River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The West Lothian Question

February 2015

The West Lothian Question (or English votes for English laws)

(It acquired the name of West Lothian because Tam Dalyell, who was MP for West Lothian, raised the question of Scottish MPs voting on English laws when the devolution of some powers to Scotland was first proposed in 1977.)

It was understandable that Scots wanted more power to govern themselves, especially when they found themselves with a Tory government at a time when there was only one Scottish Tory MP out of a total of 127.  Fortunately the referendum revealed that the majority of Scots did not want full independence.  In order to reduce the risk of the ‘Yes’ vote succeeding it is probable that the politicians promised further devolution than was necessary   I like to think  that the ‘No’ vote’s success stemmed from a desire on the part of most Scots to see the Union maintained, rather than because of the concessions promised.

At first sight it is understandable that English voters would see it as unfair that Scottish MPs could vote on matters restricted to England whilst English MPs cannot vote on Scottish matters.  Records show, however, that, in the last ten years, the number of occasions when the Scottish vote has been decisive are very few and I don’t think English people are too concerned.  Nobody that I have met has expressed any great interest, it seems to concern politicians a lot more than it does the voters.

A number of proposals have been put forward to overcome this apparent unfairness.  Every one of these proposals undermines the authority of the government of the United Kingdom.  What concerns me more is holding the UK together.  David Cameron claimed that he would fight to hold the UK together but his efforts to ensure English votes for English laws (Evel) will inevitably leave the UK parliament much weaker with very little to do apart from setting a budget and maintaining our defence, even the latter will prove difficult if the Scots have the power to force Trident out of Scottish waters (not that I am necessarily a supporter of Trident but it is the fact that the UK government would not be the supreme authority that would worry me).

John Redwood recently asked “Who speaks for England?” a rather extraordinary question when approximately 500 of the 650 MPs at Westminster represent English constituencies.  Unfortunately our MPs, who should be free of sectional, local or regional concerns, and who should be working to strengthen the Union following the Scottish vote, are more concerned with pursuing partisan interests.

I feel passionately about the UK and I fear that we are seeing the disintegration of this once great nation.  The one consoling fact for me is that, without a completely unexpected result in the forthcoming general election, it is extremely unlikely that there will be any significant action to undermine the Union before 2020.

Ron Watts

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