The papers: After the referendum, the political rows

A piper in Edinburgh Image copyright AP

While a mixture of disappointment, relief, disillusion and recrimination defines the post-referendum mood in Scotland, the London-based national papers make clear the political argument has now switched to England.

In Scotland, the papers continue to cover the post-referendum discussions, including those on the future of the Scottish National Party.

In the London press, the "West Lothian problem" - the issue of Scottish MPs voting on things that only affect those south of the border - has come to the fore. Sometimes repackaged these days as "the English question", it - and the issue of devolution for regions and nations other than Scotland - dominates Sunday's press.

By proposing parliamentary sessions for just English MPs, the Mail on Sunday says David Cameron has "played the patriotic card" to "upstage" Labour, just before the party's conference.

The paper features a column from Mr Cameron who says he challenges Labour to solve the issue "or explain yourself to the rest of the UK".

With Labour lukewarm over Mr Cameron's proposals, he writes that the opposition must explain why people in England and Wales "shouldn't have the same powers as we are rightfully devolving to the people of Scotland.

"Why, for instance, Scottish MPs should be able to vote to vary income tax rates in England, when the Scottish Parliament is going to be setting Scottish income tax rates in Scotland."

Image caption Tam Dalyell, former MP for West Lothian, first raised the problem of Scottish MPs in Westminster

Labour leader Ed Miliband, whose party faces potentially being unable to pass a budget if it wins a general election majority reliant on Scottish MPs, tells the Observer he is committed to pushing through the promised devolved powers to Scotland as swiftly as possible "but it would be wrong to rush through changes in England without consulting the English people.

"We would be incredibly wary of back-of-the-fag-packet solutions which create two sets of MPs, two classes of MPs. Why? Because you have one prime minister of the United Kingdom [rather than one just for England]," he argues.

The Sunday Telegraph is among the many newspapers to carry out a poll to gauge British opinion on the constitutional questions and it found (as did the rest of the press) that there is firm support for Mr Cameron's "English votes for English laws" plan.

The UK-wide survey suggests 58% support the Cameron plan, with 22% against. And the paper says the idea is backed even by a majority of Labour supporters.

The Telegraph also found that 40% agreed that the Scottish parliament be granted "more powers to raise income tax, borrow money and decide how much to pay in some state benefits", with 38% disagreeing and 22% registering as don't knows. English voters were more likely to oppose more devolution, than those elsewhere.

The Sunday Times said the "English question" is also a poser for the Tories' Lib Dem coalition partners.

Writing in the paper, party leader Nick Clegg says Mr Cameron risks "jeopardising the union" if he promotes "extreme solutions to the issue of English votes".

'Overpaid functionaries'

So much for the professional politicians, but what do the papers' pundits think of the problems and opportunities that may be facing the post-referendum UK?

Simon Walters in the Mail on Sunday wonders if the Westminster leaders pledge to maintain the Barnett formula - the public spending calculation, widely deemed to be over-generous to Scotland - was all caused by a "rogue poll".

The survey published in the Sunday Times on 6 September was one of only three which showed Yes leading in the referendum race, but it "caused a nervous breakdown in Westminster".

Image caption The north-east of England rejected a devolved regional assembly in a local referendum held in 2005

Keeping the Barnett formula will cost English taxpayers £45bn over a decade, Walters says, and the "home rule" offer could be seen as a "bribe" to Scots.

In the Sunday Telegraph, Janet Daley writes that for the English, "the loathing that poured down from their Scottish brethren, engineered and exaggerated by organised activists though it may have been, was startling.

"It was received with particular bitterness in the cities of the north of England whose populations believe (correctly) that they are much more disadvantaged than the Scots.

"What a field day it will be for the agitators and their mobs as we embark on an ill-thought out, politically desperate spell of wholesale constitutional reconstruction."

For Ferdinand Mount in the Sunday Times - which is running a campaign to "loosen up" the United Kingdom with less centralisation - the referendum represents an opportunity.

"In the long run, Thursday's result may do as much good to England as it does to Scotland.

"And if its lessons are honestly absorbed and energetically acted on, then the unity of the kingdom may be more durable than it has so far looked in my lifetime.

"It is worth recalling that in 1995 Quebec voted to stay part of Canada by a hair's breadth, less than one percentage point. Yet today the movement for independence there has dwindled to little more than background noise."

Image caption Jonathan Meades

In the Sunday Mirror, John Prescott argues for a renewal of his regional assembly idea.

"The North East Assembly we held a referendum for in 2004 was too weak. People felt it didn't have the powers Scotland had and would be another layer of local government. Turnout was just 48 per cent and three quarters voted No.

"I believed if we offered more powers and made a more compelling case, people would be convinced about devolution. Scotland has just done that for us.

"It's now time for a devolution revolution. We must seize this chance to give power to ALL the people."

The idea isn't universally popular.

Jonathan Meades in the Independent on Sunday decries "localism" and asks how will a future PM "cope with the pressure of English regions seeking various levels of autonomy? And what powers should they be granted?

"How many extra levels of non-productive, ludicrously overpaid functionaries does a country need?"

'Privileged few'

With party conference season beginning, the papers will be used as a sounding board for policy announcements for the next few weeks.

Labour's get-together starts on Sunday, and Ed Miliband uses interviews in the Sunday Mirror and Observer to lay out some of his proposals.

Central is a pledge to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour.

Image copyright Getty Images

He tells the Mirror, "too many people are treading water, working harder and harder just to stay afloat.

"Too many working people have made big sacrifices but in this recovery they're not seeing the rewards for their hard work because, under the Tories' failing plan, the recovery is benefiting a privileged few far more than most families."

Mr Miliband tells the paper he was inspired to make the change after meeting a woman who worked in a burger restaurant.

"She had worked there for six years and I think she was number two there, but was paid just above the minimum wage.

"She said, 'It's incredibly hard for me. I live three miles away. I can't afford a car and there aren't many buses. I often have to take a taxi. That's where my wages go.'"

The Labour leaded added: "It's just so grindingly hard, and it's time we stood up for people doing these hours."

The Observer explains that Labour proposes to raise the minimum wage gradually from its present £6.50 level "in consultation with businesses".

The paper adds: "The flagship policy reflects Labour's belief that the benefits of economic recovery have failed to cut through to significant swathes of the population and it will be accompanied by a commitment to promote the living wage through public procurement contracts.

"One in five UK workers -more than five million people - are categorised as being on low pay, defined as wages of less than £7.71 an hour, or two thirds of the hourly median wage of £11.56.

"The move would give this country a minimum wage similar to those in Australia and European Union countries such as Belgium and Germany, but would still be lower than in France and New Zealand."


Sunday's other big story is the continuing search for missing west London schoolgirl Alice Gross.

Many papers contain allegations about the man named as prime suspect, Latvian building labourer Arnis Zalkalns.

The Observer says convicted murderer Zalkalns could have been among 30 to 40 Latvian criminals living in the UK and "being supervised by probation officers in their native country via email."

The paper adds, "the revelation will further intensify the focus on the supervision of offenders from EU member states residing in the UK.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Alice Gross

"British citizens who had been convicted of murder would be subject to stringent supervision orders for the rest of their lives and details of their offences would be lodged with the relevant authorities."

The Independent on Sunday is told by Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz, that "non-EU citizens' previous convictions would be highlighted when they applied for a visa, but EU nationals could enter the country "unchecked" because border officials were not able to immediately find out if they had a criminal past.

Mr Vaz adds it is "totally unacceptable that we should not know about previous convictions of serious and dangerous criminals who arrive in this country from inside the EU".

Britain had opted out of a European-wide system for sharing information about criminal convictions, but has recently decided to rejoin the network.

Labour MP Mr Vaz adds, "those who want Britain to come out of Europe and believe the only way to do this in the meantime is to grab any powers of this kind should reflect carefully on what they have done."

The Sunday Times reports that the operation to find Alice is the biggest police hunt since the 7/7 bombings.

It adds "600 officers from eight police forces have combed 10 sq miles of open land and three miles of canals and rivers."

Hundreds of hours of CCTV footage has already been examined, and more cameras were being included in the operation.

Alice vanished more than three weeks ago, and the paper says the "spectre of Zalkalns' involvement had led detectives to intensify efforts" in the hunt for the 14-year-old.

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