Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: Peter Robinson contacting Welsh counterpart after referendum results as politicians and celebrities react

By Oliver Wright, Heather Saul and PA

First Minister Peter Robinson is contacting his Welsh counterpart today to discuss the impact of the Scottish referendum on devolution - after voters chose to stay as part of the UK.

The DUP leader will be seeking areas of common ground with Carwyn Jones after the Prime Minister David Cameron outlined plans for a review of tax, spending and welfare across the UK.

A DUP spokesman confirmed a phone call would take place later today.

David Cameron said: "In Northern Ireland, we must work to ensure the devolved institutions function effectively."

Mr Robinson told the BBC there was no point in giving the ministerial Executive at Stormont more powers over finances if ministers were not capable of taking decisions.

He said: "I would always be more impressed when people asked for the transfer of full fiscal powers if they had shown a competence in dealing with the powers that we have."

Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said the parties needed to be united.

He said: "What we need to do is find a large measure of agreement on what extra powers we think can benefit the people that we represent, including fiscal powers."

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "Detailed technical work has been under way for some months on how a devolved corporation tax regime might operate in Northern Ireland.

"This has progressed well. The UK Government will be looking carefully at whether devolution can go ahead and we are committed to announcing a decision on this by the Autumn Statement."

He added: "Just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with and at the same pace as the settlement for Scotland."

Alex Salmond has advocated a lower corporation tax for Scotland. A Westminster decision on whether to transfer from London to Belfast powers over the rate paid by businesses is due soon, the Government has said.

Lowering the level of corporation tax, a levy on profits, is seen by the local business community and all the main parties in Northern Ireland as a key to revitalising the economy. Advocates believe it could reduce reliance on public spending and raise wages in the private sector by attracting innovative companies.

However if the tax take falls that may lead to a corresponding drop in the block grant paid from London to run public services in Northern Ireland. This is because EU rules say a central government like Westminster cannot subsidise tax reductions made by a regional Assembly like Stormont.

Stormont finance minister Simon Hamilton has estimated the cost of reducing the rate to the level of the Republic of Ireland, a major competitor for investment, could run to hundreds of millions of pounds.

Speaking after Scotland voted No for independence, David Cameron today gave himself less than a year to solve the biggest constitutional quagmire in a century: How can a devolved United Kingdom be fairly governed?

In a remarkable statement in wake of this morning’s referendum result Mr Cameron said the question of “English votes for English laws” now required a “decisive answer” and promised a detailed plan by January.

He announced that in future English MPs should vote  “separately” on issues of tax, spending and welfare – areas of power that are due to be devolved to Holyrood.

This could mean that even if Labour win the next election in future they may not have a majority of English MPs to enact the plans in their manifesto.

Mr Cameron said the plans to introduce this new system would take place “in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland”.

That means draft legislation on new powers of legislation for both Scotland and England will be published in January – although it will not be until after the election that MPs vote of the proposal.

As a result any proposed new constitutional settlement will because a pivitol issue at the next General Election.

For obvious political reasons Labour will find it very difficult to sign up for the plan as it stands.

However Mr Cameron may be hoping that any Labour reluctance to embrace ‘English votes for English laws” could be punished by English voters at the ballot box in May.

This quagmire presents Ed Miliband with perhaps his biggest challenge since becoming leader.

Nigel Farage said Scottish MPs should immediately give up their right to debate or vote on devolved English issues in Westminster.

“I think Cameron and Miliband were so lacklustre in the early part of this referendum campaign that they panicked and they made a series of promises on behalf of the English.

“So, it's quite interesting to see Mr Cameron today on the steps of Downing Street relieved that he didn't manage to lose the union but now panicked by the English question.

“This this stuff is complicated, getting this right matters as it will be for many, many decades to come and I really do think now we absolutely need to have a constitutional convention to talk about how we create a fair, federal United Kingdom.”

Speaking from Downing Street after this morning's result was announced, the Prime Minister said he was “delighted” the people of Scotland had “kept our four nations together”.

"The people of Scotland have spoken and it is a clear result," he said.

"As I said during the campaign it would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end.

"And I know that sentiment was shared by people not just across our country but around the world because of what we have achieved together in the past and what we can do together in the future."

"It is time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward," said the PM. "A vital part of that will be a balanced settlement fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well."

Lord Smith of Kelvin, who chaired the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, will oversee the devolution process in Scotland.

Mr Cameron said it was “right” to have allowed the referendum on independence promised by Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party (SNP) when it was elected in 2011.

“We could have tried to block that, we could have put it off...but it is right to take and not to duck the important decisions,” he said.

"It was right...to give the Scottish people the right to have their say."

It follows that other countries in the UK should also gain a "new and fair settlement".

He paid tribute to both campaigns and said he "heard" the Yes side's arguments.

"To those in Scotland sceptical of the constitutional promises made, let me say this: we will ensure that those commitments are honoured in full."

In a clear warning to nationalists that it would be wrong to seek to revive the independence debate after a vote which engaged more than 80%of the Scottish electorate, Mr Cameron continued: "There can be no debates, no re-runs. We have heard the settled will of the Scottish people."

Earlier, Mr Salmond acknowledged that his long-cherished dream of leading his nation to independence was over, telling supporters in Edinburgh: "Scotland has by a majority decided not at this stage to become an independent country.

"I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland."

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said that "change begins today" after Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Mr Miliband said Scotland's decision was a "vote for change" and that having worked to keep the country together, they must now change it together.

He was speaking at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow where he was joined by Better Together leader Alistair Darling, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and other senior party figures.

Mr Miliband also had a message for disappointed Yes voters.

He said: "This was a vote for No because we know we are better together.

Reaction

Author and pro-Union supporter JK Rowling was among the first celebrities to hail Scotland's decision to turn down independence.

The Harry Potter writer, who declared her support for the No campaign with a £1 million donation earlier this year, said as the final result became clear: "Been up all night watching Scotland make history. A huge turnout, a peaceful democratic process: we should be proud."

Actor Brian Cox, who campaigned for a Yes vote, told Sky News: "It's disappointing but I'm caught between two emotions because I'm incredibly proud.

"I'm proud of my country, I'm proud of my people, we have excelled in this fight for social democracy and I think we have shaken the political establishment in Westminster and its very roots."

Winner of last year's series of The Apprentice, Londonderry's Leah Totton, who now runs a cosmetic surgery clinic, was offering to remove rashly done tattoos from independence supporters.

"Got a 'yes' Scotland tattoo and like it removed following referendum? Possibility to have it done for free if you can come to the clinic today," she said in a message online.

Hollywood star Alan Cumming urged fellow Yes voters not to give up campaigning for more powers for Scotland following the defeat.

He tweeted this morning: "My YES friends, let's turn our passion towards ensuring the Devo Max promises the Westminster establishment have made to us are delivered."

He later added: "Yes still means something. Please try to remember that."

The often divisive broadcaster Piers Morgan had promised he would head back to the US if they were to vote No.

This morning he Tweeted a picture of his passport and boarding card with the caption: "Relax. I'm leaving."

Chat host Jonathan Ross posted a message online to say: "I'm delighted Scotland is staying with the rest of us, though part of me REALLY wanted to see what was going to happen if they left."

Comedy actor and writer David Walliams expressed his relief at the result, telling his Twitter followers: "I am so pleased Scotland has voted to stay in the United Kingdom. Wales, don't get any ideas please."

Singer Marc Almond said: "The decision has been made but not all in vain. New greater Powers promised MUST be delivered now. Or else. Good Luck and love to Scotland."

Radio presenter Richard Bacon said: "Correspondents loving saying something fundamental has changed. Whatever that change becomes, it'll make almost no difference to your life."

The Bishops' Conference of Scotland, which is made up of all Catholic Bishops north of the border, said it "recognises and respects the result of the Scottish referendum, that Scotland should remain a part of the United Kingdom, and commends all those who participated in what was a was a passionate and sometimes partisan debate" .

The statement added: "The vast majority of Scots engaged with the referendum and it is our hope that we can all now co-operate for the benefit of our nation in future.

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney told BBC Radio 4: "I'm deeply disappointed... I came into politics to secure Scottish independence and in many, many moments in those intervening years I doubted I'd ever have the chance to stand as I did in Burrelton village hall and put a cross beside 'Yes, I believe Scotland should be an independent country', so it's a disappointing morning, but there are many successes about yesterday."

He said this included the large turnout, adding he was "thrilled" 1.6 million people voted for Scottish independence.

Scottish Independence Vote further reading

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Scottish independence: Battle between Yes and No takes a bitter twist in final hours of campaigning

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Scottish independence: From oil and the pound to the Queen and tax - everything you need to know about the referendum

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