The Smith Commission has today revealed that control of Employment Tribunals in Scotland is to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The move will mean Scotland will be able to decide the level at which fees are set for claims made in Scotland, or even abolish fees altogether. The Scottish National Party has been critical of the fees regime and, in the run up to the independence vote, promised that independence would lead to a ‘constructive dialogue’ on access to Employment Tribunals. It is likely, therefore, that once control of the Employment Tribunals system is devolved, one of the first things any Scottish government will want to look at is the fees regime. A significant reduction in fees, rather than their complete abolition, is probably on the cards, although we are unlikely to see any change before 2016.
Devolution could also lead to other changes in Tribunal practice, as the Scottish Parliament will be free to introduce new rules of procedure. However, legislation regulating substantive employment rights (including the National Minimum Wage) will remain controlled by the UK Parliament. The Equality Act 2010 will also remain within the purview of Westminster. However, the Scottish Parliament will be given power to introduce gender quotas in respect of public bodies in Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament will also have the power to set the rates of income tax within Scotland and the thresholds at which these are paid. All other aspects of income tax will remain reserved to the UK Parliament, as will all aspects of the National Insurance regime.