Alex Salmond reveals Tories sought his vote on ‘English only’ issue of Tony Blair’s tuition fee rise

08/07/2015
CommonWeal

Tory opposition tried to persuade Salmond to vote to oppose Blair’s rise in tution fees in England

FORMER first minister Alex Salmond has revealed how he was approached by Tory opposition MPs and Labour rebels and asked to vote alongside them to oppose an English tuition fee hike by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2004.

Salmond’s comments came after an emergency debate in the Commons over the Tory government’s plans to implement ‘English votes for English laws’ (Evel).

The Herald quoted Salmond as saying: “I was lobbied by the then Conservative opposition and by Labour rebels, who told me that the Scottish National party should vote against that proposal on the basis that top-up fees for English students would have a knock-on effect on Scotland through the Barnett formula.

“Why has the Conservative party changed its mind [on Scottish MPs voting on ‘English only’ issues]?” he asked.

The Tories argue that Evel will redress the imbalanced constitutional situation which sees Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs able to vote on issues which ostensibly effect only England, while at the same time English MPs are unable to vote on certain issues which effect on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, due to some issues being devolved.

Opponents of Evel argue that the interconnected nature of the UK means that issues which superficially only affect England in fact have an impact on the rest of the UK.

Under the Barnett Formula, which is the formula used to calculate the different budgets of the parts the UK, cuts to health funding in England, for example, would have impacts on funding received by the Scottish Parliament.

The same applied to tuition fee cuts in England, and was the argument used by the Tory opposition to try to persuade Salmond to vote to oppose Blair’s rise in fees.

(Explanations of Evel, its potential consequences, and the infamous, but often misunderstood, West Lothian question, can be found here.)

Blair’s government narrowly won the vote to raise tuition fees, with the SNP abstaining.