The row over English Votes for English Laws (Evel) intensified last night when Nicola Sturgeon wrote to the UK Government to highlight her concerns about the controversial legislation.
Describing the plan as “unacceptable”, the First Minster said more clarity was needed on David Cameron’s plan to solve the anomaly that lets Scottish MPs vote on matters that only relate to England.
In a letter to the Scottish Secretary David Mundell, Sturgeon called for more detail on the way Bills would be assessed as applying, or not applying, to Scotland.
She asked for a meeting with Mundell and Chris Grayling, Leader of the House of Commons, to discuss the proposals.
The SNP has already urged the Prime Minister to “think again” about proposals to give English MPs a veto over legislation which affects only England, with MP Pete Wishart describing the plans as “nothing less than a constitutional outrage”.
MPs, led by Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael, last week staged an emergency debate on the plans, protesting that they would mean, effectively, an English Parliament within the ranks of the Commons – creating two tiers of MPs. The UK Government later promised a redraft of the controversial proposals and postponed a Commons vote on the issue until at least September.
Sturgeon’s letter highlighted concerns about the “narrowness” of the assessment of what relates exclusively to England, with the decision limited to whether the Bill legally extends to Scotland, rather than taking into account the wider financial and policy implications.
She argued that, of the 20 Bills passed during the last parliament and listed by the UK Government as not extending to Scotland, 13 of them were actually relevant north of the Border.
Of the Evel plans, Sturgeon wrote: “The proposals would apply to Bills, secondary legislation and certain motions and measures (including decisions on the tuition fees cap for higher education institutions in England).
“The detail of the certification procedure for which legislation will be covered, and the Speaker’s operation of it, will be crucial. There is no mention of factoring into that decision any wider considerations of Bills that do not legally extend to Scotland, but could have an impact because, for example, of Barnett consequentials arising from funding changes in England and Wales associated with the policy implemented by that Bill.
“The Speaker’s assessment is limited to the legal extent, and not to the wider policy and financial implications of the Bill. This narrowness is a significant concern for me.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “Parliament will debate modified standing orders this week and the Government will consider all the points that are made before proceeding.
“With increased devolution across the UK it is fair that English MPs have a greater say over laws that will only apply to England.”