The English regions post-referendum

anglo_saxon_feast07:19 Wednesday 24th September 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: The dust may have settled on the Scottish referendum, but the fallout is only just beginning. Alex Salmond returned to Holyrood for the first time since the big vote yesterday. His message was clear. It’s now time for Team Westminster to deliver their promise of fairer funding and more power for Scotland. So if Scotland is given what it wants, could Cambridgeshire benefit as well, or will English power be remaining in London? Here to debate and speculate what the future holds post-referendum is Professor Kenneth Armstrong. He’s an expert in European law at Cambridge University. Good morning Kenneth. Thank you for joining me.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So Team Westminster as Alex Salmond has dubbed them were making a lot of promises before the referendum. Do you think that is something they are now slightly regretting?
KENNETH ARMSTRONG: I think there are two different sides to it. One is the Scottish side of it, and then the other side is the rest of the UK. On the Scottish side of it there were very clear promises made, and there’s now a fairly clear timetable and process that has been set out for the devolution to Scotland. And on that it’s very hard to unpick, and there seems to be a very strong momentum and commitment to that. The English side however is more open, because there are more options on the table really in terms of what might be done.
DOTTY MCLEOD: There is the whole West Lothian question of whether if Scottish MPs get to have their say on Scottish-only issues, well English MPs should be the only ones who vote on English-only issues. Can you see that becoming more of an issue, in the run up to the General Election next year?

KENNETH ARMSTRONG: Certainly it’s the issue that the Prime Minister himself put on the table in his early morning speech on Friday morning, and the opinion polls certainly indicate that regular voters view it as an issue. And William Hague yesterday said that it will be an election issue next year. So certainly resolving this question of what happens with English-only matters in the House of Commons is certainly a live political issue. The problem is that there’s no easy answer to it.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And what do you .. how can you see it playing out Kenneth? What do you think will happen?
KENNETH ARMSTRONG: Obviously we’re not starting afresh. This question has been posed for many years.
KENNETH ARMSTRONG: The McKay Commission report last year looked into this question and came to the conclusion that there shouldn’t be a separate .. we shouldn’t have two-tier MPs if you like between English MPs and the rest of the UK. But what you could do is make certain amendments to the committee procedures, so you end up with having more scrutiny by English MPs in Westminster, and also potential changes to voting rules, so a kind of double majority, so that a Government would require not only a majority of the UK MPs, but also a majority of English MPs. So there are those sorts of options on the table. The big option of an English parliament, I think seems highly unlikely. I’m not sure that there is any great demand for another level of government in England. I suppose the other potential issue is just more devolution. You mentioned at the beginning Cambridge, other areas where we’ve already had momentum towards having local mayors. So is the real question not the West Lothian question, but really a question of more devolution to cities?
DOTTY MCLEOD: It raises the question, if you’re going to have Scottish MPs voting on Scottish-only issues, and English MPs voting on English-only issues, does it lead to things like women only voting on women-only issues, or Cambridgeshire MPs only voting on Cambridgeshire issues? Things like that.
KENNETH ARMSTRONG: Exactly. And I think we always have to recall that to Westminster we don’t elect English MPs, we don’t elect Scottish MPs, we elect UK MPs. Although they represent particular constituencies, they are there to represent in fact the UK as a whole, as a collective, and from that form the Government. We already know that there are caucuses within legislatures that seek to represent various interests and voices within the community. And that’s legitimate, to allow different prospectors if you like to be brought together within Parliament. But at the end of the day, MPs are there to vote and they represent different parties, rather than these very specific individual interests.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And Alex Salmond of course returning to Holyrood for the first time since the big vote, returned yesterday. He’ll be stepping down from the Leadership of the SNP. Looking to be one of the people who stepped forward saying that she is going to put herself in the running to replace him is Nicola Sturgeon. Do you think there will be a fight for that post?
KENNETH ARMSTRONG: I’m not sure there’ll be a fight for that post. I think Nicola Sturgeon had a very strong campaign during independence, the referendum, and she is clearly a very formidable political figure in Scotland. She’s respected on all sides, and maybe that may be a reason why some SNP members may not want her, because she’s respected by many in the political community in Scotland. But she’s certainly a very strong political figure in Scotland, and I think the SNP are likely to nominate her as their Leader, and the consequently the Scottish Parliament will elect her as First Minister.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Professor Kenneth Armstrong. Thank you very much for joining us this morning. An expert in European Law at Cambridge University.