Scots to Get More Power as Cameron Seeks to Keep U.K. United

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Scotland will get more control over welfare spending and income tax while gaining new power to borrow money as part of legislation aimed at appeasing the country’s nationalists and keeping the U.K. together.

The measures, included in Prime Minister David Cameron’s legislative program outlined in Queen Elizabeth II’s speech to parliament on Wednesday, are in line with proposals by the cross-party Smith Commission earlier this year. Separately, Cameron will seek to prevent lawmakers representing Scotland from voting on policies that only affect the rest of the U.K.

While for Cameron the bills come good on the promises he made in the wake of Scotland’s independence referendum, they don’t satisfy the Scottish National Party, which won a landslide victory in the general election this month.

“The key problem with this Queen’s Speech as far as Scotland is concerned is that it does not take account of the dramatically changed political circumstances we now find ourselves in,” Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said in a statement. “It is abundantly clear that the priorities this U.K. government have outlined in the Queen’s Speech are not the priorities of the Scottish government.”

The SNP, which took 56 of Scotland’s 59 districts on May 7 as Cameron’s Conservatives upset the odds to win a U.K. majority, has said it wants nothing short of federal home rule. What’s more, the bill known as English votes for English laws would exclude them from policymaking after becoming the third-largest party in the House of Commons.

Greater Role

The SNP, which had just six lawmakers in the previous parliament, abstained from votes in Westminster on areas that in Scotland are controlled by the Scottish government, such as justice and education. Sturgeon said during the election campaign that she wanted her party to play a greater role in U.K. legislation to counter Cameron’s austerity measures.

The main U.K. parties pledged to increase the so-called devolution of power to Scotland in the run-up to the Sept. 18 vote on independence, when 55 percent of Scots opted to remain part of the U.K., with 45 percent wanting to leave.

The powers being transferred to Scotland mean the SNP-led government in Edinburgh would have control over 60 percent of spending in Scotland and 40 percent of taxation.

The Scottish Parliament would be able to set thresholds and rates of income tax and use all the money raised in Scotland. Other powers include control over Air Passenger Duty, which the SNP has said it would cut, 2.5 billion pounds ($3.9 billion) of welfare spending, and a proportion of sales tax.

Cameron’s program didn’t specify how much extra borrowing powers Scotland might get after the country gained the ability to raise 2.2 billion pounds through bonds and loans in the 2012 Scotland Act, which came into effect this year.

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