SNP failure to transfer powers to communities will be breach of Smith Agreement

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie MSP, will today urge First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to abandon the principle that Holyrood knows best and instead open a "twinned track" approach to decentralisation across Scotland.

Failure by the SNP Government to transfer powers across Scotland as powers are transferred from London to Edinburgh will be a breach of the Smith Agreement according to Mr Rennie.

The call comes ahead of a historic week for Scotland as the UK Government is expected to publish the draft clauses needed to enact the Smith Agreement.

The move delivers on the Vow and the agreement made by all five Scottish parties in the Smith process.

Willie Rennie is calling on the Scottish Government to open up a parallel process to prepare and agree new legislation to give Scottish local councils the powers that were advocated in the Smith Agreement.

The Smith Commission made recommendations to devolve more power from London to Scotland. But it also said: “There is a strong desire to see the principle of devolution extended further, with the transfer of powers from Holyrood to local communities...The Scottish Government should work with the Parliament, civic Scotland and local authorities to set out ways in which local areas can benefit from the powers of the Scottish Parliament.”

Willie Rennie is to argue that, as a minimum, these new powers should include making sure that council tax and business rates paid locally are used to benefit local services, not centralised in Edinburgh.

Speaking on a campaigning visit to the Borders today, Mr Rennie will say:

“The UK Government will this week publish radical legislation this to transfer power from London to Holyrood.

“I am calling on the Scottish Government to match that ambition and publish legislation that will honour the other part of the Smith Agreement.

“The Scottish Government has space in its legislation to honour the Smith Agreement. It must commit to a twinned track approach to decentralisation across Scotland. For that commitment to be credible with communities across Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon must make that guarantee this week.

"Failure to transfer powers across Scotland at the same time as they are being transferred to Scotland will be a profound breach of the Smith Agreement by the SNP.

Willie Rennie added:

“The situation is serious for the Scottish Government. Last week the campaign for more local powers was rocked when a senior SNP MSP launched a shocking attack on local government in Scotland. She accused anyone who wants communities to have more control over their own lives of wanting “to bring down our parliament”.

“This was a sneering attempt to talk down the abundant resources and talents in Scotland's local communities. The Smith Agreement showed how a stronger Scottish Parliament and strong local communities are on the same side of the coin.

"The unhealthy principle that Holyrood knows best must be abandoned.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats want to put local communities back in charge of their own destiny so that communities can build a different and fairer society, shaped by the people that live there.

“We have seen the danger of this government centralising and hoarding power in Scotland to itself.

“Since 2007 the SNP Government has centralised power and decision-making in the central belt, away from local communities.

“And by centralising decisions on police, fire, council funding and local health provision it meant we all suffered when the government took its eye of the ball on day-to-day decisions to concentrate on its referendum last year.

“In local areas, courts and police counters were closed with absolutely nothing that the local council could do to stop them. There was no democratic decision taken locally.

"Councils should have more control of the purse strings so they can respond more effectively on behalf of communities in their areas.”

"Scottish Liberal Democrats will hold the SNP Government's feet to the fire to deliver their end of the Smith Agreement."

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