THE Conservatives’ General Election manifesto has sparked a fresh row over the constitution by promising to exclude Scottish MPs from key votes at Westminster.
The policy document, launched yesterday by Prime Minister David Cameron in Swindon, said if the Tories were returned to power they would act on “English votes for English laws” as well as implementing the Smith Commission plans for more powers for Holyrood.
It said “one fundamental unfairness” remained in the current devolution arrangements – “Scottish MPs are able to cast the decisive vote on matters that only affected England and Wales, while English and Welsh MPs cannot vote on matters that only affect Scotland”.
The manifesto continued: “This leaves a space for resentment to fester and put our Union in jeopardy.
“We will give English MPs a veto over English-only matters, including on income tax, answering the West Lothian Question.”
The SNP said the manifesto showed the Tories were out of touch with the needs of Scotland.
And Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy accused the Tories of a “brutal betrayal” of Scotland.
He said their plans for an “English rate of income tax” was a “stab in the back” to those who signed the cross-party Smith Agreement.
Mr Murphy said: “This is the end of the Smith consensus. With a single sentence in their manifesto the Tories have shown how little they understand Scotland and shown again why we need to defeat them.”
The Smith Agreement states: “MPs representing constituencies across the whole of the UK will continue to decide the UK’s budget, including income tax.”
Mr Murphy said the Tory plans amounted to “the official barring of Scottish Labour MPs from the UK budget”. He said: “How can you trust anything the Tories say now about protecting Scotland when they are setting out to break up the UK income tax system and with it the Barnett formula.
“Scotland is now in danger of being caught in a classic pincer movement between a Tory party that wants to cut Scotland out of the UK budget and the SNP that wants to cut Scotland out of UK taxes.”
SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie said the Tory manifesto was “completely at odds with the needs and priorities of the people of Scotland”.
He said: “They are proposing cuts over the next five years equivalent to some £2300 per person in Scotland, £12 billion of cuts to the welfare state, wasting £100bn on renewing Trident nuclear weapons of mass destruction whilst cutting conventional forces to the bone, and carrying on with their income tax cut for millionaires.
“The Tories also plan to exclude Scottish MPs from key votes and issues which directly impact on Scotland – including our funding – demonstrating that as a party they remain deeply hostile to Scottish interests. That is why the SNP pledge that if there are more anti-Tory MPs than Tory MPs in the next House of Commons, we will vote to lock David Cameron out of Downing Street and again we challenge Labour to match this pledge.”
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Mr Murphy’s claims were “complete and utter nonsense”. She said Scottish MPs would still vote on the budget and reserved elements of income tax such as the personal allowance and the rate on savings and dividends.