Scotland Bill — Third Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 21st March 2016.

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Photo of Lord Selkirk of Douglas Lord Selkirk of Douglas Conservative 4:15 pm, 21st March 2016

My Lords, when the Calman commission sat, the most important principles that it was trying to support were equity and accountability; this echoes what the noble and learned Lord has just said. I remind the House that on 7 September 2004, the day the Scottish Parliament opened at Holyrood, the Reverend Charles Robertson, minister of the Canongate church, was first to speak during the regular time for reflection. He reminded us of the previous uses of the site for the newly-built Parliament. It had been a house of refuge, a soup kitchen for the destitute and Scotland’s largest independent geriatric hospital, not to mention the site of a profusion of well-known and much-loved breweries. Given this history, it is perhaps not surprising that, on that day, the then First Minister, the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, urged MSPs to “raise their game”.

This legislation—the amendment relates to the heart of it—will bring about major changes in the powers and competence of the Scottish Parliament as, for the first time, the majority of funds that the Scottish Government spend will come from revenues raised in Scotland. When the prevailing philosophy has been a culture of spend, spend, spend, popularity is relatively easily won. That will now change as tough decisions will have to be made on how services will be financed.

There seems to be some uncertainty about who observed:

“With great power comes great responsibility”.

Some attribute it to Voltaire. In a debate in the other place in 1817, William Lamb, later Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, made an exhortation to the press. He begged leave to remind them of their,

“duty to apply to themselves a maxim which they never neglected to urge on the consideration of government—‘that the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility’”.—[ Official Report , Commons, 27/6/1817; col. 1227.]

Similarly, on the same subject, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill said:

“The price of greatness is responsibility”.

What Churchill meant was that anyone who aspires to greatness must also be willing to shoulder the accompanying responsibilities. His advice still holds good today.