STEEL COMMISSION REPORTS ON DEVOLUTION: TOWARDS FISCAL FEDERALISM?
A Commission set up by the Scottish Liberal Democrats to consider next steps for Scottish devolution, and chaired by Sir David Steel, issued its report on 6 March 2006. Links to the report can be found with the press release at
http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/news/0603061.shtml, and there is a useful summary at http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/conference/steelcommissionsummary.html. The gist of the report can be gleaned from its title: Moving to federalism: a new settlement for Scotland. The interest of this lies in the Liberal Democrats’ partnership position in the coalition forming the Scottish Ministers, although there are also signs that under new leader Nicol Stephen the Liberal Democrats are seeking to distance themselves from their Labour partners.
The report makes over 20 recommendations, amongst which may be highlighted the following:
Recommendation 1 – A second Constitutional Convention should be established to review the powers of the Scottish Parliament in the light of the experience of two full terms.
Recommendation 3 – The second Convention should consider the case for a move towards a new modern settlement based on more federal principles and backed by a new fiscal system to address the issue of a deficit in accountability.
Recommendation 4 – There should be a new written constitution for the UK which entrenches the rights of Scotland within a new constitutional framework rather than through an Act of the Westminster Parliament.
Recommendation 5 – The new constitution must: clearly set out the limits of power of the various partners in the Union; set out the specific powers that are the exclusive domain of the UK Parliament; introduce a category of formal partnership working in other specific areas; confirm that all others areas are within the competence of the Scottish Parliament.
Recommendation 6 – The Commission prefers a written constitution for the UK. However we recognise