A SECOND referendum on Scottish independence came a step closer yesterday as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed UK Government proposals on English votes for English laws (Evel) asked the question of “whether Westminster is capable of representing Scotland’s interests at all”.

The proposals for Evel, put in front of MPs by Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling, had been expected for weeks. They were a key promise of the Conservative Party manifesto and could be traced back to David Cameron’s triumphant morning after the referendum speech last September.

Grayling yesterday told MPs they would be introduced through amending the standing orders in the House of Commons. A debate and vote will be held in two weeks time on July 15. This will be the only time allotted to the procedure.

The First Minister said the Tories were riding roughshod over the “democratic rights of the people of Scotland”.

“The Tories have produced a constitutional shambles – staggering in the extent of its hypocrisy and incoherence,” Sturgeon said.

“The Westminster system wants an English veto but rides roughshod over the democratic rights of the people of Scotland.”

The SNP leader continued: “I have been very clear that, at least in part, the level of support for independence will be determined by what the Tory government at Westminster does, as well as what the SNP Government does. And there is no question that the great disrespect shown to Scotland in these proposals is likely to have more people asking whether

Westminster is capable of representing Scotland’s interests at all.”

Father of the House of Commons Sir Gerald Kaufman shocked the benches when he called the bill “racist”.

The veteran Labour MP urged Tory backbenchers to rebel against the Government: “I hope that there will be enough Conservative Members of Parliament who have sufficient love of this wonderful House not to co-operate in destroying it.”

Presenting the bill, Grayling said that it would “answer the West Lothian question”.

It would be up to the Speaker to decide if a Bill or a clause of a Bill before the House was exclusively English or exclusively English and Welsh.

Under the new rules English or English and Welsh MPs would have to give their consent, separate from the rest of the House of Commons, to the Bill. This so called Legislative Grand Committee would also be able to veto any amendment made to a Bill and passed with Scottish votes.

Grayling said: “No law affecting England alone will be able to be passed without the consent of English MPs.

“They will give English MPs a power of veto over secondary legislation and on a range of English public spending motions as well on matters that affect England only.

“And they will give the decisive vote over tax measures to MPs whose constituents are affected by those changes, once further planned devolution to Scotland takes place.”

Responding for the SNP, Pete Wishart said the procedure was “constitutional bilge” and “unworkable garbage”. It was proof, he said, that the Conservatives were trying to push Scotland out of the UK.

“We had a referendum last year and we lost it,” said Wishart. “By God, though, this lot are doing their best to ensure that Scotland becomes an independent nation. I almost congratulate them on the almost ham-fisted approach they are adopting on Scottish issues. All this is going to do is to make the whole movement towards independence even more irresistible.”

For Labour, shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle criticised the Government for hurrying the procedure through and for not attempting cross-party consensus: “I am disappointed but not surprised that the Government have made no such attempt, and that they intend to rush the procedural changes through the House in the next two weeks, in a time-limited debate to change our Standing Orders. That is no way to make profound constitutional change. It is an outrage that the Government believe it is”.

Liberal Democrat former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “I think it is an outrage that the Government are seeking to drive ahead with a fundamental challenge to the constitutional integrity of this House as the Parliament of the UK through Standing Orders. If the Leader of the House really thinks these proposals will bear scrutiny, he should bring forward primary legislation for proper scrutiny both on the Floor of this House and in the other place. If he thinks he can do that, let him come ahead and do it.”

SNP MP Patrick Grady said the proposals amounted to “Tory votes for Tory laws”.

SNP MP Ian Blackford told Grayling that his statement was “probably signalling the end of the Union that you want to preserve”.

Scottish Secretary of State David Mundell defended the Government’s proposal.

“This is an approach to bring some balance and equilibrium and fairness to the devolution settlement across the whole of the United Kingdom.

“English MPs can have a specific say in England-only matters and that’s all that it is,” Mundell said.

“It will make the Union stronger because I think people in England will feel that their voice is heard on measures that affect only England and if a majority of English MPs don’t like something that is being proposed for England, they will be able to do something about it.”

On Wednesday at PMQs, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson, asked Cameron to confirm that the plans would “exclude Scottish MPs from parts of the democratic process in Westminster”.

How English Votes for English laws would work

(i) It will be at the discretion of the Speaker to decide at the first reading if a Bill or parts of a Bill should be considered exclusively English or exclusively applying to England and Wales.

(ii) Those Bills will then continue to a second reading where all MPs will debate and vote on the general principles of Bill.

(iii) If passed at a vote the Bill then goes on to the committee stage to be considered, line by line, by either English MPs or English and Welsh MPs.

(iv) The Bill then goes to the report stage where it will be debated and can be amended by the whole House.

(v) Then a Legislative Grand Committee must pass a consent motion on the Bill. This stage ultimately means that English, and English and Welsh only legislation needs a second majority to pass.

This gives English or English and Welsh MPs the power to veto any Bill or clauses in a Bill that may have been passed by a vote of the whole House of Commons. For example, if Labour, the SNP and Tory backbench rebels teamed up to amend a Government Bill, the Government could then have those amendments defeated at this stage by, effectively, stopping the 59 Scottish MPs from voting. If any clauses are vetoed there is then a reconsideration stage where the whole House can make amends. This then has to go back to a second consent stage. If no agreement on the clauses can be met they then fall.

(vi) After this stage the Bill will move through to the third reading where the whole House can again debate and vote.

(vii) If passed the Bill will then proceed to the House of Lords. The legislative process in the House of Lords remains the same.

The National View: Evel is a disgrace to democracy and proof that the Tories have given up on Scotland