in eighth place at 67.4 per cent.

Female Employment Map - April 2015(1)Scotland also recorded the second lowest female unemployment rate among the 28 EU countries at 4.9 per cent. Only Germany recorded better with 4.2 per cent.

Female Unemployment Map - Nov 2015(1)Ms Ewing said: “Once again the Eurostat figures show that Scotland is really among the best in Europe for women’s employment. This is something we can be proud of, but it also means we must look at countries like Sweden and Germany to see what further improvements we can make.

“I am very pleased to have the opportunity to hear about the approach taken elsewhere in Europe to attract and retain women in work. We’ve seen success through the promotion of more flexible working programmes alongside projects dealing directly with employers to ensure family or caring responsibilities are not an insurmountable barrier to work.

“We’ve recognised how effective visible role models are in encouraging more women to believe in themselves and support a range of training through different models and with different partners because we know that this isn’t a situation where one size fits all. We’re constantly reviewing what partnerships are effective in reaching those who face barriers to finding and staying in work and making sure that we are able to share that experience as far as possible.”

During the visit Ms Ewing is also chairing a meeting looking specifically at how encouraging more women to start their own businesses would boost economies. She will outline how the Scotland CAN DO approach has brought together the public, private and third sectors to shape a support network to nurture women-led enterprises.

Nicola Sturgeon will block Scotland Bill unless ……

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised to block the Scotland Bill at Holyrood, unless the UK Treasury agrees a “satisfactory and fair” settlement to underpin the Bill in its protracted talks with Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney.

Anton Muscatelli
Anton Muscatelli

It follows a series of warnings in recent days from what Sturgeon called “credible independent voices” – Glasgow University principal Anton Muscatelli, influential economist Jim Cuthbert, and the leadership of the Scottish Trades Union Congress – that Scotland could be massively disadvantaged unless a fair and enduring deal is agreed.

The Bill, enacting the Smith Report on further devolution, would give the Scottish Government responsibility for income tax and assign it half Scotland’s VAT revenues, in return for a downward adjustment to the Barnett Formula for allocating Scotland’s block grant share of UK spending.

But the talks over what that adjustment should be, and how it should be calculated in future, have become bogged down, missing their initial autumn completion target. Swinney told the CIPFA Scotland conference in March that he would not recommend Holyrood’s required assent to the Bill without a fair fiscal settlement.

In an article for the Herald newspaper, Muscatelli urges Scottish ministers not to settle for more devolution “at any price”, and warns that suggested formulae for recalculating Barnett in years ahead could leave Scotland “hundreds of millions of pounds” out of pocket. The issue of future-proofing the formula is understood to be the key barrier to a settlement.    Read the remainder of the article – click here.

Who is Anton Muscatelli?  Check it out at Wikipedia.