Belfast Telegraph

Cracks growing at Westminster over handover of powers as Alex Salmond says parties tricked Scottish people into voting No

By Victoria O'Hara

The aftermath of the Scottish referendum on independence has left the coalition Government and Labour in disarray over plans for more devolution of powers from Westminster.

As the cracks opened in London, outgoing SNP leader Alex Salmond accused David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg of tricking voters in Scotland at the last minute with promises of extra powers that may never be delivered to Holyrood.

The Prime Minister has linked giving additional powers to the Scottish Parliament with moves to restrict Scottish MPs from voting on English matters at Westminster. But Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg insisted delivering the extra powers "cannot be made contingent on other constitutional reforms".

The PM's strategy has caused major problems for Labour's leadership. The party has most of Scotland's 59 seats and neutering them at Westminster could cripple any future government it leads.

And the party is also divided on the issue, with Belfast-born MP Kate Hoey leading the charge internally. She said Labour must do the right thing for the country even if that disadvantaged her party in the short-term.

She said: "It has never been fair since devolution that English MPs have no say in what's happening in Scotland's health service and education, but Scottish MPs have a say on ours. I'm very clear that the right thing to do is that Scottish MPs should not be able to vote on those big issues that are affecting England only."

Mr Salmond has seized on Mr Cameron's decision that "English votes for English MPs" should proceed "at the same pace" as more Scottish devolution, saying that Labour and Conservative positions were now "irreconcilable".

"David Cameron doesn't think he can carry his own backbenchers, never mind the threat from Ukip, unless he links Scottish progress to changes in England," he said.

"Ed Miliband doesn't want to do that because Labour would lose their majority over English business in the House of Commons.

"That is the logjam the Westminster leaders got themselves into. There is a big issue there, but shouldn't they have thought of that before they made a solemn vow and pledge to the Scottish people."

He added: "The people who are really angry are those people who were persuaded to vote No by that vow, by that solemn pledge and are now already beginning to feel let down, angry, disappointed because it looks like they have been tricked."

Mr Cameron will hold a crisis summit with Tory backbenchers over Scottish devolution at his country retreat at Chequers today.

The 'English votes for English laws' summit at Chequers was being widely seen as a bid to head off a potential backbench rebellion on constitutional reform. The Prime Minister has insisted the timetable for further devolution would be met, stating: "New powers over tax, spending and welfare are on their way to Scotland.

"The timetable is brisk, but achievable: a White Paper by November, and draft legislation published by January."

Meanwhile, nationalist and unionist politicians in Northern Ireland have clashed about whether extra powers should be given to Stormont.

Local parties are sharply divided on what powers should be devolved.

Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay said changes had to include tax powers.

The DUP's Sammy Wilson said it would be wrong to devolve more powers.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton added: "We would be cautious about income tax.

"It raises £2bn to £3bn a year here.

"That is very big money and a big risk for no clear benefit."

Belfast Telegraph


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