Decades-old grievances over imbalances in the way laws are made in England came to the fore in September after a last-ditch promise to transfer powers to Scotland’s devolved parliament helped swing Scottish opinion in favour of keeping the United Kingdom together.
Both Cameron’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour party, neck-and-neck in many polls ahead of an election in May, want to address the fact Scottish parliamentarians are allowed to vote on laws affecting only England when English MPs cannot vote on Scottish matters, but disagree over how to do so.
Under the Conservative plans, MPs from across the United Kingdom would get to debate and vote on matters affecting only England, but English MPs would decide the detail of such measures and would have a veto over the final law.
“The decisive say would be given to English MPs over measures that only affect England … while maintaining the unity of parliament as a whole,” senior Conservative lawmaker William Hague told BBC Radio.
While the Conservatives voter base is largely located in England, Labour has more Scottish MPs and restricting their influence in parliament could potentially leave a future Labour government without the votes needed to pass some laws.
Labour instead favours giving greater power to English cities and regions, and has called for a constitutional convention to be held after the election to give voters a chance to air their views on the options.
Hague said it would be “manifestly unfair” to have a situation where the Scottish parliament could set a lower rate of income tax in Scotland and then Scottish MPs in London could vote through a higher rate of income tax for England.
“Imagine how damaging that would be for the United Kingdom,” he said.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)