The Tory plan for boundary changes (and fewer MPs) is widely considered to be finished, following Nick Clegg’s announcement that Lib Dems will be voting against the plans. However, Cameron knows that the boundary changes are his best shot of keeping a Tory majority in 2015 a possibility. Could he do a deal with Alex Salmond to offer Devo Max in return for boundary changes – including the removal of Scottish MPs from Westminster?
That’s what former Tory MEP John Stephens suggests, in this intruging piece from Mark Seddon:
Driving what appears to be an emerging concordat between David Cameron and the SNP leader, Alex Salmond, is a belief that both sides stand to gain quite substantially from agreement over boundary changes in return for a “devolution max” that stops just short of full independence for Scotland. According to former Conservative MEP John Stevens, Cameron could announce shortly after the European elections in 2014 that the Scottish referendum would be a choice between “devo max” and full independence.
So what is devo max? As yet, no leading political figure has really attempted to define it. But, says Stevens, the devo max Cameron has in mind involves Scotland “no longer returning MPs to Westminster”. Joint jurisdiction over defence and foreign affairs could be decided by ministers from both parliaments or representative Scottish MSPs coming to Westminster only when key defence or foreign affairs votes need to take place. “The advantage for Cameron in this scenario,” says Stevens, “is that he can claim to have both saved the union and finally answered Tam Dalyell’s infamous West Lothian question“. The even bigger advantage is that through a combination of advantageous boundary changes and a removal of the Scottish Labour block, the Tories would hold sway in virtual perpetuity.
Seddon’s whole piece is published over at Comment Is Free.