Scotland Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 21st March 2016.

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Photo of Lord Dunlop Lord Dunlop The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 4:00 pm, 21st March 2016

I thank the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, for his comments and support. This was an issue that the party opposite raised in Committee and the Government are pleased to have been able to address what has been a long-standing lack of clarity in the law. With regard to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, yes of course I can assure him that discussions will continue between the Department for Transport and the Scottish Government. A theme that has run through all our debates on this Bill is the need for close intergovernmental co-operation. That is something which I feel strongly about, given my responsibility for these matters, so anything I can do to improve those intergovernmental relations, I will certainly do.

Before we move to the final group of amendments, as we near the conclusion of the Bill I want to take this opportunity to thank noble Lords for all their work, in particular all those who have moved amendments or spoken to them, and who have taken the time to meet me and my noble and learned friend the Advocate-General to discuss their concerns. I would also like to thank the Constitution Committee, the Economic Affairs Committee and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for their very careful consideration of this Bill. Indeed, I thank my noble and learned friend the Advocate-General, who is no longer in his place because no doubt he is preparing for the Immigration Bill to come, and my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie for all their support. Finally, I thank officials from across Whitehall who have provided invaluable support throughout the process. We have covered a lot of ground and many subjects, and their support is much appreciated.

Noble Lords have provided robust challenges at times; I recognise that opinions have been divided on aspects of the Bill and I respect the strong views that are sincerely held. Your Lordships’ House has fulfilled its customary role of providing a thorough and penetrating scrutiny of the legislation. I said at Second Reading that I thought it was a precondition of earning the trust of the Scottish people, after the independence referendum, that we should keep the promises that were made during that referendum. That is exactly what this Bill does, as well as making the Scottish Parliament more financially accountable. I am particularly grateful to the Front Benches opposite for their support. It recognises that the promises made during the referendum were joint ones.

There was much talk during the independence referendum of Project Fear, and I think that it has already been observed elsewhere that the fears raised by the supporters of the union have proved all too justified while the fears put about by those arguing for separation have proved to be groundless. They have proved to be groundless because we have delivered on the promises we have made. I think that we have established beyond any doubt that pulling Scotland out of the United Kingdom could never satisfy the Smith no-detriment principle, and in its heart of hearts I suspect that the leadership of the SNP knows it.

Political discourse in Scotland is already changing as a result of the Bill. Now we must move the debate on from what the powers are to how they are used. I am confident that the new Scotland Act will prove an enduring settlement, strengthening Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom.