27 November, 2014 - 09:30

The Scottish Greens say the proposed package of powers outlined by the Smith Commission today will fall short of many people's expectations, but if used wisely could help protect people from UK austerity and welfare cuts.

The Greens say the new powers would also place a clear expectation on the Scottish Government to oppose destructive industries like fracking.

The party's co-conveners Patrick Harvie MSP and Councillor Maggie Chapman took part in the cross-party negotiations, securing agreement on proposals including devolution of fracking licenses, energy company obligations and the power to bring railways back into public ownership.

Other proposals being welcomed by the Greens include:

- Devolution of income tax rates, bands and revenue
- Full devolution of some benefits, and the ability to top up the UK Government's provision of reserved benefits
- Additional borrowing powers
- Control over Scottish elections, paving the way for votes at 16 in Holyrood and local government elections
- Ability to remove MSPs to prevent a repeat of the Bill Walker situation
- Powers to tackle payday loan shops
- Management of Crown Estate assets

On additional borrowing powers the Greens said:
This could boost capital investment. To date the Scottish Government has used its revenue budget to top up capital spending, prolonging real-terms pay cuts in the public sector.

On licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction:
This will clarify the situation regarding fracking, coal bed methane, and other unconventional gas developments. Greens will be vocal in calling for a complete halt, and the Scottish Goverment will have to take a clearer stance.

On transport:
We'd have the choice of bringing Scotland's railways back into public ownership, a Green policy which has been consistently popular.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"This package falls short of the complete autonomy many hoped for but it does have potential. If these powers are delivered as promised we must use them to close the gap between rich and poor, overcome the UK's austerity agenda, and invest in the skills and green infrastructure that will sustain our economy.

"There will now be no hiding room on the troubling issue of fracking. Scotland will look to its own government to protect communities from this unwanted and destructive new wave of fossil fuel extraction."

Councillor Maggie Chapman said:

"While this package of powers is welcome there is much more we had hoped for, such as the ability to pursue wealth taxes, to enforce a living wage, full devolution of welfare, trades union rights and employment law. As long as these issues are decided at UK level it remains essential that Green voices are heard at Westminster.

"The Scottish Greens engaged constructively in this process and we continue to call for the public to have a say in the delivery of new powers. We will play our part in scrutinising the proposals and making sure Westminster delivers meaningful devolution."

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