The main UK parties have now published their manifestos and we await the SNP’s in the coming days. Promises to fulfil the recommendations made following the independence referendum all feature but stark differences remain between the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dems parties, which has caused further flash points between the unionists and nationalists this week.
Jim Murphy has criticised Conservative plans to include an English Parliament within Westminster that would include a veto for English MPs on all legislation that only concerns England or England and Wales, including any future budget provisions on income tax for instance. Labour and the SNP would argue that this would make Scottish MPs second-class legislators, losing influence on UK spending plans that affect Scotland via the Barnett Formula. English Votes for English Laws or EVEL is nothing new, but remains a firm commitment of the Conservatives and the party continues to promote the threat of the SNP to expose Labour’s weakness north of the border. Even Ed Balls has admitted that siding with the SNP in any future coalition would be a “betrayal of the English vote“, so Labour remain in knots about it. UKIP is the only party so far to support ending the Barnett Formula.
So, does EVEL have any chance of proceeding unless the Conservatives win an outright majority? Probably not. Labour proposes a grand constitutional convention to eek out a fair settlement. The Lib Dems see further devolution on a road to federalism. The SNP continue to support full fiscal autonomy within the union, with its leadership suggesting a vote within the first year of the new parliament. The arguments at the heart of the referendum campaign have not gone away. Anti-austerity messaging remains at the heart of discourse so far and the polling would suggest that the Scottish electorate believe the SNP is best placed to deliver change. How exactly they accomplish this remains far from certain.