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Union Response to Smith Commission Submitted

Fast-paced consultation with members forms final submission

NFU Scotland has submitted its final response to the Smith Commission following a wide-ranging, yet fast-paced, consultation with members over the last three weeks.

Following the ‘No’ vote in the referendum on Scottish independence on 18 September, the UK government appointed Lord Smith of Kelvin to chair a commission that will oversee the devolution of further powers to Scotland.

The Union has concluded that whilst the majority of members believe that devolution has been good for Scotland and positive for Scottish agriculture, a hard, fast handover of powers to Scotland must not be done in haste and without proper analysis and consideration of financial implications. Delivering a sustainable settlement for the short term is a key priority, but perhaps would best be secured for the long term if there was to be a level of political symmetry in other parts of these islands.

NFU Scotland’s response is the product of round-the-table discussions held with members in each of the union’s regions in the past fortnight. Members were also invited to submit written responses to NFU Scotland.

NFU Scotland Parliamentary Officer, Clare Slipper commented: “It is understood that, with very short timescales, the proposals brought forward by the Smith Commission will be the result of intense negotiation between Scotland’s political parties, and will be limited by the pressures of delivering legislation in time for January 2015.

“It is accepted that the Smith Commission cannot deliver complete reform prior to the next Westminster election: therefore, NFUS’ approach to the consultation process has been to base discussions within a wider vision for Scotland’s future constitutional arrangements.

“We anticipate that the discussion on Scotland’s future will continue far beyond the scope of the Smith Commission into the 2015 General Election and 2016 Scottish Parliamentary election, and the following response is wider in ambition as a consequence of these considerations.

“Devolution is likely to be an evolving process.  However, aspirations will only be met if key milestones or targets are clearly agreed. Solid anchor points to basic UK functions including defence, foreign affairs and currency should be defined to sit alongside a commitment to shared basic regulation and enforcement.

“Members are as one in seeking well-defined transparent UK policy development and representation at EU and International level

“Members believe there is value in a wide range of powers being devolved to Holyrood although Scotland’s competitive status must be kept stable by tax varying powers being kept to within bands agreed with UK partners.

“For some, a federal structure is seen as an end point however the 50:50 solution outlined within the Smith Commission consultation, which would see Scottish spending supported by an equal split between Scottish tax raising powers and a UK contribution based on the Barnet formula has attractions. The formula would provide a level of stability and through the Barnet dividend it could help support the higher levels of spending required in Scotland’s peripheral and Island areas.

“However, constitutional arrangements of this complexity are a long way off, and in the immediate future we look ahead to the final proposals that will be brought forward by Lord Smith’s Commission as a first step in the journey.

“Thank you to all those who took the time to attend meetings and have input into this submission over recent weeks.  We hope it will help to contribute towards a stronger future for the agricultural and food industries in Scotland.”

Note to Editors

  • A copy of NFU Scotland’s submission is available by contacting media@nfus.org.uk, or calling 0131 472 4006 or 0131 472 4108.

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 170/14


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