English devolution backed by Scottish Secretary

Alistair Carmichael

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The Scottish Secretary says he would back the idea of English devolution.

Alistair Carmichael said it was the "unfinished business" of constitutional reform that has taken place since the Scottish Parliament was set up.

The Lib Dem MP for Orkney and Shetland said new powers for Holyrood were being promised and it was an "anomaly" that he could vote on England-only policies.

He said there was a debate to be had in England on an English parliament or regional assemblies.

Speaking to John Pienaar on BBC Radio 5 live, Mr Carmichael said: "Federalism is the logical conclusion of all this - but that is the decision for people in England to make."

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on 18 September to decide on their country's future in the independence referendum. The Scottish National Party say the only way to guarantee greater powers for Holyrood is to vote yes. It has dismissed promises from the pro-union Westminster parties of new tax-raising powers if voters reject independence.

Mr Carmichael told the BBC: "We had a 20-year debate before we were able to decide properly what we wanted in Scotland. We had a campaign for a Scottish assembly; we then had a constitutional convention."

Restricted voting

He said: "Coming on now for 17 years after it was first set up in an Act of Parliament, we've still not finished the process of devolution because there will be more tax raising powers coming to the Scottish parliament and that's a very necessary thing to rebalance the political debate in Scotland."

He added: "The logic of the position would be that if the English sort out their constitutional position.

"It is for the English to do that - do you want an English parliament, do you want English regional assemblies, that's a debate that you have to have in England for yourselves... I don't particularly want to vote on things that are not directly affecting me."

His comments come after former Wales Secretary John Redwood raised the issue in a blog entry earlier this month.

"Scottish members of the Westminster Parliament come to debate the Union matters, but cannot contribute to health, education, local government or criminal justice in their country," the Tory MP wrote. "This lopsided devolution cannot survive a further major increase in powers of the Scottish Parliament."

MPs from English constituencies have an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. But critics say successive governments have failed to deal with the so-called "West Lothian question" - whereby Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs can still vote on legislation primarily affecting England while English MPs have no input into devolved matters.

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott championed regional assemblies for England in Labour's 2001 election manifesto but his proposals were abandoned after voters in the North East rejected the idea in a referendum in 2004.

As well as an English Parliament or regional assemblies, there has been a suggestion that some key stages of legislative scrutiny of bills affecting England should be restricted to English MPs. Most recently, the principle was backed by the McKay Commission taskforce set up by the coalition government.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    we used to have local government for local issues and central government for national/ international affairs; this seemed sensible

    why the proliferation of layers of bureaucracy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    There was a vote back in 2004 for regional parliaments in England, but support was only at 22% and less than 50% voter turnout.

    I always see a lot of comments about wanting devolution England, but when it comes down to it there is very little demand. Although perhaps that has changed in the past 10 years, as people have seen how well Scottish devolution has worked for the people in Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Following on from my last comment, in other words devolution should be to the county level in England & not to some arbitrary region. We don't need yet another layer of politicians. What we need is more power at the local level with local accountability. Yet successive governments have taken away powers from the counties for political reasons. Education for example should be locally accountable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Get rid of the House of Lords and save some money. Replace it with an English Parliament. Don't need a new building - the red seats will do nicely. the Commons only for Britain. Constitution Sorted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    While I fully sympathise with English people who feel a sense of injustice with the current set up, I think that perhaps they should look before they leap. In Wales we have an assembly made up of glorified county councillors on enormous salaries for doing nothing. It's just another excuse for the self important politicians to feather their own beds. It is a huge drain on the public purse.


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