SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Downing Street last night insisted that plans for a constitutional shake-up of England, Wales and Northern Ireland would not delay the transfer of more powers to Scotland.
Number 10 reacted to suggestions that the Prime Minister’s plans for constitutional reform that would see English laws only voted on by English MPs might hold up change in Edinburgh.
A spokesman acted to reassure voters after the Tory chief whip Michael Gove said that constitutional change north and south of the Border would have to be carried out at the same time. The spokesman said the “key dates” outlined for Scottish constitutional change by the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems were “not conditional” on anything else going on in the UK.
The parties have pledged to have draft legislation for a new Scotland Bill ready by January next year.
The intervention came as a former government minister called on the Labour leadership to support devolution for England and support a ban on Scottish MPs voting on English-only issues.
Speaking on the eve of Labour’s annual conference in Manchester, Frank Field, who was minister for welfare reform in Tony Blair’s government and the UK’s poverty czar, said that the party’s plan for delivering devolution to Holyrood should also include a new funding deal for the UK’s regions along with an end to the Barnett formula for funding the Scottish Government.
“Poorer people in Birkenhead should be treated equally to the richest people in Aberdeen,” Field told Scotland on Sunday.
“All these issues should be looked at as part of the time-table for introducing these new powers that have been promised.
“We need a new formula for redistributing the exchequer between the countries and the £1,500 extra for each person in Scotland that we get at the moment is not acceptable.
“The changes must be done in a way that doesn’t harm Scotland, but which benefits all poorer people in all parts of the UK.
“Labour must be seen as pro-English and not harp back to the Scottish privileges of Scottish MPs voting at Westminster on issues that only affect England. There’s a need for devolution to England.”
Field was speaking as Ed Miliband arrived at conference and on the day after David Cameron announced a new commission will consider devolution for English cities and regions as well as dealing with the issue of the West Lothian question – the right of Scottish and Welsh MPs to vote on English-only matters, including the NHS and education.