David Cameron will vow on Monday to prevent England, Wales and Northern Ireland from losing out unfairly as a result of Scottish devolution by introducing an annual report detailing the impact of Scottish government decisions on the rest of the UK.
The annual Treasury report would include policies such as business rates, university tuition fees, health charges and tax rates.
The prime minister will say that other parts of the country will be free to respond to the decisions of the Scottish government, such as taking compensatory action if it presses ahead with plans to cut air passenger duty.
In a move that is likely to be seen as an attempt to be the champion of English interests, Cameron will say the review will set out “what action is needed to make sure there is no detriment to the rest of the UK”.
The review sets up the possibility of highlighting conflicts of interests between Scotland, the union and its other constituent parts.
The annual review is bound to raise suspicion in Scotland that Cameron wants to reduce Scottish autonomy.
But in a speech in north-west England, he will say: “To be absolutely clear, this is not about a UK government stopping the Scottish government from using its powers as it sees fit or to do things differently. It is also not about reopening discussion about the Barnett formula – our commitment to retain it as the basis for determining Scotland’s funding from the Treasury is clear and unequivocal.
“This is about making sure we understand the impact that devolution is having and make sure that rest of the country never unwittingly loses out”. There has been concern for instance that Scottish government decision to reduce air passenger duty is going to have a harmful impact on airports in northern England.
The Conservatives, determined to highlight the risk of a hung parliament in which a minority Labour administration is dependent on the votes of the Scottish National party, also seized on remarks by Stuart Hosie, the party’s Treasury spokesman, that it might block Treasury defence estimates in a bid to prevent cash being spent on a replacement for the Trident nuclear submarine.
Hosie, speaking on Sunday Politics Scotland, said: “We would, of course, vote against cuts we did not like, and the spending would appear in the estimates and we would vote against the spending we did not want to see.”
He said that if Labour refused to reach an agreement, the SNP would be “entitled to vote against any bit of legislation” and “any bit of spending” that it didn’t agree with.
He said Labour leader Ed Miliband “certainly couldn’t take the vote of SNP MPs for granted and that’s the real reason I suspect there will be proper discussions before key votes”.
A vote against the estimates – only possible if the SNP combined with the Tories – would mean the Ministry of Defence could be starved of cash, potentially leading to the army not being paid.
Normally, votes on the estimates are a formality and Labour sources said Hosie’s remarks were “posturing which is only being taken seriously by a Conservative party who know the SNP are their best last hope of staying in power, adding:
“Only the government has the right for fiscal initiative in parliament so the SNP couldn’t propose different plans.
The sources said that, as a general principle, the main parties did not vote against estimates, so the votes of the SNP would be irrelevant unless the Tories chose to be totally irresponsible.
But Cameron said the growing signs that the SNP would seek to have a major impact on the direction of a Labour government showed how calamitous a Labour minority administration might become for the UK.
In a combative and sometimes ill-tempered interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, he said: “This would be the first time in our history that a group of nationalists from one part of our country would be involved in altering the direction of our country and I think that is a frightening prospect.”
The SNP “do not even want our country to succeed, that is why it is so calamitous”, he said.
Cameron asked English voters to question if the SNP held the balance of power at Westminster whether their road bypass would be built or their local hospital would get the cash it needed. The appeal is probably most aimed at luring Ukip voters back to the Conservatives.
He said: “Frankly, this is a group of people that would not care what happened in the rest of the country. The rest of the United Kingdom – Wales, Northern Ireland and England – would not get a look-in and that is the prospect we face if we don’t get the majority Conservative government that is within our reach.”
The shadow leader of the house, Angela Eagle, implied there might be talks with the SNP, saying: “We’ll speak to any party that has got representation in the House of Commons in order to try and build a majority for a Queen’s speech.”
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