Tag Archives: holyrood

A Brexit Cat amongst the Scottish Parliamentarian Pigeons?

On 28 Feb 2018, the Scottish Government started the procedures for a Scottish EU Withdrawal Bill. A previous post, Holyrood’s Own EU Withdrawal Bill and Why We Need It
 has video coverage of Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit Minister, introducing the Bill.  
 
 

However before the Bill 
proceedings began, the Presiding Officer, Ken Mackintosh, made a 
statement that in his opinion the Bill does not fall within the legal competency of the Parliament. And while the Presiding Officer does have a duty to say if he considers a Bill incompetent he has quite possibly released a Brexit Cat amongst the Scottish Parliamentarian Pigeons. Because of this the Lord Advocate of Scotland came to the Chamber to give his legal opinion. The video is further down this post.
 
Why bring in a Scottish Bill? The gist of why it’s happening comes back to the UKGov’s current failure to alter their own EU Bill at Westminster to safeguard the basis of the devolved governments of Scotland & Wales. (Possibly of Northern Ireland too but unfortunately Stormont has not been sitting since last year when DUP and Sein Fein could not agree to work together.) As it stands, neither Holyrood nor Cardiff are prepared to give their consent to the Westminster Bill. In their view, the Westminster Bill contains a “power grab” taking matters which are currently devolved back into Westminster’s remit. So both places have started the introduction of their own Bills which will bring all current EU Law covering devolved matters over into Scottish and Welsh law respectively. EU Law covering matters currently retained by Westminster will be dealt with under the Westminster Bill. 
 
Why now? Because it’s crucial that EU Law is transferred smoothly to Holyrood when UK leaves EU in March 2019 with no interruption of those Laws. If UKGov does not alter the Westminster Bill to Holyrood and Cardiff’s satisfaction then we run the risk of just such an interruption of legal continuity.. Both the Scottish and Welsh Bills prevent that possibility. But getting a Bill through takes time and if the process doesn’t start now it will be too late. If eventually UKGov alters the Westminster Bill in terms of the power grab section of it, then there will be no need for the Scottish and Welsh Bills and they will be revoked. 
 
Why is the Lord Advocate involved? It’s normal practice to take legal advice before introducing any Bill that Holyrood is competent to deal with it.  It needs to relate to something that is within Holyrood’s remit. The Lord Advocate (LA), James Wolff, was asked and gave his view on this Bill that it is within the legislative competence of Parliament.
 
What’s not normal is for him to come to the Chamber. This is unprecedented. He’s doing it because of the Presiding Officer’s very unexpected declaration. The Bill can still proceed but it is open to legal challenge by anyone so minded. We already know from the day before that Labour, Greens and LibDem MSPs support the bill. That only leaves the Scottish Conservative MSPs whose spokesman, Adam Tompkins, describes it as “unwelcome and unnecessary.” So it’s a fair bet that the Scottish Tories are probably going to be so minded to challenge it. But that’s for another day.
 
The video covers the Lord Advocate giving his considered opinion followed by questions deem MSPs. To make this easier to navigate through here are some times:
 
Lord Advocate’s Statement:
  • 14.11 He lays out the basics of how legal competency is decided. He also confirms that he considers it is with legal competency of the Parliament. 
  • 14.15 Any Bill has to be compatible with EU Law. Presiding Officer has said that this Bill is not so compatible. LA explains why he considers this to be wrong and why the Bill is compatible with EU Law.
  • 14.19 This Bill is modelled on UKGov Bill. If this Bill is not compatible, then neither is the Westminster Bill. 
  • 14.20 Nothing in this Bill comes into effect until we leave the EU. For this reason it is compatible and it is for this reason that the Welsh Presiding Officer has decided that it is compatible with EU and therefore that it falls within the legal competency of the Welsh Assembly

Questions from MSPs:

  • 14.22 to end.
 
 

Holyrood’s Own EU Withdrawal Bill and Why We Need It.

Why are Holyrood and Cardiff introducing EU Withdrawal Bills of their own when Mrs May has one Ring to Rule Them All (except for the DUP) in Westminster? Sorry, I should of course have said she has one Bill for the strongly and steadily united United Kingdom.  I watched the introduction of the Scottish Bill to find out more. After Mike Russell spoke on behalf of the Scottish Government there was a series of responses from party spokespeople and from individuals. The clips shown here are a breakdown of various statements and questions and each clip should play for a few minutes but in case they don’t,  then I’ve given you the start time for that question.
 
Mike Russell (photo from his website) is Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, usually shortened to Brexit Minister. Here he tells MSPs what the Bill is intended to do, why it is necessary, and why it is urgent. (start time 16.17)
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Below: Adam Tompkins of Scottish Tories declares the Scottish Tory opposition to the Bill on the grounds of it being unwelcome and unnecessary and then  asks three specific questions of Mike Russell:
 
 

Below: Neil Findlay pledges Scottish Labour’s support for the Bill and lays the blame squarely on the shoulders on David Mundell and ruth Davidson for the current unsatisfactory situation regarding the UK Bill. He has some concerns regarding the time available to debate it. Don’t know why he apologised for his shambolic keyboard skills! (Start time 16.37)

 

Below: Patrick Harvie pledges the support of Scottish Greens, describes his view that UK Parliament has handled Brexit utterly incompetently and already eyeing up various powers to retain to themselves. He expresses his appreciation that further time for debate has been included, and asks Russell to confirm that any withdrawal of this Bill – assuming that agreement is reached with the Westminster Withdrawal Bill – will be a decision for Parliament and not only for the Scottish Government. Russell confirms that it will be a decision for Parliament. He also informs Patrick Harvie that this Bill reintroduces  the Charter of Fundamental Rights unlike the the Westminster Bill. (Start time 16.42)

 

Below: Joan McAlpine, SNP, asks for some more details about reintroducing the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. (Start time : 16.47)

 

Below: Not sure if Tavish Scott pledges Scottish LibDems support or not but he does deplore the lack of an agreement emerging from talks with Westminster. (Start time : 16.44)

 

Below: Then we get Bruce Crawford’s heartfelt reaffirmation of the  basis of devolution as set up when Holyrood was reestablished in 1998 and his request for a statement that there will be no agreement to any diminution of Holyrood’s powers.  Mike Russell does not hesitate in giving him that assurance. (Start time: 16.49)

 

Below: Mairi Gougeon, SNP, asks how Mike Russell will work with the other devolved administrations to ensure no diminishing of devolved powers. Russell speaks about the identical interests of the Welsh and Scottish Governments and regrets that no Northern Irish voice is now present at the Joint Ministerial talks in the absence of a Stormont Adminstration. (Start time: 16.52)

 

Below: Donald Cameron Scottish Tory asks something. Can’t be bothered to listen again to find out but don’t want to be accused of not including Conservative opinion.  (16.54)

 

Below: Richard Lochhead states his support for the Brexit Secretary but asked him to play close attention to any special Border arrangements that may be made for the Republic of Ireland that could leave Scottish economy at a disadvantage in international trade if we are not also part of that. (16.56)

 

Below: Two questions from SNP members Christine McElvie and Ivan McKee which give Mike Russell a chance to spell out the difference between a UK single market which he says does not exist and a UK uniform market which is what we have at the moment which has different powers in the four UK countries as required. He takes minimum alcohol pricing as an example of how Scotland in some instances diverges from UK and hence needs its own arrangements. Another example would be fracking. (time: 17.00)

 

Below: And finally Alex Neil, SNP, asks for a guarantee that the Scottish Government will fight tooth and nail any challenge by the UK Government to this Bill in the light of the Presiding Officer’s view of its lack of legal constitutional competency. (Start time: 17.03)

Budget Day at Holyrood

Yesterday was Derek Mackay’s big day – presenting the Scottish Government’s proposed Budget for 2018/19. 

Photo credit should read: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA Wire

The Scottish Daily Mail headlined their Front Page with their take on what the budget means for Scots:

Scotland’s working population was 2,604,000 in Jan2017 (UKGov Source). The Mail says that  3/4million of them will be “hit” with paying more tax,

  • that is a bit less than 30 % of the working population. The 30% who are the highest earners in Scotland.
  • The Mail could have put it another way : 70% of the population will pay less income tax and the other 30%, who are the highest earners, will pay a bit more.
  • I guess that’s too many words for a snappy headline though.

What does ScotGov say? “7 out of 10 Scots to pay less tax.” That’s actually quite snappy.

So are middle class earners going to be “hammered” like wot the Mail says?

Here is what the changes Derek is proposing will do to your income tax bill: 

To explain the green graph – showing the difference between income tax paid this year compared to next year when the changes come into effect:

  • overall Scottish income tax revenue will be realigned so that less income tax comes from lower paid workers and more of it comes from those with higher incomes. 
  • average income in Scotland is around £24K. If you earn £33K or less and your income stays the same next year, then you will be paying LESS income tax next year than you are this year. (Mind you if you’re a nurse currently getting less than £30,000 then your income will in fact go up by 3% but that’s another story…)
  • from £33K upwards, you will be paying more income tax.
  • At £40K you’ll be paying about £40 more. At £90K, you’ll have £315 less in your pocket. Over the whole year.
  • To put that in context, £40K a year is about £150 per working day and you’ll be paying 15p more per day in tax next year. £90K a year is about £364 a working day and you’ll have an increased daily tax bill increase of  £1.20 or about half  a cappuccino.

To explain the blue graph – showing the difference next year between income tax paid in Scotland and in rUK:

  • it compares what someone living in Scotland will pay in income tax next year compared to someone with the same salary living in England.
  • it’s not quite the same as the green graph because there will be differences in when the various higher tax bands come into play. But overall if you’re living and working in Scotland and earning about £90K then you’ll contribute about £1100 more in income tax than if you worked in England. Thats about £4.23 a day out of your daily earnings of £364. 

 

Hammered? Nah …

Just helping build a civilised, decent and fairer society, 

as ALL of the increased tax revenue is spent in Scotland. 

And as Nicola tweeted earlier today…

"There is no Grinch in the 'Nightmare Before Christmas'!! Is this more evidence that you can't believe what you read in the Daily Mail? ;-)" @NicolaSturgeon 

 

 

 

Citizens’ Assembly… a second chamber for Scottish parliament?

A few weeks back I read a CommonWeal policy proposal on the subject of whether we need a second chamber to complement Holyrood and if so what kind of chamber do we want? The proposal is to set up a Citizens’ Assembly. It’s written by Brett Heddig who set up the Sortition Foundation exploring how we can do democracy differently. 

Democracy is about elections isn’t it? Voters vote, give a group of people a mandate to govern and let those people get on with it for a few years. Those people are our representatives and if we’re not happy with they do in our name, we vote for someone else next time. That’s pretty well how I  would describe democracy. Mind you it also needs a raft of supporting institutions like a free press, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech, freedom of association (eg Trade Union rights), signing up to the UN Human Rights Charter, etc, etc. 

Continue reading Citizens’ Assembly… a second chamber for Scottish parliament?