CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS – DEVOLUTION – 20 November 2014

Dr Julian Lewis: I do indeed pay tribute to Alex Salmond who is a very considerable figure. By resigning, he seems to have recognised the outcome of the referendum. If the referendum had voted yes, that would have settled the issue for all time. Does the SNP accept that by voting no, it has settled the issue at least for a generation?

[Angus Robertson: I was coming on to make the point that the Scottish National party and the Scottish Government continue to believe that Scotland should, and will in the future, be independent. However, we accept both the result of the referendum on 18 September and the fact that independence will not be the outcome of the Smith commission. What is beyond doubt is that the people of Scotland expect early and substantial change. I am not talking about something that is dependent on English votes for English laws – much as I have sympathy with that as an issue – the West Lothian question or the subsidy argument, from which many people in Scotland will recoil.]

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[Sir Gerald Howarth: ... The so-called vow issued by the leaders of the three main political parties was, I recall, dismissed at the time by the Scottish nationalists as just a gimmick. Now they have grasped it as though it were the holy grail. It is as though the vow, which was made out of nowhere, is now the very thing on which they hang. I made it clear at the time, as, indeed, did many people I spoke to on the doorsteps in Scotland, that the leaders could only make those promises subject to the will of Parliament. They cannot just make policies – certainly not policies of such constitutional importance – on the hoof. It had to be a decision of this House and the other place. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that it is not being taken for granted by anybody other than the Scottish nationalists.]

Dr  Lewis: I am completely undecided on the correct course to take when a vow that could well have influenced, to some extent, the result of a referendum was given without the authority of Parliament. Does not the whole process show the danger of panic reactions by all three party leaders in the aftermath of a single rogue opinion poll?

[Sir Gerald Howarth: My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I think that one of the factors that influenced the campaign in the end was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister speaking directly to the Scottish people about his passion for retaining the Union and his belief in the importance of Scotland. ...]