Scotland politics

Smith Commission: House of Lords debates Holyrood powers

House of Lords Image copyright PA
Image caption The debate is likely to include contributions from about 50 peers

The House of Lords has held a debate on the powers of the Scottish parliament.

The discussion follows the "No" vote on independence in the referendum which took place on 18 September.

The Lords heard calls from Labour for decentralisation of powers within Scotland.

The UK government repeated its call for a fresh look at restricting the ability of MPs from Scottish constituencies to vote on purely English matters in the House of Commons.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, the Opposition leader in the Lords, said the Scottish National Party wanted more centralism and that trend needed to be reversed.

She said many people who voted in favour of Scottish independence were not converts to nationalism but believed no one was "listening to their concerns".

"It would seem to make perfect sense that Scotland should be looking to devolve internally in the same way as England," she said.

Lords leader Baroness Stowell of Beeston, opening the debate, told peers: "This Government completely respects and supports the calls for greater autonomy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"We cannot ignore England in that equation. England is the most decentralised nation in the United Kingdom."

She said: "In England it is a matter of fairness. Who decides their laws?

"With further devolution to the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we must ensure that the voice of England is heard as well.

"That means establishing a clear principle that when decisions affect only the people of England they should be made by, or with the consent of, the MPs those people have elected to represent them."

Tory former Scottish secretary Lord Lang of Monkton called for a "wide consultation" among all the nations of the UK.

"I'm uneasy about the rush to action that we all find ourselves firmly committed to, although we do have to honour the commitments that have been given," he said.

Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott called for more decentralisation within England.

The Labour peer said: "This business of English laws, English vote is just a political fix.

"It is nothing to do with redistributing power in the way that decentralisation and devolution is about."

A package of additional powers for the Scottish parliament is being considered by a commission chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin.

A white paper is scheduled to be published by the end of November.

What next for Scotland's future?

  • During the referendum campaign, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband pledged to devolve more powers to Scotland, if Scots rejected independence
  • Immediately after the result became clear, Mr Cameron appointed Lord Smith of Kelvin to oversee the implementation of more devolution on tax, spending and welfare
  • A white paper is due at the end of November, after a period of consultation
  • A draft new "Scotland Act" law would be published by Burns Night (25 January) 2015 ready for the House of Commons to vote on
  • And legislation would be passed after the 2015 General Election

Follow the story with the BBC by going to our special Scotland: What Next? page.

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