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'English want constitutional shift'

A constitutional shift to prevent MPs from Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish constituencies voting on devolved matters at Westminster is the most popular way to address English dissatisfaction with the current political system, a major study has found.

The issue of English votes for English laws - or Evel - has been championed by David Cameron in response to the extra powers promised to Scotland following the rejection of independence in September's referendum.

The study found English voters preferred Evel to alternatives including an English parliament or greater regional devolution.

The report's co-author, Professor Ailsa Henderson, from the Centre on Constitutional Change at the University of Edinburgh, said: " It is clear that there is a marked preference for the option of English votes for English laws, even though it is still unclear as to precisely what model the Government is likely to suggest.

"We have identified the emergence of a distinctively English, as opposed to British, political identity and a growing demand for institutions that reflect that reality.

"Support for those institutions trails off after Evel but voters clearly favour national over regional solutions with Evel - followed by an English Parliament, strengthening existing local authorities and the status quo - all beating elected regional assemblies."

The Future of England survey was carried out in April this year, before the cross-party vow to give more powers to Holyrood raised the issue of the West Lothian question about the voting rights of Scottish MPs at Westminster further up the political agenda.

Three different wordings were used for the question about the constitutional preferences for England, and in all three Evel was preferred to continuing with the status quo.

The report said: "Given that we know there is strong opposition among the English electorate to non-English MPs voting on laws that apply only in England ... it is perhaps unsurprising that this option receives substantial support.

"It is also noteworthy, however, that there are at least some indications that support for Evel is growing."

On the first option for the wording of the question, support for Evel rose from 34% in 2011 to 40% in 2014, with 18% in favour of maintaining the status quo, 16% for an English parliament and 9% in favour of regionalism.

On the second option, current support for Evel was 31% - slightly down on the 2012 figure of 33%, with 25% for the status quo, 13% for an English parliament and 15% in favour of full English independence.

On the third option, support for Evel had grown from 20% in 2012 to 36% in 2014, with 25% backing an English parliament and 22% the status quo.

"Throughout, support for Evel is particularly pronounced among those who emphasise their English (rather than British) identity," the report said.

The report's lead author Professor Charlie Jeffery, from the University of Edinburgh, said: "It has been clear for some time now that English voters are looking for English solutions - that means solutions that address the needs of England as a whole rather than options that try to resolve the UK's constitutional asymmetry by giving power to the regions, Europe, the other nations of the UK or anywhere else."

:: YouGov surveyed 3,705 adults in England online between April 11 and 22.

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