The time for grudge and grievance is over. It’s time now to build a better nation
Last month we saw the publication of the Smith Commission, which will deliver more powers to the Scottish Parliament over tax and welfare.
Holyrood will set all rates and bands for personal income tax, control the programmes which get unemployed people into jobs, and take responsibility for £2.5 billion worth of welfare benefits.
That means we can raise the top rate of tax to 50p, meaning that those who can afford it pay a little more, while those who have least should not see the little they have, in money and services, taken away from them.
The proposals also mean a huge devolution of welfare powers to allow us to protect the vulnerable, including, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Carers Allowance, Motability Allowance, the Cold Weather Payment, the Winter Fuel Payment, the Sure Start Grant and more.
The social union of Pensions, Social Security and Child Benefit which Scots supported when they voted No to independence will remain, but the Scottish Government will be able to create new benefits, a Scottish Welfare System built on those foundations.
Scots will be guaranteed the support they need when they are elderly, unemployed or raising a family, but the Scottish Government will be able to make tax fairer, the work programme more effective, and people living with disability or long term illness treated with greater respect and dignity.
The Smith proposals are the biggest transfer of powers since a Labour Government delivered the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
The Scottish Parliament will be responsible for raising over 60 per cent of the money it will spend, transforming it into a powerhouse parliament, with more power than almost any other devolved administration in the world.
We should also not forget, that this was a cross party consensus. It is unusual to see Scottish Labour and the SNP reach an agreement on the constitution but our parties got round a table and thrashed out a deal that was signed by all.
The question now is how do we use these powers? I want to see cuts to inequality, not public services. I want to use these new powers to pursue a radical agenda which will build a fairer country and grow our economy.
The promise of more powers has been delivered. It is now time for politicians to roll up their sleeves and talk about what we’ll actually do to make this country healthier, wealthier and happier.
The time for grudge and grievance is over. It’s now time to build a better nation.
Last week Gordon Brown announced he would not be seeking re-election next May in the 2015 General Election. The former Prime Minister’s interventions in the referendum were key moments in both the campaign and the development of the Smith Commission.
He leaves behind a legacy of pursuing social justice across the UK, acting swiftly to prevent a depression during the banking crisis and passionately believing that we achieve so much more by the strength of our common endeavour than we ever could alone.
Light fantastic James Kelly MSP, with Cambuslang West councillor Richard Tullett, at the Cambuslang Christmas lights switch-on