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Scotland says no, but it’s full steam ahead for English devolution

Scotland says no, but it’s full steam ahead for English devolution

🕔19.Sep 2014

Scotland’s decisive rejection of independence will be the starting point for far-reaching changes to the way Britain is governed, with more devolution for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged.

Mr Cameron promised a “balanced settlement which is fair to Scotland and elsewhere in the UK”.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, a clearly relieved Mr Cameron said promises of ‘devo max’, substantial additional powers for the Scottish Parliament, would be delivered in full.

He unveiled a substantial shake-up of governance for the whole of the UK, suggesting new powers for Wales and Northern Ireland and greater influence for English MPs over English law.

There was also a commitment to devolution from Westminster to the English regions and cities.

His words were being interpreted as little short of a “constitutional revolution” for Britain.

Mr Cameron said: “It is also important we have wider civic engagement about to improve governance in our United Kingdom, including how to empower our great cities.”

He promised to make an announcement “in the coming days”, possibly at the Conservative conference in Birmingham.

Lord Smith of Kelvin, chairman of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, is to oversee the process of further devolution and draft laws on new powers for Scotland will be published by January, the Prime Minister confirmed.

William Hague, the Leader of the Commons, will lead work on investigating the vexed West Lothian Question, first raised a generation ago by Tam Dalyell who asked why he as MP for West Lothian could vote on English laws but English MPs would not have a vote in the Scottish parliament.

Mr Cameron said: “We now have a chance – a great opportunity – to change the way the British people are governed, and change it for the better.

“Political leaders on all sides of the debate now bear a heavy responsibility to come together and work constructively to advance the interests of people in Scotland, as well as those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, for each and every citizen of our United Kingdom.

“To those in Scotland sceptical of the constitutional promises made, let me say this we have delivered on devolution under this Government, and we will do so again in the next Parliament.

“The three pro-union parties have made commitments, clear commitments, on further powers for the Scottish Parliament. We will ensure that they are honoured in full.

“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.

“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 our United Kingdom.

“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 also be heard.

“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.”

Potentially, Mr Cameron’s move could lead to a more federalist UK although some MPs are already suggesting that the proximity of next year’s General Election could put paid to any dramatic changes this side of 2016.

Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham city council, said there was now an “inevitability” of more devolution for England.

Sir Albert added: ” The role of the city region in driving that agenda is coming to the fore.”

Councillor David Sparks OBE, Leader of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and chair of the Local Government Association, said: “The devolution genie is out of the bottle. The new powers that Scotland will now receive must be given to local areas in England and Wales. The appetite for devolution does not stop at the border and the rest of the UK will not be content to settle for the status quo.

“The clock is ticking and we need to act now. That is why we are calling for an urgent meeting of a Constitutional Convention – to speed up the process of English devolution. Government must set out a timetable for devolution across England, with a pledge for immediate new powers to areas ready for them now. Without immediate action, our principles of citizenship, equality and even democracy in our United Kingdom would be thrown into question.”

SNP leader Alex Salmond said he accepted the result of the referendum and added that Scotland would expect Mr Cameron’s pledge of further devolution to be “honoured in rapid course”.

The margin of victory for the no campaign with 2 million votes to 1.6 million voting yes – 55 per cent against and 45 per cent in favour – was wider than expected.

Turnout was 84.5 per cent, which is believed to be the highest for a mainstream election in Britain.

Sterling bounced and shares were sharply up as the City gave a positive verdict to the result.

The first councils to declare all went to the no campaign, as did Edinburgh, which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the union with 123,927 for yes and 194,628 for no.

Argyll and Bute and Aberdeenshire also voted “No.”

Dundee was the first big gain for the independence campaign, voting yes with 53,620 votes for, 39,880 against.

Glasgow, as expected, delivered a solid win for the independence camp with 194,779 votes in favour and 169,347 against.

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