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Scottish independence vote: constitutional change within England 'unavoidable'

By David Hughes

David Cameron is facing mounting pressure for constitutional change within England from politicians on all sides following the promise to grant more powers to Scotland if voters rejected independence.

Tory former Cabinet minister Liam Fox said change is "unavoidable" to address the ability of Scottish MPs to vote on devolved issues in Westminster, while Labour's John Denham called for devolution within England.

Meanwhile, regional newspapers in northern England united to launch a campaign for greater powers to tackle an "uneven playing field" in the UK.

Dr Fox said the cross-party vow to give more powers to Holyrood meant the "English question and the West Lothian question" has to be addressed as there is an "imbalance in our constitutional relationship".

He told BBC2's Newsnight: "There are a number of ways that we can address that but I think now it will have to be addressed. Politicians have ducked the question for too long."

The Scot added: "I'm not in favour of a separate English parliament, because I think with parish councils, town councils, district councils, county councils, Westminster, the last thing we require is another level of government.

"But I do think effectively what we must ensure is that Scottish MPs, who cannot vote on issues like health and education in Scotland, should not be entitled to vote on health and education in constituencies like mine in North Somerset.

"It is profoundly undemocratic and unfair, that needs to be dealt with."

Dr Fox, who was born in East Kilbride, also raised questions about the funding arrangements being promised for Scotland and the implications for change in England.

"I have thought for a long time we need to look at deprivation indices across the country when we are allocating funding and I think we have a strong incentive to do that."

Setting out his plans, Mr Denham told the programme: "At first you've got to have a constitutional convention in England. Secondly, we are going to have change in Westminster, it's clear that the more powers that go to the Scottish Parliament, the less you can have Scottish MPs voting on the same issues for England, that's got to change in one way or another.

"Thirdly, though, England is much too centralised. So this isn't just about reducing the influence of Scottish MPs in Westminster, it's about getting English decisions out of Westminster."

Shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy also said the independence referendum in Scotland could bring about changes south of the border too.

He told the BBC that there would be "much more power and more decisions made in Scotland".

He added: "The House of Commons is going to have to get used to that and the rest of England is going to have to get used to that.

"There's a real sense of disconnect between the village of Westminster and real peoples' lives across the whole of the United Kingdom so I think there will be an English awakening, of a sense of how can they do politics differently in England.

"I'm not going to dictate what that should be, but I think England will change as a consequence of Scotland changing."

In a display of unity, northern titles including The Journal, Chronicle, Northern Echo, Gazette, Yorkshire Post and Manchester Evening News issued a joint demand for devolved power.

All the papers carry the same front page message calling for the North to be given "far more control over its own affairs".

Referring to the "vow" to Scottish voters from the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour's Ed Miliband, which was carried on the front page of the Daily Record in the run-up to polling day, the newspapers urged the three leaders to make a similar promise to the North.

The message said: "The North of England is already competing on an uneven playing field, squeezed by an economically-strong London to the south and Scotland to the north.

"We know that we have what it takes to succeed if we're given the tools to do the job, creating jobs in the North - and boosting the economy of UK plc."

Journal editor Brian Aitken said: "The unprecedented coming together of the great Northern newspaper brands should send a clear message to our politicians that it is vital they make sure the North does not suffer from having an economic powerhouse to the south and a far more competitive Scotland to the north."

Peter Barron, editor of the Northern Echo, said: "The guarantee of additional powers for Scotland - irrespective of the referendum result - presents particular challenges for the North of England. The Northern Echo is happy to be joining forces with other major regional newspapers to call on party leaders to ensure the North of England is not overshadowed or neglected."

Jeremy Clifford, editor of The Yorkshire Post, said: "The debate over the referendum in Scotland has opened up a much wider call for increased powers for the regions.

"We are joining with newspaper titles across the North to ensure this vitally important part of England does not lose out in the aftermath of the Scotland decision."

The Conservative MP for the Humberside constituency of Brigg and Goole, Andrew Percy, said in a series of tweets: "A No vote victory does not mean no change. That includes England. Time for an English Parliament.

"England must have an English parliament in the event of a No vote. Time for a federal UK.

"We can have an English Parliament at Westminster as well as the British seat. England must be heard as much as Scotland."

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