David Cameron will today try to placate Conservative MPs who are threatening to scupper further devolution for Scotland unless he also curbs the voting rights of Scottish MPs at Westminster.
The Prime Minister will host a summit for about 20 senior Tories at his Chequers country residence as he comes under conflicting pressure over his next moves after Scotland rejected independence in last week’s referendum.
On Sunday Downing Street rejected Alex Salmond’s claims that Mr Cameron was already reneging on his joint “vow” with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to devolve more power to the Scottish Parliament in the event of a No vote.
The outgoing First Minister 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".
Mr Salmond told Sky News: "It's the people who voted No because they believed these commitments from the Westminster leadership, these are the people who are feeling most angry, most hurt, most disappointed in Scotland today. The wrath of Khan will be as of nothing to the wrath of a No voter who has been gulled by the Westminster leadership."
Number 10 moved to end confusion over whether “the English question” would be resolved at the same time as Scotland gained more freedom. Sources insisted that these were “two separate processes” and that there were “no ifs and no buts” about Scotland getting the new powers it was promised during the referendum campaign. “This is not conditional on what happens in England,” one Tory aide said.
Mr Cameron faces a difficult balancing act. His reassuring noises to Scotland threaten to fuel the Tory backbench rebellion. Some Tories are threatening to vote against the legislation to give the Edinburgh Parliament more clout unless he brings in “English votes for English laws” at the same time.
Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, who will attend the Chequers summit, suggested that MPs might hold up the Scottish legislation in order to secure change on English laws. He said: “This is something, because it is a basic principle of fairness and justice, that I think the public at large and MPs – and not just Conservative MPs – are going to feel very strongly about.” He added that income tax could eventually be a matter for English MPs to decide, a move which could stop a future Labour government getting its Budget approved by the Commons if its Scottish MPs were barred from voting on English-only matters.
Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, accused the Prime Minister of “pretty disgraceful” behaviour. He told Sky News: “Mr Cameron, quite deliberately to satisfy his backbenchers, and also to create a trap for Labour, played politics with his own promise… That is, in my view, extremely foolish and extremely damaging to his reputation and to the reputation of Westminster. He must deliver on that. That promise to Scotland was made in something as close to blood as you get in politics.”
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