SNP and Tories battle it out over union

Salmond promises to stay friends after break up
Salmond promises to stay friends after break up

The SNP leader Alex Salmond and Conservative leader David Cameron managed to reach some consensus on Scottish politics today, while vehemently disagreeing over the future of the union.

Both party leaders agreed English issues should be decided by English MPs, although clashed over how this would be conducted.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Cameron reject arguments for an English parliament as costly and unnecessary but said English MPs should have the final say in Westminster on issues which only affect English constituents.

"We cannot ignore the asymmetrical nature of the situation in which Scottish MPs may vote on legislation that affects England, but neither they nor English MPs can vote on subjects that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament," he wrote, announcing that Kenneth Clarke's democracy taskforce had been asked to look for "specific solutions".

And Mr Salmond said he supported the idea of English MPs voting on English issues, pointing to discrepancies such as Scottish MPs voting through top-up fees which would never affect their constituents.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Scottish MPs should not "force unwanted policies down the throats of the people of England."

Unlike Mr Cameron he offered a solution to this constitutional problem - reiterating demands for Scottish independence.

Splitting the union would not create passport problems, he insisted, nor ruin relations between the two nations.

"After independence, England will still be our biggest pal, our biggest friend, our biggest trading partner and people both north and south of the border find that a very attractive proposition," Mr Salmond claimed.

If elected, the SNP plans to hold a referendum on independence in 2010, at a cost of £7 million. Mr Salmond insisted there is popular support for a referendum and refuted Labour's claims that the pledge is a "ticking tax bomb".

Mr Cameron defended the union, describing it as a "constitutional masterstroke" and the most successful union in history between two countries.

To save the union politicians must emphasis its strength rather than warn of the economic cost of separation, he argued. He warned Labour not to "bully" the Scots, warning that negative politics is why people feel disaffected with the union.

What people really want is delivery, not divorce, Mr Cameron concluded.


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