During the Independence Referendum in 2014 the people of Scotland were offered all sorts of promises with claims that we should lead the UK and not leave it. Then as soon as the referendum was over the Tory Government pushed through their English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) rules. This meant that whenever the Speaker of the House of Commons declared an issue related only to England then the votes of MPs from elsewhere in the UK no longer mattered.
The SNP had an informal policy of not interfering in England only legislation unless it had an impact on Scotland, such as reducing the funding Scotland received via the Barnett formula. However, EVEL now means even if English only legislation drastically cuts Scotland’s funding the votes of Scottish MPs don’t count.
The latest example of EVEL was on Tuesday 13th March when the Tory Government was pushing through changes to Universal Credit rules which would result in around 1 million children in England not being able to access free school meals. Despite it being made clear at the start of the debate that the EVEL rules would apply the Tory MPs from Scotland took part and voted in support of reducing access to school meals. It seems their desire to please their London bosses over-ruled any concerns that they were simply wasting everyone’s time by voting on this issue. Maybe they just enjoyed the thought of stripping school meals away from 1 million children? It could be that they are having problems understanding EVEL or devolution in general as most of the issues they raise in Westminster are devolved matters or attempts to blame the Scottish Government for the failures of the Tory Westminster Government (such as broadband and mobile phone coverage). It would be good if they could just stand up for their constituents – even just once!
However, the MPs representing the British Labour Party in Scotland weren’t much better, with Labour MP Hugh Gaffney calling on SNP MPs to take part in the vote, apparently the rules of EVEL are also beyond his understanding. He claimed to be protecting free school meals but Labour’s position on that isn’t strong. In 2014 Labour MSPs voted against the provision of free school meals to all pupils in primaries 1 to 3, maybe ‘Scottish’ Labour politicians believe that English schoolchildren should have free means but all pupils in Scotland shouldn’t?