21 Sep 2014

Are the Tories really backtracking on Scottish powers?

Downing Street is trying to kill off headlines suggesting it is reneging on the solemn vow to Scottish voters on devolution and putting conditions on the promise of more powers for Scotland if it voted against independence.

It’s pretty toxic stuff and you can imagine the phones will have been ringing from Tories and other pro-unionists in Scotland wondering what No. 10 is up to.

So No. 10 has issued some new language on how it sees things. On Friday morning, David Cameron said measures for England should move at the “same pace” as measures for Scotland. Now the line is that “there’s no reason why they shouldn’t happen in parallel”.

Gary Gibbon reports on the referendum implications for Labour:

The Tories insist they are still committed to the timetable for Scottish reforms outlined in the solemn vow. But that published vow only contains a timetable for getting the bill ready ahead of the general election. It’s not a precise timetable for getting it passed.

Would David Cameron, if he were re-elected, ever contemplate passing the new Scottish powers into law without having got compensatory or balancing measures for England into place? Probably not. His party wouldn’t let him. So what’s changed is the briefing and the aggression with which Team Cameron was trying to put Ed Miliband in a tight political spot, making it look like he favoured the Scots over the English.

Could the two sides agree on English votes for English matters? David Cameron says he still likes the McKay Commission proposals but senior Labour figures say they prefer the handiwork of the former Cabinet minister, Ken Clarke. Mr Clarke’s 2008 Democracy Review came up with the proposal that only English MPs could amend exclusively English matters. All MPs could then vote on the amended bill but could not remove or add additional amendments.


Hard to see that would be enough to keep some of David Cameron’s Chequers house guests happy tomorrow. He’s invited a gathering he would normally consider a lunch party from hell to show he’s listening to his critics (John Redwood, the Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, Bernard Jenkin are amongst those on the invitation list).

Ed Miliband’s team insists the real message of the referendum result in Scotland is anger with the economic settlement not the constitutional niceties. If David Cameron wants to campaign on the West Lothian Question while Labour pumps out a message on the NHS and the minimum wage, they’ll be delighted.

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