SCOTLAND must not enjoy extra powers as a reward for a ‘No’ to independence without further devolution to the North-East, an MP says today (Tuesday, March 4).
Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson will raise the alarm over cross-party moves to promise extra responsibilities to Edinburgh, to try to erode support for a ‘Yes’ vote.
And he will urge his own Labour colleagues in Scotland to step back, saying: “Labour is a national party – not a nationalist party. Helping people shouldn’t stop at the border.”
The call, to be made in a Commons debate, comes amid growing Labour unease about a package to be unveiled by the party’s own Devolution Commission, later this month.
Scottish Labour is poised to call for key tax and welfare powers to go to Holyrood, to make it responsible for 40 per cent of the money it spends – up from 12 per cent at present.
The Scottish Parliament would take full control of income tax raised north of the Border, including, possibly, to vary the rate for each individual tax band.
Yet it would continue to receive a £750m-a-year ‘top up’, over and above the £4.25bn that income tax raises, through the block grant from Westminster.
Air passenger duty, vehicle excise duties and back-to-work schemes could all be devolved – as well as housing benefit, allowing Holyrood to scrap the bedroom tax.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Wilson pointed to concerns over:
* The possibility of Edinburgh being able to vary income tax and corporation tax rates.
* The threat to North-East airports from cuts to air passenger duty in Scotland – while similar powers were denied south of the border.
* The muscle of the Scottish Enterprise Agency – two years after the axing of One North East Development Agency and others in England.
Mr Wilson said: “The North-East is the region most affected by the independence debate, because we are the closest to Scotland and have a shared border.
“If Scotland cuts air passenger duty, that will have an impact on our two airports – especially Newcastle. I want to see regional variations allowed in England.
“We must look at the consequences of any further devolution to Holyrood on the rest of the country.
“What I’m saying to my colleagues in Scotland is that Labour is a national party – not a nationalist party. Helping people shouldn’t stop at the border.”
The Sedgefield MP said he believed most North-East people wanted a ‘No’ vote, adding: “That’s partly because of the consequences for our region if Scots vote ‘Yes’, but also because they genuinely believe we are better together.”
The Devolution Commission’s tax proposals have even sparked anger among some Scottish Labour MPs, ahead of their unveiling on March 21.
A spokesman for SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed there was a “civil war” in Labour, adding: “That leaves a ‘Yes’ vote as the only option on the table.”