Parliament recall likely if Scotland votes for independence

Houses Of Parliament

Government whips are understood to be preparing contingency plans to recall parliament if Scotland votes for independence next week, which would postpone the start of the Labour party conference.

Downing Street strongly denied it is making any contingency plans but other well placed sources confirmed that whips have been detrmining the whereabouts of Conservative MPs on the weekend after next Thursday's Scottish referendum vote.

No 10 also said it has not made any plans for a reaction by the markets, but the Bank of England has already said it is "making contingency plans about contingency plans".

Labour is currently proceeding with its conference on the assumption of a no vote, and senior figures are still optimstic that the Scots will pull back from voting for separation.

Traditonally Labour seeks to dominate the media agenda on the weekend before its party conference - its last before the general election – with a round of media interviews and key policy announcements building to Miliband's keynote speech on the Tuesday.

Parties regard annual conferences as essential springboards for their general election campaigns. But a yes vote would create a constitutional crisis that would derail the conference season. Many Labour MPs think it inconceivable that Cameron would not ask for a recall for parliament.

A recall would be required for the coalition to explain how it will conduct negotiations with the Scottish government on independence, the continuing role of ministers with Scottish seats in the government, the measures being taken to steady the markets and the status of Scottish MPs in future votes between now and 2015.

It is not anticipated that a request to delay the 2015 election will be made, an emergency measure that would require amending the Fixed Term Parliament Act, and likely to be opposed by Labour.

But it is accepted that the entire character of the May 2015 election would be transformed with voters delivering verdicts on the causes of the loss of Scotland, a bidding war on the terms of the negotiatins with the Scottish government, questions over the role of Scottish MPs at Westminster between 2015 and separation and finally, competing visions of the shape of a constitutional settlement in a reduced United Kingdom.

In the week after the Scottish referendum, David Cameron is due to travel to New York for the climate change talks at the United Nations general assembly, on teh same day as Miliband's keynote speech, and for talks on how to combat Isis, likely to be held the next day.

Labour knows that if it is a yes vote, there will be interparty recriminations and it will have to absorb the implications of losing as many as 40 MPs permanently.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act allows the PM to seek to delay the general election by statutory instrument for 2 months, but for no longer.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Patrick Wintour, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 10th September 2014 18.19 Europe/London

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