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This Library Note provides background reading for the debate in the House of Lords on 29 October 2014 on devolution following the Scottish independence referendum, which took place on 18 September 2014. Prior to the referendum, the Scottish Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties each published separate proposals for the further devolution of powers to Scotland in the event of a vote by Scotland in favour of remaining part of the UK. In the last month of the referendum campaign, the three parties sought to present a united front to the Scottish people through a joint commitment to a time-table proposed by the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, which would see the parties’ different proposals combined to create a draft bill on further devolution. This draft bill would be published prior to the 2015 general election.

Following the decision of the Scottish people on 18 September 2014 to vote against independence, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, established a commission led by Lord Smith of Kelvin that was to publish a heads of agreement document on Scottish devolution by November 2014. The areas where the Smith Commission might be likely to seek consensus included the further devolution of tax raising powers and control of some social security policies. In tandem with this process, a Cabinet Committee chaired by the Leader of the House of Commons, William Hague, would consider the devolution settlement in Wales and Northern Ireland, and the West Lothian question. The Prime Minster also said that his Government would announce the further decentralisation of powers to local authorities and measures to engender wider civic engagement.

The resolution of the West Lothian question, also referred to as the English question, presents a number of challenges. These include the danger of creating two classes of MPs in the House of Commons, which the McKay Commission into the West Lothian question warned would undermine the stability of the Union. There would also be the difficulty of defining which bills might be classed as England or England and Wales only bills. Although William Hague has stated that the Labour Party had been invited to take part in the Cabinet Committee process, Labour has argued that the choice of a Cabinet Committee to consider this kind of constitutional change was inappropriate. The Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, has argued that the issue should be considered as part of a constitutional convention instead.

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