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Smith Commission Report Outlines Positive Progress

NFU Scotland has broadly welcomed the recommendations for further devolved powers for Scotland as unveiled by Lord Smith of Kelvin this morning (27 November)

NFU Scotland submitted evidence to the Smith Commission following a wide-ranging, yet fast-paced, consultation with members in late October.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller, who attended the launch of the Smith Commission report this morning (27 November) said:

 “It is impressive that, working within very short timescales, the Smith Commission has delivered such a far-reaching list of recommendations on devolution, the scope of which cover amongst other things taxation, welfare, transport and representation.  

“It is clear that all political parties have moved to make this happen. The agreement is in the centre ground of the debate and will bridge the aspirations of both those that voted yes and those that voted no.  In doing so, there will be some on both sides of the divide who will feel frustrated at that compromise.

“A key element of the Union’s submission, which looks to have been adopted, is the recognition that there must be better transparency, communication and governance between Westminster and the devolved parts of the UK.  It advises a new arrangement between the Scottish and UK Governments to lay out plans for additional sub-committees within the strengthened Joint Ministerial Committee structure to look at issues including agriculture and rural policy.

“Particularly interesting is the point made that views of other devolved nations need to be reflected when drawing up any revised governance arrangements in relation to Scottish Government representation of the UK in the EU.

“The report goes into some detail about how this might be achieved; by ensuring Scottish Ministers are fully involved in agreeing the UK position in EU negotiations relating to devolved policy matters and that their views are taken into account; and by presuming that a devolved administration Minister can speak on behalf of the UK at a meeting of the Council of Ministers where the devolved administration Minister holds the predominant policy interest across the UK.  If implemented this could be a big win for Scotland in future negotiations and reflects the strongly held position of NFUS.

“When consulting with our members, many believed that meaningful tax raising powers were now essential for Scotland to meet post-referendum aspirations. However, it was important that the measures should be transparent to the electorate and not distort the single market or create competition issues. Today’s proposals appear to fit with that vision.

“Many of our members also supported any increase in Scottish tax powers being underpinned by a UK contribution that remains based on the Barnett formula. It was felt that retaining a link to the formula would provide a level of stability and through the Barnett dividend it could help support the higher levels of spending required in Scotland’s peripheral and Island areas.

“The report also interestingly suggests that the UK Government should seek, with respect to food labelling, to agree changes to the European country of origin rules so that a ‘made in Scotland’ brand is recognised under EU law.

“And on the problematic area of agricultural levies, the report advises that the UK Government explore whether to revise the current legal and practical arrangements in respect of levy raising to ensure that Scotland can decide whether to opt into UK arrangements and, if so, receives an equitable share of any UK monies levied. Clearly, this will merit further discussion.

“With regard to the Crown Estate, the report advises full devolution of responsibility for the management of the Crown Estate’s economic assets in Scotland and the revenue generated from these assets transferred to the Scottish Parliament – including the Crown Estate’s seabed, urban assets, rural estates, mineral and fishing rights, and the Scottish foreshore for which it is responsible. NFU Scotland will seek further detail on what the implications of this transfer may be for those tenants on Crown Estate farm land.  During our consultation process, some Crown Estate tenants had expressed concern at possible change and what that may mean for Crown Estate’s commitment to the community and its ability to invest in its farms.

“It is accepted that not all the Smith Commission recommendations can be delivered ahead of the General Election and the discussion on Scotland’s future will continue into the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary election.  However, this is a fast-paced start to the process and the momentum from a standing start is impressive.”

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 180/14


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