Scotland politics

Gordon Brown calls for devolution 'free of new conditions'

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Media captionGordon Brown says there is "a constitutional crisis in the making" after David Cameron's move on English votes for English laws

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for powers to be devolved to Scotland "free of any new conditions".

Mr Brown called on current Prime Minister David Cameron to stick to the "vow" made by pro-UK party leaders to deliver more powers.

He claimed proposals for English votes for English laws would be "a reduction in the rights" of Scottish MPs.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael insisted more powers would be "delivered to the timetable promised".

Mr Brown presented a petition urging Westminster to keep promises on devolution, which has been signed by more than 120,000 people.

The petition, organised online through the campaign group 38 Degrees, urges David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg: "Please stick to those promises on the timetable you agreed. Scotland won't accept less."

Mr Brown told MPs: "The people who signed it - 'Yes' voters and 'No' voters alike - are determined that the vow made by all the three main party leaders on Tuesday, September 16, before the referendum is kept."

'Bad faith'

Ahead of the 18 September independence referendum, the leaders of the three main pro-Union parties backed a timetable, set out by Mr Brown, to deliver more powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of a "No" vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron took Labour by surprise on 19 September when he announced plans to end the anomaly which allowed 59 Scottish MPs to vote on England-only legislation in the UK Parliament, such as health and education.

Downing Street later insisted that "one is not conditional upon the other".

Mr Brown argued: "The proposal, in practice, turned out not to be any new English rights of representation, but a reduction in Scottish rights of representation in the House of Commons.

"This was clearly an issue material to the vote in the referendum and the failure to tell people beforehand of the proposed change in Scottish representation has fuelled the demonstrations, petitions and allegations of betrayal, bad faith and breach of promise that have dominated much of Scottish political debate over the past month.

"But the Conservative plans for the constitution did not end there.

"When combined with their proposals to devolve all income tax to the Scottish Parliament, Scottish MPs would be removed not just from ordinary lawmaking on English matters but from the most decisive votes a parliament can make - votes on income tax rates and thus on passing the budget."

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Image caption Alistair Carmichael insisted more powers would be "delivered to the timetable promised"

The Labour MP suggested that England-only bills could be considered at committee stage by MPs from English constituencies only, but said all MPs should be allowed to vote on all bills at report stage and third reading.

'Broadest consensus'

Mr Carmichael said he had "no doubt as to the importance" of Mr Brown's contribution to the campaign for a "No" vote in the referendum, adding: "Now is the time for us to put aside party interests and work to secure a better future for all."

The Lib Dem Scottish secretary said the government's aim was "more powers for a Scottish Parliament within a modernised United Kingdom delivered, and delivered to the timetable promised".

Further change across the UK would require the "strongest, broadest possible consensus and that does require a constitutional convention", including politicians, businesses, unions and "interested citizens who have something to say".

Mr Carmichael said a debate on devolution, held in the Commons on Tuesday, showed "there was no clear consensus in England" over how to proceed.

During Tuesday's debate, Mr Brown said that "nations can collapse by accident" and excluding MPs from non-English constituencies from some votes would erode the "stability and harmony of the British constitution".

Conservative Leader of the House William Hague responded: "The United Kingdom is in greater danger if the legitimate arguments and expectations of English decision making, on decisions affecting only England, are not responded to."

SNP MP Angus MacNeil told the Commons on Tuesday: "If the vow swayed 6% of the Scottish people, it served its narrow political purpose at the time.

"It was an unconditional vow that became conditional as the hangover set in."

Both debates followed the UK government's Scottish devolution paper, published on Monday.

A commission headed by Lord Smith of Kelvin and including representatives of five Scottish political parties is expected to report by the end of November, with the UK government expected to publish draft legislation in January.

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