The UK Government has outlined its plans for English-votes-for-English-laws arguing that they would bring “real fairness to our constitutional arrangements”. Under the proposals English MPs – and in some cases Welsh MPs – will be given a new “veto” over laws affecting England only. Although all MPs will continue to vote on all key stages of legislation, there will now be a new stage where an England-only committee will consider the bill before its final reading. Controversially the amendment to parliamentary procedure will occur through a change to the Standing Orders rather than through new legislation being brought forward.
Labour and the SNP have branded the proposals, which will be voted on later this month, as “giving up on the union” and a constitutional “outrage” as they fear the creation of second class MPs.
Opposition parties have complained that the UK Government is not listening to and even ignoring proposals to amend the Scotland Bill emanating from Scotland. The accusations come as the UK Government won a series of votes ignoring calls for the legislation to be amended in areas concerning welfare and taxation. This included Labour and SNP amendments that would have effectively given the Scottish Parliament the power to design its own welfare system with the exception of pensions.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell has dismissed these accusations saying that the Bill lives up to the spirit and word of the Smith Commission’s recommendations. He also stated that he would reflect on the SNP and Labour’s amendments before the next stage of the bill’s parliamentary process later this year.
Responding to a question from DUP MP Nigel Dodds, the Prime Minister confirmed that his government will press ahead with plans to reduce the size of the House of Commons. The manifesto pledge would see the Commons reduced by 50 seats to 600 MPs, including the likely loss of at least 7 Scottish seats, as constituency sizes were equalised to around 75,000.
Education and Culture to be scrutinised
The Scottish Parliament’s Education & Culture Committee has announced that it is to scrutinise the outcomes delivered by Scotland’s main educational and cultural bodies. The bodies subject to this scrutiny include Creative Scotland, Education Scotland, the SQA, SDS and the Scottish Funding Council. Between them, the five organisations have budgets ranging from £40 million to over £1 billion and help the Scottish Government in areas such as educational attainment, curriculum for excellence, training, culture and youth employment.
State-appointed guardians criticised
Police Scotland has criticised the Scottish Government’s highly controversial plans for state-appointed guardians for every child. Under the government’s plans, a single point of contact would be allocated to each child in Scotland under18 years of age, such as teachers or health visitors, with the aim of better identifying vulnerable children.
Police Scotland warned that “there is a lack of clarity” about the role of the force in overseeing the policy and that the organisation may not have the capacity and/or resource to cope with their assigned role. This warning comes on the back of a Scottish Government consultation, which found that many of the bodies that will be responsible for implementing the proposals remain unclear about their role.
Opposition to the policy has said that the proposals damage the level of trust between parents, teachers and health workers and is an unnecessary “monitoring power”.
Sturgeon tops ‘power list’
Nicola Sturgeon has come top of a power list compiled by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme. Described as the “woman of the moment”, Sturgeon saw off competition from Anna Wintour (editor-in-chief of American Vogue) and Angelina Jolie.