Scottish Independence: How David Cameron Will Tackle The Awkward Issue Of Constitutional Change

How The PM Will Tackle The Awkward Issue Of Constitutional Change

David Cameron has announced plans to "protect and enhance" the interests of English voters, as more powers are handed over to Scotland in the wake of its rejection of independence.

Speaking from Downing Street, he announced a review of devolution to cover "all parts of the UK".

"The people of Scotland have spoken and it is a clear result," he said. "They have kept our country of four nations together and like millions of other people I am delighted.

"As I said during the campaign it would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end.

"And I know that sentiment was shared by people not just across our country but around the world because of what we have achieved together in the past and what we can do together in the future.

"So now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward.

"A vital part of that will be a balanced settlement, fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well."

Cameron speaking this morning

He announced he had appointed Lord Smith of Kelvin to take forward the devolution commitments promised to Scotland - and had appointed William Hague to take forward plans for greater autonomy for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs," Cameron said.

"The rights of these voters need to be respected, preserved and enhanced as well.

"It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of the United Kingdom.

"In Wales, there are proposals to give the Welsh Government and Assembly more powers.

"And I want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on how to make our United Kingdom work for all our nations.

"In Northern Ireland, we must work to ensure that the devolved institutions function effectively.

I have long believed that a crucial part missing from this national discussion is England.

"We have heard the voice of Scotland - and now the millions of voices of England must not go ignored.

The question of English votes for English laws - the so-called West Lothian question - requires a decisive answer.

"So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues - and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland."

Mr Cameron has come under intense pressure from English MPs concerned that their constituents were being sidelined by offers of devolution

Tory former Cabinet minister Liam Fox had said change was "unavoidable" to address the ability of Scottish MPs to vote on devolved issues in Westminster, while Labour's John Denham called for devolution within England.

But Independent MP Eric Joyce suggested that Scotland had won the promise of further devolution with the threat: "Give us a lot more money or the union gets it."

Dr Fox said the cross-party vow to give more powers to Holyrood meant the "English question and the West Lothian question" has to be addressed as there is an "imbalance in our constitutional relationship".

He told BBC2's Newsnight last night: "There are a number of ways that we can address that but I think now it will have to be addressed. Politicians have ducked the question for too long."

The Scot added: "I'm not in favour of a separate English parliament, because I think with parish councils, town councils, district councils, county councils, Westminster, the last thing we require is another level of government.

"But I do think effectively what we must ensure is that Scottish MPs, who cannot vote on issues like health and education in Scotland, should not be entitled to vote on health and education in constituencies like mine in North Somerset.

"It is profoundly undemocratic and unfair, that needs to be dealt with."

Dr Fox, who was born in East Kilbride, also raised questions about the funding arrangements being promised for Scotland and the implications for change in England.

"I have thought for a long time we need to look at deprivation indices across the country when we are allocating funding and I think we have a strong incentive to do that."

Setting out his plans, Denham told the programme: "At first you've got to have a constitutional convention in England.

Secondly, we are going to have change in Westminster, it's clear that the more powers that go to the Scottish Parliament, the less you can have Scottish MPs voting on the same issues for England, that's got to change in one way or another.

"Thirdly, though, England is much too centralised. So this isn't just about reducing the influence of Scottish MPs in Westminster, it's about getting English decisions out of Westminster."

Shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy also said the independence referendum in Scotland could bring about changes south of the border too.

He told the BBC that there would be "much more power and more decisions made in Scotland".

He added: "The House of Commons is going to have to get used to that and the rest of England is going to have to get used to that.

"There's a real sense of disconnect between the village of Westminster and real peoples' lives across the whole of the United Kingdom so I think there will be an English awakening, of a sense of how can they do politics differently in England.

"I'm not going to dictate what that should be, but I think England will change as a consequence of Scotland changing."

Scottish Referendum


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