Scottish Tories urge new leader to help deliver them from EVEL
Scottish Conservatives have called for a review of controversial Westminster rules introduced after the independence referendum that prevent Scottish MPs from voting on England-only matters.
Writing in the Scotsman on the day Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister, Scottish MP Stephen Kerr also calls for primary legislation to provide a legal basis for the UK government to invest directly in Scotland in devolved areas such as transport and culture.
English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) were introduced following the 2014 Scottish independence referendum by David Cameron, who said the “voices of England must be heard” at the same time as the Scottish Parliament was handed more powers.
The proposals were an attempt to answer the ‘West Lothian Question’ raised by devolution, which resulted in Scottish MPs being able to pass legislation on issues like university tuition fees that only affected England.
However, the complicated parliamentary rules for EVEL have made it unpopular among MPs from Scotland the rest of the UK, as well as drawing criticism from Nationalists.
Mr Kerr called on the new prime minister to order an “urgent review”.
“In my opinion this is a badly advised and unnecessary circumvention of the work of the United Kingdom parliament,” he says. “The sooner it is gone, the better.”
Mr Kerr’s call was backed by fellow Scottish Tory MP Colin Clark, who supported Mr Johnson’s leadership bid.
“The whips believe it’s an important tool to have, but it may have outlived its usefulness,” Mr Clark said. “I think it would be appropriate to have a review.”
Mr Johnson has endorsed a call from all 13 Scottish Tory MPs for direct Whitehall investment in devolved areas, in what would be a major departure from the way UK investment in Scotland has worked during the first 20 years of devolution.
Mr Kerr called for “primary legislation to enable direct UK government spending in devolved areas in partnership with devolved administrations.”
The SNP’s Scotland Office spokesperson, Tommy Sheppard MP, claimed the Tories were enabling a “Tory power-grab”.
“Boris Johnson has barely been leader of the Tory party for a day and already the Scottish Tories are actively acting against Scotland’s interests and undermining the very foundations of devolution,” Mr Sheppard said.
“Calls to bypass the Scottish Government and instead allow the Tory government to decide what’s best for the people of Scotland rips up the established principles underpinning devolution – in breach of the Scotland Act and Treasury rules.”