Leaders face Scottish pressure

DAVID Cameron will meet backbenchers and party leaders today as he come under pressure to stand strong on English votes for English MPs.

Alex Salmond has declared the "writing is on the wall" for Westminster
Alex Salmond has declared the "writing is on the wall" for Westminster

The PM has set the Conservatives on collision course with the Labour party after he said Scottish devolution would come at the cost of Scottish MPs losing some voting rights in Westminster.

Mr Cameron has since repeated claims that the devolution of further powers to Holyrood, promised by all the three main Westminster party leaders during the referendum campaign, had to go “in tandem” with moves to make sure only English MPs were able to vote on laws which applied purely to England.

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But with Labour fiercely opposing the loss of influence for its 41 Scottish MPs, the row could hit devolution talks unless the PM uncouples the two issues.

The spat between the two sides prompted Alex Salmond to yesterday warn that the three main parties had effectively “tricked” voters with a devolution promise.

The Scottish First Minister, who is stepping down from the job after his independence dream was rejected by voters in the referendum, said that the “Westminster gang” were already going back on the pledge they made.

Senior Tories will gather at the PM’s country retreat today to discuss plans for reform at Westminster in response to the Scottish referendum result as he came under fire from his own side.

Yesterday Mr Cameron’s vow to devolve further power to Scotland without consulting the rest of the UK was labelled “disgraceful” by former leadership rival David Davis, while ex-Cabinet minister Owen Paterson said MPs had been kept in the dark about the plan.

At the same time Ed Miliband could face increased pressure from within his own party to agree to moves to address the issue of MPs from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland voting on laws which do not affect their constituents, a former minister has indicated.

Kate Hoey said she had been contacted by a number of Labour colleagues about the issue of English votes for English laws, which has been raised up the political agenda by David Cameron’s call for it to be looked at alongside the devolution of further powers to Holyrood.

Labour has the bulk of MPs north of the border and could see its ability to win Commons votes diminished if MPs for Scottish seats were prevented from taking decisions on English-only matters.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown said Mr Cameron had behaved in a “pretty disgraceful” way by linking the issue of the Scottish powers to English reform.

He told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme: “Mr Cameron, quite deliberately to satisfy his backbenchers, and also to create a trap for Labour, played politics with his own promise.

“That’s pretty disgraceful anyway, to play politics with that promise is, in my view, extremely foolish and extremely damaging.”