Powers for a Purpose

Powers for a Purpose1This morning I joined Scottish Labour’s Leader, Johann Lamont, to unveil Powers for a Purpose – the final report of the party’s Devolution Commission.

The report sets out Scottish Labour’s vision for the future of devolution, building on the success of the Scottish Parliament and considering how the system can be strengthened and improved.

The report’s title, Powers for a Purpose, alludes to the commission’s vision for a debate about where power should lie to best serve the people of Scotland.

This is not about power for power’s sake. While the report recommends that a range of powers be transferred to the Scottish Parliament, it goes further to look at how we would devolve powers to local authorities and to individual communities.  At the same time, it acknowledges Scotland’s place in the UK and the sense in continuing to make decisions on issues like monetary policy, defence and foreign affairs at a UK level.

I believe that the proposals will make devolution stronger and more accountable. Over the last  year I have worked as part of the commission, listening to the views of business, trade unions, academics and constitutional experts to develop the proposals in the report.  I am proud of the bold proposals that it has produced.  It answers the desire for many of us who wish to stay part of the UK but to see devolution strengthened.  September’s referendum will now set out a clear choice – stronger devolution and powers to transform Scotland to create jobs and opportunities for our communities or separation.

I believe that the work of the commission builds on Scottish Labour’s legacy as the party of devolution and home rule.  The establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 was a proud moment that has brought people closer to the decisions that affect their day-to-day lives.

The Scottish Parliament has allowed Scotland to follow its own path on areas like health, education, transport and the environment while benefiting from the strength that comes from being part of the UK.

I’m particularly proud of the recommendations from the Commission that aim to strengthen local decision making.   I blogged earlier this week about the financial straight jacket and underfunding that the SNP Government has placed on local government.   Devolution was never meant to be about creating a strong Scottish Parliament at the expense of local decision making.

Today’s announcement sets out new powers and new funding streams for our local councils to enable them to tackle the big issues that blight communities and people’s lives as the impact of economic inequality and deprivation hits many of our communities.

New powers on training and the devolution of the Work Programme alongside housing benefit will enable local authorities to play a fuller part in taking the lead in regenerating our communities and addressing the skills shortages and investment that local businesses and key sectors of the economy particular in our big cities.  I hope that our proposals will sit alongside the campaign led by the Labour councillors in our Scottish cities for City Deals too.

Powers for a Purpose sets out a radical and practical set of proposals to empower our local communities and reverse the trend of centralisation we’ve experienced from the SNP Government.