Devolution rules out Scots prime minister, say Tories

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Devolution has made it "almost impossible' for a Scot to be Prime Minister, a leading Tory has claimed. A Scot at No 10 would be making decisions on issues such as health, education and transport which would affect the English but not apply north of the border.

This would be "at odds with the basic construction of the British constitution," said Alan Duncan, shadow Trade Secretary. He told BBC's Politics Show: "The Labour Party has created this massive problem for themselves and are now regretting it."

His comments followed a hint from David Cameron that a Tory government would bring in "English votes for English MPs". The Speaker would designate days in the Commons calendar as "English" days, when MPs would debate legislation that applied only to England, in the absence of MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Labour has an overall majority of 69, but a majority of 42 in the English constituencies. The next election could put Labour MPs in the minority in England but leave Labour in control because of its strong showing in Scotland and Wales.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, said: "Once devolution has bedded down in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, it would make sense to examine the role of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs at Westminster, but it should not be done piecemeal. We need a constitutional convention to provide a constitution for 21st-century Britain."

The Scottish Nationalist leader, Alex Salmond, told GMTV's Sunday programme: "People like Gordon Brown should just have a thought occasionally about marshalling their Scottish divisions to try to impose unpopular policies in England.''

But Ian Davidson, a Scottish Labour MP, accused the Tories of picking up on the idea that English voters have a grievance to hide their own political problems. After a bad by-election in the safe Tory seat of Bromley and Chislehurst last week, the Tories had another setback yesterday when an ICM poll for The Sunday Telegraph put their support at 36 per cent, only one point ahead of Labour, with the Lib Dems on 18.

Mr Davidson said the Conservatives "recognise they can't attack Gordon Brown for his handling of the economy, so they'll attack him on the basis that he's Scottish and any weapon will do."

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