Opinion: The Smith Commission

The Smith Commission has a lot of different parts to it, and taking each part in detail would take a long time to de construct. This article will take in a few of the main points from each section of the report.

The Smith Commission was intended to be the reward from Westminster after Scotland voted No in September, a compromise between parties – where some lost out and some gained.

Reading through the Commission Report, and working through the convoluted language, to work out what new powers Scotland has been given was tedious.

At the beginning of the Report, something interesting appears:

It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland from becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose. – Lord Smith of  Kelvin

Lord Smith of Kelvin - Commission Leader
Lord Smith of Kelvin – Commission Leader

This is a key move, and interesting in its own way. It establishes that the referendum campaign isn’t over – some where during these talks that topic has been established and was clearly a non compromise. It isn’t attributed to anyone, but it reflects the mood of pro-independence campaigners, who saw the No vote as only the beginning.

 

Smith Commission Party Representatives

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Essential the report was separated into 3 Pillars;

Pillar 1: “Providing durable but responsible constitutional settlement for the governance of Scotland”

Pillar 2: “Delivering Prosperity, a healthy economy, jobs and social justice.”

Pillar 3: “Strengthening the financial responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.”

Pillar 1

Pillar 1,  primarily, is about giving 16-17 year olds the ability to vote in Scottish Elections – specifically before the elections in 2016. This is a clear move by pro-independence parties, who saw a surge of involvement from this age group in the run up to the independence referendum. It makes sense, the age group became politically engaged and giving them that power permanently helps the SNP and other pro-independence parties. It separates them from Westminster, allows them to connect to the Youth that largely feel ignored from politics and specifically by Westminster. It could also potentially help the SNP gain a scathing majority in the next Parliamentary elections.

Pillar 2

The second Pillar maintained that State Pensions will remain in Westminster control, but that was something that wouldn’t be transferred into Scottish hands. Primarily the main gain in this section gave the Scottish Government control of benefits for carers, the disabled and those who are ill -e.g. Carers Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance – and other kinds of benefits – e.g. Winter Fuel Payment. Not only this but the Scottish Government will be given the power to create new types of benefits in areas that are devolved. This is a move that will help parties in power establish more independence from Westminster – and hopefully – counteract some of the austerity moves currently being put in place by the Westminster government. The Scottish Government has a history of using some of their funds to work against some of the legislation put in place  by Westminster – such as the Bedroom Tax.

One of the key disappointments in this area is that the Minimum Wage will remain a reserved power, there have been a lot of moves to establish a Living Wage, and without this power there is little that the Scottish Government can do to raise the amount.

Pillar 3

The third section is all about Tax powers – tax, tax, tax. The big one. A lot of it is explaining what remains reserved: National Insurance, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Corporations Tax, taxation on oil and gas receipts. There is a bit of a win here, Scotland gets to set it its own Income Tax rates- and gets to keep the profits, but this means adapting the amount Scotland gets through the Block Grant. It does have various restrictions, an obviously isn’t the amount of power some of the parties -SNP, Greens – wanted, but it does give them more than they had before. The whole commission was essential a swathe of compromises.

This agreement is, in itself, an unprecedented achievement. It meant compromise from all of the parties. – Lord Smith of Kelvin

This is clear, there are parts that benefit each party and a lot of power still remains in Westminster hands. What do you think of the Smith Commission? Will the powers outlined in it make a difference to Scotland, or is it all fluff and leaves us no better off than before?

Let us know in the comments below, and take our poll too!

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