Devolution proposals ‘do not go far enough’
Members of a Scottish parliamentary committee were left in no doubt that the powers contained in the draft legislation on devolution do not go far enough at a workshop in Lerwick town hall on Monday night.
A delegation of MSPs attended the meeting where about 30 members of the public had the chance to contribute to the deliberations of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee.
Earlier in the day, the MSPs met industry and political representatives of the SIC, fishing, aquaculture, tourism, harbours, farming and livestock sectors. The group consisted of committee chairman Bruce Crawford and members Tavish Scott, Lewis MacDonald, Linda Fabiani, Rob Gibson and Stewart Maxwell as well as list MSP Jean Urquhart. Several other committee members were not in Shetland.
Mr Crawford said that the evidence gathered at meetings throughout Scotland would contribute to a report that will be matched against the draft legislation which was published by the UK government in January, reflecting the proposals of the Smith Commission. In short, the process is intended to ensure that what is being offered by Westminster squares with what was contained in the pre-referendum “vow“.
Mr Crawford said that some “very forthright views” had been expressed in Lerwick. “It has been incredibly useful as an exercise,” he added.
Immediately following the workshop Mr Crawford said that Shetland had unique and very specific concerns, principally on delivery of the promised control of the Crown Estate and transportation issues such as air passenger tax. It was the farthest flung part of Scotland in relation to Edinburgh and offered “valuable input” as a rural area.
The view also emerged that not only did the proposals of the Smith Commission not deliver enough devolution to Scotland, but that they were further watered down in the draft legislation emanating from Westminster.
A quick show of hands conducted by committee clerk Stephen Imrie showed that very few people knew all the MSPs with responsibility for the Highlands and Islands, where Shetland is included, and most could name only one or two.
Only two people, including the MSPs, had read the government’s document cover to cover, while a number knew “a little about it”.
Everyone intended to vote at the General Election. Mr Imrie summarised the crowd as “positively engaged but with slightly dubious knowledge”.
• More from the meeting in Friday’s Shetland Times.