After the 2014 Referendum on Scottish Independence it was agreed that for Scotland to better reach its potential and allow for government more suited to our specific needs, the transfer of further responsibilities and powers to Holyrood was required.
This consensus was echoed amongst MSPs of all parties.
Tasked with devising a plan to deliver further powers to Scotland was the Smith Commission, comprising members of each of the five political parties represented in the Scottish Parliament. The outcome of the Commission’s findings resulted in the Scotland Act 2016, which received Royal Assent on 23 May.
Since 23 July, the Scottish Parliament has become responsible for legislation on Abortion, Consumer Advocacy and Advice, Equal Opportunities, Gaming Machines, Parking, Speed Limits, Traffic Signage and Transport Police working on Scotland’s rail network.
Scottish Ministers can now also decide whether public sector operators can bid for new Scottish rail franchises. The First Minister has made it clear that, in accordance with the SNP Manifesto, the SNP Government will use this new power to initiate a legal framework that ensures that a Scottish public sector body will be able to bid to run Scotland’s railways.
In one of my recent columns I highlighted the importance of cutting Air Passenger Duty (APD), not in least to help secure the future of Prestwick Airport. Additional new powers relating to Income Tax thresholds and APD will be devolved from April 2017 and April 2018 respectively. Only last week, think-tank Reform Scotland said a cut in APD would create jobs, promote economic growth and reduce the cost of Scots going on holiday.
It is obvious that there is a consistent and considerable discrepancy between the views on welfare of successive UK Governments and general consensus on this subject in Scotland. It is no secret that I believe Scotland would thrive having responsibility and control over all matters, but it is encouraging that some powers relating to benefits are now being devolved and the SNP Government is determined to make this settlement work for the people of Scotland.
As of Monday 05 September, the Scottish Parliament will have responsibility for legislation pertaining to Disability, Industrial Injuries and Carer’s Benefits (to an extent); Benefits for Maternity, Funeral and Heating Expenses (to an extent); Discretionary Payments: Top-up of Reserved Benefits; Discretionary Payments and assistance; Powers to create new benefits; Universal Credit: costs of claimants who rent accommodation; Universal Credit: persons to whom, and time when, paid; Employment Support; Functions exercisable within devolved competence; the Social Security Advisory Committee and Industrial Injuries Advisory Council; Information-sharing; Extension of Unauthorised Disclosure Offence.
What are the implications of the transfer of these powers with regard to your representation? Devolution of matters from the UK Parliament to the Scottish Parliament means that whereas queries regarding the above would until now be handled by your MP, these will soon be referred to me as your Member of the Scottish Parliament.
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) will not be devolved until 01 April 2017. Patricia Gibson MP will continue to deal with DHP issues until then. Patricia’s office is based on 78 Princes Street, Ardrossan, KA22 8DF and is open to drop in on working days from 9am-5.30pm. She can also be reached by telephone on 01294 603 774 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can be reached via email at email@example.com or on 01294 833 687. You are welcome to drop into my office on 15 Main Street, Dalry, KA24 5DL on working days, again from 9am-5.30pm or to visit me at one of the 16 surgeries I hold across the constituency each month, no appointment is necessary.