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Devo-max, circa 1913

We desire nothing but the power of local legislation and administration.

The Lord High Commissioner, as the King’s representative, will be the head of the Administration, and he will be advised by a Cabinet, which will be an Executive Committee of the revived Scottish Privy Council. The powers of the Scottish Parliament will closely resemble those of the Irish Parliament, with the exception that we do not desire to control the Post Office, and there will be no reserved services. We shall take over the administration of old age pensions, national insurance, and Labour Exchanges—in fact, the Bill will give Scotland control of purely Scottish affairs. I will run over a list, which comprises most of the matters which we leave entirely to the Imperial Parliament. Everything affecting the Crown, peace, war, foreign affairs, national defence, naturalisation and domicile, trade marks, Scottish lighthouses, coinage, weights and measures, external trade, postal service, public loans to Scotland before the passing of the Act, and the collection of Imperial taxes. All those will remain in the full control of the Imperial Parliament with which the Scottish Parliament will have nothing to do and surely we have reserved a large measure of the activities of the Imperial Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament will not be allowed to impose any religious disabilities nor can it deal with Customs or Excise. The Imperial Parliament will impose and collect all taxes except new taxes. The Scottish Parliament may vary taxes, but in the case of Customs and Excise the Scottish Parliament—here is a divergence from the Irish Bill necessitated and justified by the conditions of Scotland—takes over all the taxes on heritable property, both as regards imposition and collection. The Scottish Parliament may impose new taxes provided they are not substantially the same as those imposed by the Imperial Parliament. The Imperial Parliament has to contribute to the Scottish Exchequer an annual sum towards the cost of the Scottish services. A Joint Exchequer Board is set up as under the Irish Bill to determine all questions arising under that head. As regards the judiciary the Bill simply recognises existing conditions, but provides that the judges of Court of Session, sheriffs, and other judges shall be appointed by the Lord High Commissioner. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is substituted for the House of Lords as the final Court of Appeal, and will determine all constitutional questions. We ask for the Scottish Parliament only what is necessary, and we have shirked no burden which we are able to bear. Fortunately, our financial position is sound, and we require no subsidy. When this Bill has become law I predict with the utmost confidence that there will be no stronger testimony to its satisfactory working than that we shall receive from the generous consideration of hon. Members opposite. I predict that Scotland will be contented and prosperous under the new system, and will remain in the closest and most intimate partnership with England in regard to the development of the common heritage, and the completion of the devolution which must follow when England and Wales have Parliaments of their own to deal with their local affairs. Surely this will be a great relief to many hon. Members on the other side of the House. The setting up of this federation of the United Kingdom will lead, and must lead at no distant time, to the creation of a truly Imperial Parliament in which the representatives of the Overseas Dominions will sit and take part at their own time and in their own way and on terms of absolute equality. Only in this way can Britain remain faithful to her destiny, and only in this way can she give contentment and prosperity to the people under her rule.

Government of Scotland Bill, HC Deb, 30 May 1913, vol 53, cc471–551

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