Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan for “English votes for English laws” is in trouble after Labour appeared to back away from the political truce that helped save the Union and persuaded Scotland to vote ‘no’ to independence.
Following the ‘no’ vote, the Prime Minister immediately set out plans that would ensure Scottish MPs at Westminster could vote on legislation that only affects England.
Although he did not go into exact details, many have speculated that this could even mean England having its own “first minister” and lead to a radical overhaul of the UK’s tax system.
However, the Telegraph reports that Labour leader Ed Miliband described the proposal as “political gimmickry” and added that any new powers for England should be discussed separately to increased powers for the Scottish Parliament.
Labour has also stated that it will oppose any plans to strip Scottish MPs of the right to vote on English matters. A source said: “We are not in favour of Westminster-led rushed solutions to these issues. [Cameron] failed to live up to the occasion. It did not call for a political gimmick. The moment called for a considered response. We think that Cameron’s response will be seen for what it is.”
Any plan to strip Scottish MPs of full voting rights could prove disastrous for a future Labour government. The party has 40 MPs in Scotland, and may rely on them for a parliamentary majority after the next election. If they cannot vote on all legislation, a Labour government could find itself defeated in major policy areas.
Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson, widely tipped to be the next Conservative Party leader, appeared to criticise plans for further powers for Scotland, saying: “I didn’t sign any such vow”.
“I’m just reflecting my strong feeling that you can’t endlessly give fiscal devolution to Scotland and continue to subsidise Scotland through the Barnett formula without addressing some of the constitutional and fairness issues that it throws up in the rest of the country,” he added.
The mayor’s views echo those of many backbench Conservative MPs who are concerned that England, which represents 86 percent of the UK population, could be left behind in any negotiations over the future of Britain’s constitutional settlement.
The argument comes as Gordon Brown delivered a speech on his vision of the future of Scotland. The former Prime Minister said he would ensure that the promises of more powers for Scotland made by the leaders of the three main UK parties were kept.
Speaking in Fife, Brown said: “I will ensure that as a promise keeper that these promises that have been made will be upheld.
“We will lock in today the promises that have been made and why the timetable we set out will be delivered. Action has already been taken to make sure that happens.”
He added that he and the three party leaders had signed a resolution that a “command paper” will be published by the end of October, that agreement of further devolution will come in November, and that draft legislation will be published by the end of January.