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“Call for ‘Holyrood Plus’ option in independence referendum” – STV News

A think tank has called for voters to be offered a third option in an independence referendum which would give the Scottish Parliament wider tax-raising powers without breaking up the union.

Reform Scotland said “devolution plus” would put MSPs in charge of raising money as well as spending it and give the Scottish Government greater scope to tackle poverty.

The group says most welfare benefits should be transferred from Edinburgh, but responsibility for state pensions and sickness and maternity pay would remain with Westminster.

Chairman Ben Thomson said that currently £19.9bn was spent on social protection in Scotland, of which just £113m fell within Holyrood’s jurisdiction. Reform Scotland’s proposals would raise this figure to £7.2bn.

He said: “Many areas associated with this goal are already devolved to the Scottish Parliament, such as housing and social inclusion, yet the Scottish Government can make no concerted attempt to address poverty without the necessary tools and that requires welfare provision to be devolved.”

The suggestion is part of a submission to Holyrood’s inquiry into the Scotland Bill, which aims to increase Holyrood’s powers.
Reform Scotland said MSPs currently control 60% of public spending but are only responsible for less than 7% of funding.

The legislation aims to transfer more responsibility to Holyrood, including a wider £12 billion of financial powers.

An SNP spokesman said: “Consistently, opinion polls have shown that the people of Scotland want to see a Scottish Parliament take responsibility for all financial powers, taxation and welfare decisions.

“Reform’s ideas are an interesting contribution to the debate, which demonstrates just how far behind the pace the Westminster parties are, and how inadequate the Scotland Bill is.

“The Scottish Government will give the people of Scotland an opportunity to choose independence in the referendum, which will ensure that all decisions over tax, benefits and pensions affecting people in Scotland will be made in Scotland.”