Dear Mr Speaker,
I am writing to you, the Leader of the House, the Shadow Leader of the House and the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, concerning the debate secured by the Right Honourable Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath on the 16th of October on the subject of the UK Government’s relationship with Scotland.
The Right Honourable Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath revealed to the press that he secured this debate with your kind permission and he has since described this debate as a substantial debate on the ‘vow’ made concerning the timetable on ‘more powers’ for Scotland. As you are aware, this debate is nothing other than an end of day adjournment debate, meaning that it will only last only half hour, is un-amendable and can not be voted on. These debates usually involve only the member who has secured the debate and the relevant Minister responding. In this case, this will mean that no-one but the Right Honourable Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and a Minister from the Scotland Office will be given the opportunity to speak, unless granted through intervention from the Right Honourable Member himself. Mr Speaker, you know only too well, that the Right Honourable Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is not exactly renowned for his generosity in debate.
Such an adjournment debate is clearly insufficient to address the full range of concerns about the issue of ‘more powers’ promised to Scotland. These ‘more powers’ were guaranteed in a ‘vow’ from the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and was communicated to the people of Scotland on the front page of a national daily newspaper on the eve of the referendum for Scottish independence. Many voters, in considering how they would be voting in that referendum, were influenced by this ‘vow’ and have since been following with interest the progress of how the ‘vow’ will be honoured.
Since the Right Honourable Member secured this debate, many things have happened with this ‘vow’ and the debate has moved on, making a full debate even more pertinent and necessary. The Prime Minister, within hours of the referendum result being announced, put forward plans for the voting rights of Scottish MPs to be considered concurrently with any legislation on ‘more powers’ for Scotland. This was the first time that the issue of the voting rights of Scottish MPs had been mentioned in connection with a ‘more powers’ offer to Scotland. Such is the concern that this ‘vow’ is being undermined, that the architect and organiser of ‘the vow’, the Right Honourable Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, himself feels the necessity for a petition signed by 100,000 Scottish to ‘guarantee’ these ‘more powers’.
A solemn vow made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition must surely rank as one of the most important joint statements delivered by the House in recent times. A half hour adjournment debate is, therefore, clearly insufficient to consider all the issues concerning this ‘vow’ to the Scottish people. I am therefore asking you, Mr Speaker, with co-operation with the Leader and Shadow Leaders of the House and the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, to cancel all other business on the 16th and give the day exclusively to the ‘vow’ made to the Scottish people in advance of the referendum on Scottish independence. The business for that day consists of backbench business debates on a ‘national pollination strategy’ and a debate on ‘a report from the all-party cycling group’. Whilst these are extremely important issues, I am sure you would agree that they can be fully debated on another day.
I very much hope that you will agree to this suggestion and I look forward to your reply.
Pete Wishart MP