Glenn Heritage, CEO of Argyll Voluntary Action welcomed David Mundell, MP, Under Secretary of State for Scotland to the Royal Hotel, Oban today, 14 November 2013. David held a Q&A session with representatives from the Voluntary Sector along with a number of young people from Oban High School, one councillor and a retired MP.
The main topic of conversation was the Referendum and what will happen afterwards – Yes or No.
David explained that the UK government is keen to be involved in direct dialogue with local organisations. Although Mr Mundell believes that Scotland could be independent, the UK government is not neutral on the subject and would like Scotland to remain part of the UK.
In the event of the No vote being successful, then from April 2016, the Scotland Act will come into legislation. The main impact of this legislation is that the UK government will collect 10p/£ less in income tax from Scottish residents. The equivalent of this 10p reduction in tax will be offset by a reduction in the grant from the UK government to the Scottish Government. (about 30% of the total) The devolved Scottish Government has the opportunity to raise the remaining 10p itself. It can choose to raise more or less than the 10p. Not many people realise that the Scottish Government can currently raise up to 3p/£ but has never done so. When/if the Scotland Act comes into being there will be a debate in the Scottish Parliament on raising taxes.
In April 2014 devolved powers will include Landfill tax and Stamp Duty. This is easy to devolve because it is related to geography.
There were a number of questions asked relating to the voluntary sector in general and funding in particular….
Q How will funding of voluntary organisations which are UK wide continue after a Yes vote?
A After Independence the rest of the UK would not be funding Scotland. There will be no negotiations before the result of the referendum is known. The Scottish government is publishing a white paper on 26 November so do read it and ask questions. It is likely that the UK will continue as we know it with Scotland starting fresh.
Q What about pensions? and employment?
A There will be a Scotland analysis on pensions shortly. (Currently in Scotland the percentage of the population receiving pensions is higher than in the UK)
Q What share of the national debt would Scotland be expected to take on?
A There is no mechanism for this yet but assets and debts would be divided up. Separate currency would also need clarifying.
Q There is lots of publicity coming in to schools from Scottish government that is very positive towards Independence. What publicity is coming in as an alternative view.
A UK government does not support 16/17 year olds voting. Relevant information is not being distributed at the moment. 18 – 25 are traditionally the least likely to vote.
Q Welfare reform has created a lot of pressure. Increased levels of poverty amongst carers. We are adding a level of fear and uncertainty to them.
Q Social Enterprises are different in Scotland and UK. The autonomy of the third sector is being courted on both sides of the border. Will the third sector still retain its independence from the government? How will the third sector continue to flourish?
A The debate has not yet been fully had. There needs to be more debate in Scotland about what happens in local government and the relationship betweent he Scottish government and local government and the third sector. Mr Mundell believes that Scotland is behind England in innovative ways of working with the local government. Issues being debated in the Scottish parliament just now are all around independence which he finds disappointing – he would rather see debates around local government and third sector. He hopes that the independence referendum will settle the issue for a long time.
Q Welfare reform/bedroom tax is making life difficult for some people. Has there been an impact assessment?
A There is a rurality package to ameliorate bedroom tax – £252,000 with a further £500,000. There should not be anyone in Argyll and Bute paying bedroom tax because this money is available. The housing stock profile has been taken into consideration. Mr Mundell said he would raise the issue with the council.
Q But what will happen next year?
A We are in a transition and a lot of changes can happen. Incentivize particular types of house building could be one. The Scottish government sees welfare reform as a referendum issue. The Scottish government could have bought out the bedroom tax but it didn’t. 1/2 the money given to ameliorate it is not ring fenced.
There was also some discussion around renewable energy and costs of energy. There will be a detailed energy paper available later.
Armed forces – a defence paper was published recently. Each current member of the armed forces can choose which country he will be in after a Yes vote.
Mr Mundell promised to take a number of issues/queries which had been raised to feed back to Parliament including:
- The format of the information coming from Parliament is not easy to understand
- what will happen to pensions?
- information is not available for the youngest voters
There will be more information available from the Scottish Government when they publish their white paper on 25 November. We are advised to read it and ask questions.
Here’s a link to the official press release : https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mundell-is-oban-for-debate-in-Argyll