Things are set to get a whole lot more complicated – with issues of constitutional reform, greater regional powers and perhaps a parliament for the English being frantically talked about by politicians, pundits and even the public.
So it’s all finally over. Scotland have, thankfully, voted to stay in the Union. However, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, as they say. In fact, things are set to get a whole lot more complicated – with issues of constitutional reform, greater regional powers and perhaps a parliament for the English being frantically talked about by politicians, pundits and even the public. At the moment it’s difficult to know what the outcome will be – as in theory these changes need to be made pretty quickly. The Labour Party are not too happy about the idea of an English Parliament, as if they do manage to get a majority they’ll be disadvantaged if their 40 odd Scottish MPs won’t be permitted to vote on English matters. David Cameron has also pledged that powers will be devolved to England, as his MPs put pressure on him to ensure that the West Lothian question (where Scottish MPs vote on English matters) and the Barnett Formula (where the Scots get over £1,000 extra per head than the English) are addressed.
So what kind of changes could end up being made and how would these affect the UK? The idea is to agree to the details in November and to publish draft legislation in January – but it may end up taking longer than this as there are so many questions as to how it would work (some of which we’ll investigate here). The problem is that there’s a General Election in May and there will be calls for some kind of an arrangement to be agreed to by then at the very least so the public actually know what they’re voting for.
Here’s a quick look at some of the major issues:
It seems obvious that if more power is devolved to Scotland it follows that the same deal must be granted to the other regions. Wales, for one, has long complained about the Barnett Formula. Northern Ireland also could look to get more powers over taxes and demand for extra resources. So the question remains: will the English tolerate handing more money over to Scotland AND allow Scottish MPs to vote on issues affecting England while English MPs cannot vote on Scottish issues? The answer is that this is highly unlikely. Pressure is on for all of the parties to explain how things will pan out before next May.
An English Parliament?
However, how would an English Parliament work? It could mean that English MPs decide about the detail of legislation that affects England – with the whole of the UK parliament – including MPs for Scotland deciding on the whole principle. On the other hand, it could mean that English MPs control all legislation in their country – sitting as a UK parliament on other issues along with MPs from Scotland and other regions.
Who votes on what?
The complications arise when we look at who should vote on what. For example, the Conservative Party has said that the Scottish Parliament Holyrood should be able to set income tax rates and bands – and that only the tax-free personal allowance should actually be decided by Westminster. However, as to what levels income tax should be affected is up for debate and varies between parties. It’s hard to see how the plans will be agreed on – not only cross-party – but also within parties themselves – particularly as many Conservative MPs are questioning as to why they should follow an agenda that was dreamt up by failed ex Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Devolution for London?
One idea is that more powers will devolved to different regions and cities. However, in 2004, this was rejected by those voting on Northern Assemblies in the North of England. In the wake of the Scottish referendum, this can of worms has once again been unleashed. So could London make key decisions in the future on issues such as tax and health? Politicians such as Conservative MP John Redwood and London Mayor Boris Johnson have both pledged their support, although as to how this would be worked out remains to be seen. The different layers of bureaucracy could put people off – however issues such as onerous planning laws affecting house building, Stamp Duty etc could be reformed in order to improve the lives for Londoners.
As to how things evolve, only time will tell. We’ll keep you updated on what we think – as always…