News / Local SNP branch: reforms don’t go far enough

SNP branch press spokesman Douglas Young.

SHETLAND’S burgeoning SNP branch has welcomed aspects of yesterday’s announcement of legislation detailing further devolution to Scotland – but warned that “much more needs to be done to make the country a fairer place to live and work”.

The party’s local branch has seen a huge surge in membership from 46 to 272 – a rise of some 580 per cent – since Scotland voted No by a 55-45 margin in September’s independence referendum.

In Shetland only 36 per cent of voters said Yes to independence, but that has not stopped a massive spike in local membership numbers.

Newly appointed press spokesman Douglas Young echoed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s view that the draft clauses published at Westminster on Thursday – hailed as the delivery of “Home Rule” by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael – represented a “watering down” of promises made by No campaigners in the run-up to the referendum.


“The command paper from the Westminster government on the Smith Commission proposals allows for some progress on further devolution for Scotland,” Young said.

“It allows the Scottish Government – whoever runs it – to do more of what the people say they want, but the tax-raising powers limited to around 30 per cent of revenue required to fulfil its responsibilities are a severe limitation and continue to rely on money passed from London.”

That claim contradicts yesterday’s assertion from the UK Government that Holyrood will now be responsible for raising 60 per cent of what it spends.

Young said the settlement would also leave Holyrood working “within the constraints of Westminster’s austerity measures”, which the SNP views as a wrong-headed approach to cutting the UK”s spending deficit.

He continued: “From a purely Shetland perspective the commitment to pass control of seabed revenue from the Crown Estate to the island community is welcomed, which may raise £2-3 million locally, and devolving air passenger duty to Holyrood.”

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With an increase in the use of the Salvation Army’s food bank locally, many within charities and voluntary organisations in the islands privately say they feel poverty can only be fully tackled once control over the entire welfare system is devolved to Edinburgh.

“With the increased use of food banks in Shetland the reserved powers on welfare and benefits do not go far enough in alleviating poverty and further pressure will be put on Westminster to deliver control in these areas,” Young said.

He pointed to campaigners who have branded the Smith Commission a “missed opportunity”, with the Scottish Trades Union Congress claiming the draft clauses “will not match the intentions” of the initial proposals.

In particular there has been criticism of a clause meaning changes to housing benefits would need to be agreed by the Scottish Secretary. Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly, for instance, argued that “by giving the Secretary of State a veto, the Scottish Government is essentially being stripped of any real powers over this”.


Young said that the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Citizens Advice Bureau were “frustrated” and “disappointed” with many of the draft clauses.

“The SNP is committed to the process of delivering more powers to Scotland and Shetland,” he said. “The Smith Commission was the beginning, Westminster’s draft an continuation, but much more needs to be done to make the country a fairer place to live and work.”

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