This Week in Scotland: EVEL and Fox Hunting

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This Week

Once again issues at Westminster have dominated the debate. The UK Government published revised EVEL proposals on the same day the SNP broke with tradition and announced that it would be voting on the English-only issue of fox hunting.

EVEL

The UK Government has published its revised EVEL proposals following cross-party criticism. The amended proposals aim to make it clear that the proposals will not apply to votes on the Government’s annual spending plans, nor to legislation that provides statutory authority for this expenditure. In an effort to appease MPs, the revised proposals also make it clear that where there are financial implications associated with any bill – either additional spending or taxation – all MPs will be able to vote on these decisions. This means that English MPs could block any unwanted policies from being introduced in England on the back of non-English votes – but could not force proposals through unless the whole House agreed. However, the Government has refused to budge from its position of using Standing Orders rather than legislation to implement the changes to parliamentary procedure.

During a debate in the Commons, Conservative backbenchers gave the revised proposals a more sympathetic hearing. However, the proposals continue to face opposition from Labour and the SNP who fear the creation of “second class MPs”.

A final set of proposals will now be drafted, with a delayed vote to be held in September.

Fox-Hunting vote

The UK Government withdrew its attempts to relax foxhunting laws in England after the SNP announced it was to vote against the change. The move saw the SNP break with tradition by stating that it would vote on an English only matter. The announcement, which was branded “opportunistic” by the Prime Minister, meant that the UK Government was no longer confident it could carry the vote due to opposition from its own backbenches and Labour.

The relaxing of the foxhunting ban in England would have allowed hunters to flush out foxes using a pack of dogs for the purpose of pest control, which would have brought the law in line with that currently operating in Scotland.

The SNP announcement has fuelled cross-party English MP demands for EVEL proposals to be pushed through Westminster to prevent the SNP having a decisive voice on English only matters.

SNP to extend influence into England

Angus Robertson MP has confirmed that the SNP will start to regularly inter in English affairs as the party bids to extend its influence across the UK. Writing to the SNP Group he said that the size of the new SNP cohort meant that the party was no longer restricted to focusing on their traditional Scottish interests and they would thus start to tackle issues affecting other parts of the UK. For example, he confirmed that the party would be writing to business and civic leaders in the North of England to offer their support in working on issues such as getting high-speed rail to the North and improving economic opportunities in areas such as Leeds and Manchester.

Scotland Bill

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has claimed that the SNP is more interested in “stunts and sound bites” than serious plans for increasing powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament. During Scottish Question time in the Commons, Mundell said that, as promised, he would make major improvements to the current Bill and would consider “serious” amendments submitted by opposition parties. However, Mundell, who is in negotiations with the Scottish Government, refused to rule out bringing changes to the Bill in the Lords despite opposition from the SNP. This is the first time the UK Government has suggested that the legislation falls short of the Smith Commission’s proposals.

Scottish Labour Leadership

Kezia Dugdale has secured the majority of supporting nominations as she bids to become Scottish Labour’s next leader. The rookie Lothians MSP has received the support from 30 MSPs; 90% of constituency Labour parties; 80% of local councillors; and 10 trade union and affiliate groups.

Her leadership rival, Ken Macintosh MSP is currently backed by seven of his parliamentary colleagues; 10% of constituency Labour parties; and 20% from local councillors.

Polling

The SNP’s lead over Scottish Labour continues unabated, according to a new poll by Survation for the Scottish Daily Mail. According to the poll, the SNP are on course to secure 56% of the constituency vote next year – two points higher than Survation’s last Holyrood poll. Scottish Labour continue to suffer as their constituency vote fell 4 points to just 20%, while the Conservatives stand on 14%, and the Lib Dems on 7%.

On the regional vote, Scottish Labour’s woes continue as the party are recorded at 19%, a full 26 points adrift of the SNP. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are recorded at 12%, the Lib Dems 8%, and the Scottish Greens on 11% – more than double the vote they secured on the regional vote in 2011.

If replicated in May next year, this would see the SNP increase its representation from 69 to 71. Labour on the other hand would fall from 37 to 24 seats, and be wiped out at a constituency level.

TNS has also published its latest Holyrood polling results. It found the SNP at 60% on the constituency vote – a full 40 points ahead of Labour who were +1 on TNS last offering. The Conservatives are down one to 14% and the Lib Dems are up two points to 5%. On the regional vote, the SNP are up one to 51% and 30 points ahead of Labour who are up two to 21%. The Conservatives are again down one to 13% and the Lib Dems have remained steady on 5%

If replicated the SNP would increase their representation to 75 MSPs while Labour would lose 10 seats to 27. The Conservatives and Lib Dems would remain on 15 and 5 apiece, though the Greens would increase their representation from 2 to 7

Unemployment down again

Scotland’s unemployment figures fell by 15,000, to 152,000, between March and May, according to official figures published this week. The fall means that the Scottish rate is now 5.5%, just below the 5.6% rate for the whole of the UK. The labour market figures also indicated that employment in Scotland increased by 1,000, to 2,616,000, over the same period. This represents a slight increase compared to the same period last year.

UK Leadership battles

As the ultra-Left wing Jeremy Corbyn MP has taken a surprise lead in the Labour leadership contest, the Liberal Democrats announced this afternoon that Tim Farron has been elected as their Leader. In an all-member ballot for the leadership, 56% of members voted with the result revealed this afternoon. Mr Farron, the former party president who was the favourite to win, went on to receive 56.5% of the votes and in second place Norman Lamb received the backing of 43.5%. The new leader will be holding his first rally this evening at 7pm, where he will address hundreds of party activists for the first time as their leader.

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