News In Focus
Lord Smith to take forward devolution promises: Cameron
Lord Smith of Kelvin, chairman of the organising committee of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, will oversee the taking forward of further devolution for Scotland following the No vote in yesterday's independence referendum.
Prime Minister David Cameron made the announcement this morning, shortly after it was confirmed that the Scottish people had voted to remain in the UK by 55.3% to 46.7%. The final tally of votes was 2,001,926 to 1,617,989.
Referring to the commitments made in the final weeks of the campaign setting a timetable for a bill to devolve more powers to Holyrood, Mr Cameron pledged: "We will ensure that they are honoured in full."
The three main Westminster party leaders promised that further powers over tax, spending and welfare would be agreed by November, with draft legislation being published by January.
But the Prime Minister added that the interests of the other parts of the United Kingdom had to be equally recognised. "Political leaders on all sides of the debate now bear a heavy responsibility to come together and work constructively to advance the interests of people in Scotland, as well as those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, for each and every citizen of our United Kingdom", he said.
"Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs.
"The rights of these voters need to be respected, preserved and enhanced as well."
There are currently proposals to give the Welsh Government and Assembly more powers, and for Northern Ireland Mr Cameron said work was needed "to ensure that the devolved institutions function effectively".
However he added: "I have long believed that a crucial part missing from this national discussion is England." In particular "a decisive answer" had to be reached to the so-called West Lothian question – why should Scots MPs be allowed to vote on matters affecting England only.
This had to take place "in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland".
Mr Cameron said he hoped this would happen on a cross-party basis – though it poses issues for the Labour Party, given the greater number of Conservative MPs in England – and with "wider civic engagement about to improve governance in our United Kingdom, including how to empower our great cities".
Reacting to the referendum result, First Minister Alex Salmond said: "I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland."
Mr Salmond added that clause 30 of the Edinburgh Agreement was now in operation, and "On behalf of the Scottish Government I accept the results and I pledge to work constructively in the interest of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom."
And on the promises of further devolution he commented: "Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course. Just as a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by 27 March next year, and not just the 1.6 million Scots who voted for independence will demand that that timetable is followed but all Scots who participated in this referendum will demand that that timetable is followed."
Scottish Government Finance Secretary John Swinney welcomed Lord Smith's appointment and praised his role in delivering the Commonwealth Games.