We now know this morning that, despite a hard fought contest, Scotland has voted ‘No’ to independence in yesterday’s historic referendum. As everyone digests this news, here is a short guide to some of the key public policy consequences.
Despite Scotland rejecting independence, there is set to be significant constitutional reform, which is likely to have on-going and far reaching consequences across the UK. This reform will be prompted, in part, by Westminster’s promise to bring about further devolution for the UK. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has stated this morning that the three pro-union parties will ensure that the “clear commitments” on further powers for the Scottish Parliament are honoured in full.
Timetable for further devolution
- Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled a cross-party deal to give permanent and ‘extensive new powers’ to the Scottish Parliament on 7 September. He set out a fast-track timetable for further devolution
- Work on the new legislation for further devolution will begin today – the Scotland Bill. David Cameron announced today that Lord Smith of Kelvin has agreed to oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments with powers over tax, spending and welfare
- By the end of October 2014, a “command paper” will be published by the UK Government setting out all the proposals for further devolution. A white paper will then be drawn up by the end of November 2014, after a period of consultation setting out the proposed powers.
- A draft new Scotland Act will be published on Burns Night on 25 January 2015 and legislation is likely to be enacted after the general election has happened, irrespective of which party wins
Pledge by three party leaders
- The three main Westminster party leaders have also pledged that the UK will continue the Barnett allocation of resources which give an extra £1,400 to every Scottish citizen and that spending on the NHS will be determined by the Scottish Government who will continue to have revenue raising powers.
Further constitutional reform and an answer to the West Lothian question
- As well as confirming the commitment for further devolution in Scotland, David Cameron promised constitutional reform for England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, stating, “the question of English votes for English laws – the so-called West Lothian question –requires a decisive answer.” Cameron added that on issues of tax, spending and welfare, England, Wales and Scotland should be able to vote separately.
- David Cameron stated that the Government will set up a Cabinet Committee right away and proposals will also be ready to the same timetable as the plans for further Scottish devolution
- Cameron said that he hoped that these reforms would take place on a cross-party basis. It is unclear at this stage, however, how the Labour Party would respond to this, particularly as the Party has potentially much to lose, with 41 Scottish MPs currently sitting in Parliament.