A cross-party group is proposing a new Act of Union to make the UK more federal and lessen the possibility of Scottish independence, it has emerged.
According to The Herald newspaper, politicians hope to win the backing of the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for their plans.
Their policies would be put to the people of the UK’s four nations in a new referendum within the next few years if they were to become law.
Labour peer Lord Hain, who is a member of the steering group of the Constitution Reform Group (CRG), said: “What is distinctive about the model we are proposing is whereas devolution up until now has been a top-down processthis is a bottom-up process.”
The former Welsh Secretary said the four nations would “federate upwards to the UK and decide what is done at the centre and at a national level”.
He claimed this would make the UK a lot stronger and more appealing, particularly to Scotland, as, under the proposal, it would be “deciding what is done at the centre rather than the centre deciding what is allowed to be done by Scotland”.
The new Act of Union would have to win approval from voters in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the new system to be implemented.
That means any one of them would have a veto in a similar vein to Nicola Sturgeon’s “double lock” argument for the EU referendum, which would block a so-called Brexit in the event of a Leave vote if just one nation voted to stay in Europe.
In written evidence to the Lords Constitution Committee, the group said: “We see an immediate threat to the constitutional future of the United Kingdom in the likelihood of a repeated referendum on Scottish independence in the near future.”
Lord Salisbury told the committee: “Those who want to keep Scotland in the UK need to wrest back the initiative from the separatists, which has been lost (to them).”
He explained the “neatest way” of doing that was to propose a new Act of Union; some 300 years or so since the original acts created one united kingdom of Great Britain.
The group is likely to propose two main options – a fully federal system or, once central functions are identified, using the current system of devolution to distribute power to local, regional and national institutions.
The plan echoes the sentiments of Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former Defence Secretary George Robertson, who argued in 1995 that “devolution will kill nationalism stone dead”.