Salmond reveals last legislation programme before independence vote

3 Sep 13
First Minister Alex Salmond has today unveiled his final legislative programme ahead of next year’s independence referendum.

By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 3 September 2013

First Minister Alex Salmond has today unveiled his final legislative programme ahead of next year’s independence referendum.

Key elements in the 13-bill programme include a Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill to give local people a right to take ownership of public land and buildings and affording them a bigger say on local service delivery.

Proposals to end the council house right-to-buy scheme, and the creation of an arms-length statutory body to take charge of new fiscal powers coming to Scotland under the 2012 Scotland Act, are also included in the programme.

The Scottish Government’s Scottish Welfare Fund, which is spending £33m this year to support vulnerable families, will be put on a statutory basis – one of a number of measures, Salmond said, taken to mitigate the UK coalition’s welfare cuts.

Other measures in Salmond’s seventh programme since taking office in 2007 include measures to end the need for corroboration in some criminal trials, and moves to restrict lap-dancing and strip clubs. Tighter controls over air guns are also plans, and Scotland’s own food standards authority will be established to take the place of the UK agency.

Bills to legalise same-sex marriage and to end automatic early release of certain categories of prisoner are among several that have begun their parliamentary process, and which ministers are now looking to see safely into law.

The new tax authority, Revenue Scotland, already exists in shell form as a department of the Scottish Government, but legislation will formalise it as a stand-alone statutory body, responsible for collecting a new property tax, which replaces stamp duty, and a Scottish landfill tax.

The major fiscal power devolved by the Scotland Act, Holyrood’s right from 2016 to set a Scottish level for basic rate Income Tax above 10p, will continue to be administered by Revenue & Customs – unless Scotland votes next year for independence.

Salmond went to some length to detail, not just the coming programme, but the Scottish Parliament’s past achievements, such as free higher education and NHS prescriptions, and to range them against Westminster austerity measures, like the bedroom tax.

The contrast and the choice facing the Scottish people next year could not be clearer,’ he claimed.

‘One thing which the record of this Parliament shows – which we should all agree on – is that it is better to decide things for ourselves than to have others decide for us,’ Salmond said. ‘In my view the logic of that, completing the powers of the Parliament: that is independence. And that is what people will vote for in 380 days’ time.’

But Labour’s Johann Lamont called it ‘an unambitious, lacklustre and moribund programme’ which showed that the Scottish National Party was putting Scotland ‘on pause’ to concentrate on its own independence agenda. ‘We no longer have a government – we have a campaign,’ she claimed.


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