The SNP have staged an unprecedented protest in the House of Commons against controversial rules on ‘English Votes for English Laws’, with the party’s leader at Westminster claiming: “This is the parliament of England”.
Nationalists were accused of staging a “transparent stunt” after trying to force through their votes on amendments to the NHS Funding Bill, which is designated as England-only legislation because health is devolved.
Several votes were delayed when the SNP joined opposition MPs from England in the division lobby in an attempt to have their votes counted, and held up signs reading, ‘Hear no EVEL’, ‘See no EVEL’, ‘Speak no EVEL’.
READ MORE: EU urged to "leave a light on" for independent Scotland by Fiona Hyslop While Boris Johnson is increasing health spending, resulting in a budget windfall for the Scottish Government under the Barnett Formula, the SNP has called for further increases to match per-head spending on health in Scotland - despite warnings from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that such increases would be unaffordable in an independent Scotland.
After a Labour motion was defeated without SNP votes in favour being counted, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford raised a point of order to suggest it was “the first time that members from Scotland have had their votes discounted in this place”, and claimed Scottish MPs had been “locked out”.
Mr Blackford continued: “Can we not draw our own conclusion that this is indeed the English Parliament and the answer to the people of Scotland is very clear. If you want your votes counted, then we better become an independent Parliament in Scotland.”
READ MORE: Derek Mackay: UK is 'failing' and Scotland can't afford to be part of it Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing - who has criticised “failings” in EVEL and warned against having “two classes” of MPs - insisted that “this parliament is the parliament of the UK”.
Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, intervened to raise failings at new hospitals in Edinburgh and Glasgow and said: “Until the Scottish Government makes sure that the health of the people of Scotland is looked after, the people of Scotland will regard this as a transparent stunt by people who instead of representing their constituents seek to manufacture grievance.”
EVEL was introduced in the aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum to stop Scottish MPs from voting at Westminster on devolved issues like health and education. Last year, two Scottish Tory MPs called for a review over fears about its impact on the Union.
It comes as yet another opinion poll put support for independence in the lead, with a Panelbase survey finding 52% in favour of leaving the UK. Polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice said Brexit was “undermining support for the Union” and pushing Remainers to back independence.