Labour plan for Scotland faces delay

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The Independent Online
A Labour government may have to delay the creation of a Scottish parliament until after it has held a referendum in Scotland, an influential research body will claim next week.

If Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister, he should also abolish the post of Secretary of State for Scotland and consider cutting the number of Scottish MPs, says a report to be published on Tuesday.

Academics and former civil servants in the independent Constitution Unit broadly support Labour and Liberal Democrat plans for devolving power to Scotland, but point to inconsistencies which threaten to undermine public support.

The unit suggests that a Labour government would have to hold a referendum in Scotland before attempting to get the legislation through the House of Commons. This would involve some slippage in Labour's promise to set up a Scottish parliament within a year of taking office.

The unit argues that "there are only two possible answers" to the "West Lothian Question", famously posed by Tam Dalyell, the then MP for West Lothian in the 1970s, which was why Scottish MPs in the Commons should be allowed to vote on English issues such as health and education, when such issues in Scotland were the responsibility of a Scottish parliament.

One was to cut the number of Scottish MPs, the other was to allow Scottish MPs to vote on some matters but not on others.