UK Politics

Nicola Sturgeon calls English votes plan 'unacceptable'

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright AP

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described UK government plans to stop Scottish MPs voting on English laws as "unacceptable".

In a letter to Conservative ministers she called for more talks, saying the Scottish government had "a number of concerns about the proposals".

Last week MPs staged an emergency debate to discuss the plans.

The government later promised a redraft and postponed a Commons vote on the issue until at least September.

In her letter to Scottish Secretary David Mundell, Mrs Sturgeon said: "There is a clear Scottish interest in English votes for English laws (Evel) because of the impact it will have, and the proposals, as they currently stand, are unacceptable."

The West Lothian question - English votes for English laws explained in 60 seconds

She called for greater clarity over the way bills would be assessed as applying, or not applying, to Scotland.

"Of the 20 Bills listed by the UK government as not extending to Scotland, no fewer than 13 of them did," she said.

"Several of these bills covered important areas such as charities, criminal justice and anti-slavery measures and had significant impacts on Scotland."

Image copyright AP

The UK government believes bills applying exclusively to England should not become law without the explicit consent of MPs from English constituencies and it wants to change Commons rules known as standing orders to give them a "decisive say" during their passage.

The plan had been for a new Commons stage to be introduced for laws passing through Parliament with England's MPs asked to accept or veto legislation only affecting England before it passes to a vote of all UK MPs.

Ministers say this will address the long-standing anomaly by which Scottish MPs can vote on issues such as health and education affecting England but English MPs have no say on similar matters relating to Scotland, where such policies are devolved.

A UK government spokesman said Parliament will debate modified standing orders in the coming days.

He said: "With increased devolution across the UK it is fair that English MPs have a greater say over laws that will only apply to England.

"This is a constructive contribution from the first minister and we welcome her change of tone on this issue."

There would be continued discussions with the Scottish government over the changes, he added.

Image caption Commons leader Chris Grayling said the government is clarifying its plans

During the emergency debate the SNP called on Prime Minister David Cameron to "think again" about proposals with MP Pete Wishart describing the plans as "nothing less than a constitutional outrage".

It also revealed concerns among some Conservative MPs, which could have threatened a government defeat on the measures.

Shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle said the Commons schedule had been "clearly subject to last-minute, sudden change" and said the "shoddy" plans had "descended into chaos".

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