The Smith Commission, set up by the Coalition after the Scottish Referendum, has reported back. Their recommendations are rather wide ranging, yet were welcome by the UK government but were seen as not enough by the Scottish government.
- “The parliament should be given the power to set income tax rates and bands on earned income and will retain all of the income tax raised in Scotland.
- The parliament should be given powers to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Scottish elections.
- The parliament should be given powers to create new benefits in devolved areas and make discretionary payments in any area of welfare.
- A range of other benefits that support older people, carers, disabled people and those who are ill should also be fully devolved.
- The Scottish government and Scottish Parliament should have a “formal consultative role” in the process of reviewing the BBC Charter.”
These recommendations raise questions for almost every area of the politics course. For Unit 1 democracy, it raises questions over whether the UK is becoming more democratic if these were put in place, especially the dispersal of power and lowering of the voting age. For elections, it certainly shows the impact of the devolved bodies since their creation in 1997/8. It also clearly adds further examples for discussions over the West Lothian Question/the English Question – which MPs should have votes, and where? For Unit 2, this has a huge impact on the whole of the UK Constitution and what our constitution will actually be – indeed there was a Radio 4 programme the other day on which the presenter suggested this opened the way for discussions on a codified constitution for the UK. Equally, more devolution from Parliament could be seen to undermine Parliamentary sovereignty – and would certainly lend a good discussion to a debate over the de facto/de jure powers of Parliament.