This is the eleventh of fifteen draft Bills in an Alternative Queen's Speech that sets out what a legislative programme might have looked like if a majority Conservative government had been elected. Read more about the initiative here.
The SNP’s victory in last year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections thrust the issue of Scottish independence into the spotlight.
The break-up of the UK would be bad news, but the status quo is not good enough. We need double devolution: more powers for the Scottish Parliament, and English votes for English laws in Westminster.
Devolution gave MSPs significant powers, but London holds the purse strings.
Without tax raising responsibility MSPs have been able to offer Scottish voters free prescriptions and zero tuition fees. Such sweeteners only exist because they don’t have to raise the money themselves. Under these circumstances, what incentive is there for the Scottish Executive to be fiscally responsible?
Reform Scotland’s “Devo-Plus” option is the ideal solution. The Scottish Parliament would set and collect all taxes apart from VAT and National Insurance. This would promote economic prudence and stimulate economic growth. More devolution is vital, not to placate the nationalists, but because it actually makes sense.
We also need to address the so-called “West Lothian Question”. At present, Scottish MPs’ votes can help pass laws which only apply to England and which the majority of English MPs find unacceptable.
The solution? Only English MPs should be able to vote while the details of England-only Bills are being worked out. Once finalised, the whole House of Commons could then vote whether or not to pass the Bill.
The mainstream parties (and most Scottish voters) are rightly against independence. However, this is a perfect opportunity to establish a healthy and democratic constitutional settlement. If we ignore the current constitutional imbalance between England and Scotland, it could result in a fracturing of the United Kingdom.