Scottish Devolution: Smith Commission Reports

The Smith Commission, set up by the UK Government following the ‘No’ vote in the Scottish Independence referendum in September 2014, has issued its Report.  The commission, headed by Lord Smith of Kelvin, was formed of representatives of each of the five main political parties in Scotland and was tasked with reaching an agreement, by 30 November 2014, on recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament.  Lord Smith was clear that a key part of the process should be that the voices of civic institutions, organisations and groups and of the public would be heard and given the opportunity to influence the thinking of the political parties and their representatives.  

In addition to the submissions from the main political parties, by the 31 October submissions deadline, the Commission had received 407 submissions from civic institutions, organisations and groups, and 18,381 from members of the public.

The commission's key recommendations

  • The Parliament will 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, with the personal allowance (the threshold above which tax is paid) continuing to be set by the UK government.
  • A share of VAT will be assigned to the Parliament.
  • Air Passenger Duty will be fully devolved.
  • The Parliament will be made permanent in UK legislation and given powers over how it is elected and run including the power to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote.
  • The Parliament will be given powers to create new benefits in devolved areas and make discretionary payments in any area of welfare.
  • Also a range of other benefits that support older people, carers, disabled people and those who are ill will be fully devolved.

Lord Smith said: “Taken together, these new powers will deliver a stronger Parliament, a more accountable Parliament and a more autonomous Parliament.   The recommendations, agreed between the Parties, will result in the biggest transfer of powers to the Parliament since its establishment.   This agreement is, in itself, an unprecedented achievement.  It demanded compromise from all of the parties.  In some cases that meant moving to devolve greater powers than they had previously committed to, while for other parties it meant accepting the outcome would fall short of their ultimate ambitions.  It shows that, however difficult, our political leaders can come together, work together, and reach agreement with one another. I pay tribute to them for doing just that.”

What happens next?

The recommendations of the commission will form the basis of UK government legislation that will give the Scottish Parliament greater powers.  Due to Parliamentary process and timetabling, the powers will not be delivered until after the Westminster election, in May 2015.  The next step is that draft legislation clauses will be produced by the end of January 2015.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has said the commitment to further devolution (made by each of the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties) was made in good faith and that the timetable previously outlined would be adhered to.

The full Smith Commission Report can be read here

To discuss issues arising from the Report, contact Ronnie Brown


This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.