Labour hopes new powers will secure future of union

LABOUR has revealed its plans for more powers for the Scottish Parliament after a No vote in the referendum.

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Johann Lamont, Scottish Labour leader, published the findings of the Devolution Commission she set up after talking over the party.

The report, which will be voted on later this week at the Scottish Labour conference, sets out what changes the party will argue for if Scotland rejects independence in September.

The 33 recommendations include:

lChanges to the income tax system giving Holyrood the power to raise a greater share of its income than the Scotland Act allows.

lA change in how local government is funded, but proposals are not spelled out in full yet.

lHousing benefit to be devolved to allow Scotland to abolish the 'bedroom tax'.

lEqualities laws to be devolved to allow laws to ensure greater representation of women on public bodies.

lFull devolution of rail powers to allow a not for profit ScotRail franchise to be put in place.

lPowers for councils to raise cash through other funding methods and extending Tax Incremental funding for investment.

Ms Lamont said the powers would strengthen devolution but allow Scotland to retain the benefits of sharing UK resources.

She said: "I believe this package of measure makes the Scottish Parliament more accountable.

"This will allow for a fairer and more socially just progressive society while preserving the benefits of the UK."

The tax changes, billed as the Scottish Progressive Rates of Income Tax, would mean tax rates would be set at Westminster, but Holyrood could increase the higher and additional rates without losing any of its block grant.

However, if it wanted to lower the additional, or top rate, it would have to lower the basic rate by the same percentage.

Ms Lamont: "If a Scottish Government wants to cut tax for the rich it must cut tax for all."

However, she didn't say Labour would definitely raise taxes for top rate payers.

She said the proposals had the backing of her party at Westminster and Holyrood.

Ms Lamont said: "The Labour Party at every level is committed to this proposal. Where there is argument it is because these are important issues."

Councils would have new powers too.

The document mentions "tourist levies" as one method of "funding vehicles to increase accountability".

Local government finance was not part of the remit but principles for change should include an "updated and fairer system of property taxation".

Other measures include giving councils powers to prevent over provision of pay day loan shops and fixed odds betting terminals in bookmaker shops.

stewart.paterson@eveningtimes.co.uk

Local government

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