A bill full of broken promises

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It’s been another important and defining week for Scotland. At Westminster, the UK Government finally pushed the Scotland Bill through parliament.

It’s a mixed blessing. Like my Scottish National Party colleagues, I welcome any positive change which will give us further autonomy. The more we can do at a Scottish level, the more we can create our own solutions and empower our communities here in the Borders and elsewhere.

However, this is a deeply-flawed piece of legislation. It was intended to implement the findings of the Smith Commission in full.

But it’s an unsatisfactory patchwork of measures, with many key issues still to be resolved.

The Tories are spinning the line that this bill delivers fully on The Vow – the promise made by the three UK party leaders just before last year’s independence referendum to give the Scottish Parliament extensive new powers.

It doesn’t – and, what’s more, fully 91% of Scottish voters don’t believe it does. It falls woefully short of those pledges, and for government minsters to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

Concessions have been made, but the amendments the SNP group put forward to make this legislation fit for purpose have been dismissed. For instance, we pressed for greater control over welfare and employment rights to come to Scotland, along with things like job creation powers.

This would have given us the ability to keep working and tax credits, which are currently set to be decimated by George Osborne and will affect some 5,300 children in my constituency alone.

Under the powers given to us in this bill, we may be able to mitigate the effects of these cuts, but it will be a complex and difficult process. Far better, surely, just to make it straightforward and let Holyrood take the decisions to start with.

The Tories are also forcing through Westminster a deeply-unpopular Trade Union Bill which threatens to eviscerate workers’ rights.

We pushed for employment and industrial relations law to come to Scotland too, but again the UK Government didn’t listen.

It’s deeply disappointing that ministers are taking such a dogmatic approach.

They should remember that at May’s election, the Conservatives won just 14.9% of the vote in Scotland and managed to get just one MP elected.

Even across the whole of the UK, they won power on just a total of 37% of the vote.

By contrast, the SNP took 50% of the vote share in Scotland, electing 56 MPs – a huge expression of popular will based on real enthusiasm for its vision, sound policies and commitment to social democracy.

It’s clear that the Scottish people want to go beyond Smith and The Vow. Before the referendum, we were promised respect and real powers if we voted No. That’s not happened.

We need imagination, clarity and a recognition of Scotland’s very distinct needs and wishes.

Instead, we’re heading for a mess, and an unworkable one at that.

We – and our democracy – deserve better than this.