UK

SNP Breaks Decades-Old Tradition Announcing Its MPs Will Vote On English Matters

17/07/2015 10:47 BST | Updated 17/07/2015 16:59 BST
BEN STANSALL via Getty Images
Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon (L), poses during a photocall with newly-elected SNP members of parliament (MPs) outside the Houses of Parliament in London on May 11, 2015. The SNP won a landslide in Scotland in the May 7 general election, destroying the Labour party north of the border in a historic leap forward which could increase pressure for a fresh referendum on independence. The nationalists won 56 of 59 parliamentary seats in Scotland up from just six at the last vote in 2010. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

The SNP will break a long-standing tradition of abstaining on votes not affecting constituents north of the border and instead seek to spread their power-base across the rest of the UK in what the press has dubbed an "unprecedented charm offensive", it has been revealed.

In a letter to fellow MPs seen by the Daily Telegraph, the party's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, said a strengthened presence in Parliament meant they should no longer restrict interventions to matters impacting solely on Scots.

He suggested that Scottish parliamentarians could help further their own agenda by voting on issues "relevant to stakeholders and communities across Britain and Ireland".

Following the Government's decision to suspend a vote on the proposed 'English Votes for English Laws' legislation until September, and its attempt to change fox-hunting laws thwarted, both largely due to opposition from the SNP, Scottish MPs are now being encouraged to reach out to businesses, arts organisations and civic society in the rest of the country.

angus robertson

Robertson's letter to MPs was unearthed this week

In his letter to colleagues, Robertson wrote: “The SNP has much to say at Westminster which is relevant to our friends and neighbours in the other Home Nations and the English regions, including our opposition to austerity, promotion of better transport links and sustainable economic growth.

“As the effective opposition in the House of Commons, our progressive policy agenda is relevant to stakeholders and communities across Britain and Ireland.”

In a press gallery dinner for political journalists in Scotland, Robertson suggested “speaking with the Chamber of Commerce in Leeds about what needs to happen with transport links and HS2”, as well as approaching business leaders both in Cardiff and Newcastle about how they could work together.

“This is something that’s totally new for the SNP," he told reporters at the dinner. "The size of the parliamentary group that we have, our ability to reach out to potential stakeholders or people for whom it makes perfect sense to be talking with. We are now going to be able to do that in the rest of the UK in a way that we have not been able to do.”

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The 56 SNP MPs will be encouraged to have a greater say in Parliament

"We have been very successful at talking with civic society in Scotland, at having good links with the business community, creatives, all of that," he told reporters at the dinner. "We are now in a position to do that in the rest of the UK."

“If its colleagues in the economy team speaking with the Chamber of Commerce in Leeds about what needs to happen with transport links and HS2, or talking with the trade council in Cardiff, I’m asking my colleagues in the various policy teams to have a plan in place about how we are going to engage with the rest of the UK in a way that we have never been able to in the past.”

Drew Hendry, the SNP MP for Inverness, told The Huffington Post UK there were useful points of co-operation between Scottish and English MP.

He pointed out the A1 road, which runs in part between Newcastle and Edinburgh, and is used by motorists both north and south of the border.

But Hendry added that he "hadn't gone down to Westminster to make David Cameron's life easy".

"The vast majority of things he wants to do I'm against, and so are the people of Scotland; so are a large number of English people.

"I want to work to make sure Cameron know his majority is wafer thing and he can't get away with all the things he wants to get away with."

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