We’re just past the half-way stage in the Smith Commission’s journey to reach agreement on further devolution for Scotland, so we wanted to provide an update on where things stand. The Commission was set up to convene cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process to recommend further financial, welfare and taxation powers for the Scottish Parliament.

31 October was the deadline for submissions to be made by businesses, civic institutions and the general public. The Commission has confirmed that it heard from hundreds of institutions and commercial organisations, in addition to receiving over 14,000 emails and letters from members of the public. Town meetings were also held with a broad range of groups across Scotland.

The Commission now faces the task of digesting these submissions so that they can contribute to the process. Final heads of agreement between the political parties are due to be produced by the end of November, so the timeframe remains tight.

Lord Smith has stated that, before any decisions are made, the political parties will have the chance to reflect on and be given full access to submissions from institutions and the public. The Commission will publish a breakdown of the key themes emerging from the submissions and these key themes will be discussed at a dedicated session of cross-party talks, which are continuing. The contributions of 380 institutions have been published in full on the Commission’s website.

Separately, the heads of organisations representing local authorities in all four nations of the UK have written to the Commission, as well as to the Westminster ‘Cabinet Committee for devolved powers’ looking into devolution for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The local government leaders argued for a debate over the principles of subsidiarity (exercising powers at the lowest effective level), the legal status of councils and greater financial autonomy for local authorities. It is not clear at this stage whether the Commission will take these proposals regarding Scottish devolution into account, given that they were made after the deadline for submissions.

We’ll continue to track developments in the run up to the publication of the heads of agreement at the end of the month. In a future update we’ll consider the outcome reflected in the heads and how the proposed new powers may affect our clients.