Liam Fox’s resignation as Defence Secretary will have a significant effect on the devolution debates. Fox may have sat in Parliament for North Somerset, but his interest in Scottish affairs has remained a significant factor since he entered government – making him one of relatively few Scottish voices in Cabinet, and among front-rank Conservative politicians. He is, of course, a staunch Unionist of an old-fashioned stamp, seemingly very uneasy about devolution let alone any further extension of that. One telling example of his approach was his over-spun line that weighting defence cuts in such a way as to limit their impact in Scotland would ‘save the Union’ (see the Scotsman’s story here – this was the front-page lead that day). But I gather his influence goes further than that, and that his has been an important voice in limiting the steps the Conservative Party and UK Coalition Government were willing to take in devolving further powers to Scotland. (It seems his influence has been much more restrictive than that of the other Anglicised Scot in Cabinet, Michael Gove.)
Fox’s removal from government is therefore likely to alter the balance in further discussions about what should happen. One significant voice opposing extensions of devolution has gone, as all the appointments made in the mini-reshuffle are of English MPs and none of them have shown much interest in Scottish matters. If the Liberal Democrats want seriously to open the door to meaningful change in the Scotland bill, the circumstances make it much easier for them to do so.