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The West Lothian Question. Breakup of UK ?

by Helen Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 10:19:54 AM EST

This is beginning to become a major constitutional problem for the United Kingdom since the creation of the Scottish and (to a lesser extent) the Welsh assembly.

Jerome asked for a diary. Fortunately, this article was in the Independent today and conveniently explains the issue.  http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article1159315.ece

So here are some highlights.


What is the problem?

Since the Scottish Assembly started up in May 1999, the Scots have had control of their own health, education, agriculture and justice systems. Other matters, like foreign affairs, continue to run from Westminster. Scottish MPs continue to sit in the House of Commons and can vote on any legislation there, whether it applies to Scotland or not.
In November 2003, the Government narrowly won a Commons vote on whether to introduce Foundation Hospitals in England. If the vote had been restricted to English MPs, whose voters were the only ones likely to be affected by the legislation, it would have been defeated. In fact, the legislation was rescued by 44 Scottish Labour MPs who backed the Government.
Even more controversially, in January 2004, a Bill allowing English and Welsh universities to charge variable tuition fees, which did not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland, scraped through the Commons by only five votes, the narrowest majority in the history of Tony Blair's government .
The only Scottish Tory MP, Peter Duncan, refused on principle to vote, because the issue did not affect Scotland. Almost all the other Scottish MPs - who numbered a total of 72 at that time - came out to vote, dividing 46-21 in the Government's favour, thus saving a very contentious piece of legislation. Why - people ask - should Scottish MPs be wielding a decisive vote on legislation that does not apply to the people they represent?


So that's the issue in a nutshell. So why now ?
Why are we talking about this now?
In their election manifesto, last year, the Tories promised to make sure that "English laws are decided by English votes". It was thought that this policy might be quietly shelved after David Cameron established a Democracy Task Force, headed by the former Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, to revisit issues like this. But at the weekend, Mr Clarke told a Sunday newspaper that there was no question of the Tories backing out of their commitment to the English. This was backed up by a hint from Mr Cameron's official spokesman that the Conservative leader is in favour of the idea.
The Conservative grievance is not just that individual pieces of "English" legislation get through on the strength of Scottish votes. Some Tories claim that they "won" last year's general election in England, because 8.1 million people in England voted Conservative, while 8 million voted Labour, although Labour won an outright majority of English seats. They say that there is a growing sense of resentment among the English at having their lives run by Scots.

The last point is drivel, but there is a point to be made that contentious legislation that affects england alone sometimes survives only due to the votes of Scottish MPs, as highlighted above. Nevertheless it allows a pop at Scottish MP, Gordon Brown. As here;-

One shadow minister, Alan Duncan, suggested at the weekend that devolution makes it politically impossible for a Scot to be Prime Minister. This is a good way of getting at the Tories' number one target, Gordon Brown, and at Menzies Campbell.


Where does West Lothian come in?
When the Labour government tried unsuccessfully to introduce devolution in Scotland in the 1970s, one of their most dogged opponents was the Scottish Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who continually brought up the anomaly that Scottish MPs would be able to vote on issues like health where they affected England, but English MPs would not be allowed to vote on health issues as they affected Scotland. Dalyell was, at that time, MP for West Lothian. Hence the "West Lothian question".

So there are serious issues here, the Conservatives are an English party, Labour is a British one.
ACcording to the Indy, home rule for England wouild eventually mean the following:-
  • Public services that affect 85 per cent of the population could be controlled by the leader of the opposition.
  • The UK is not made of four equal parts, but one big country with three small partners.
  • Home rule for England would mean the disintegration of the United Kingdom.
I am not sure even the Tories want the last, and I doubt very much whether the Queen would. But unless they stop this, it will become inevitable

Display:
Two of the three have significant independence movements? One has an obvious geographic and ethnic partner - and the part that isn't Irish is closer to Scotland than England? They're not being very clever, are they?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 07:08:25 AM EST
Thet're idiots. And the Greater London Authority is unlikely to have a Tory majority. At most a hung parliament with a Lab/Lib coalition.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 07:17:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So they get the home counties and a few bits of the North?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 07:20:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did you see this wikipedia map?

The situation in the London assembly is a little more complicated than I was aware of, with an additional-member system. Lib/Lab/Green have 14 of 25 seats, but the Tories have a plurality of 9 and the UKIP has 2.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 07:27:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd forgotten about Cornwall. Maybe they'll secede as well...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 07:33:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. The map cleared things up a great deal.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins
by EricC on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 07:18:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, I'm beginning to see signs of a trend developing in that this will be the second time I'll live in a liberal city surrounded by strongly-conservative areas.  Note the red patch in the middle of all the blue.  First Tallahassee, now Nottingham.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 02:26:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nottinghamshire:
Nottinghamshire is represented by members of parliament, of which nine are members of the Labour Party, and two are Conservatives. Geoff Hoon, representative for Ashfield, is a front-bench member of the government. Kenneth Clarke of Rushcliffe is a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The County Council is Labour controlled. There are 67 councillors, of which 38 are Labour, 25 are Conservatives and four are Liberal Democrats.



Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 05:18:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
People might want to look back at Rogue Trooper's recent diary This United Kingdom, and the comments to that.

In that thread I quoted the Spanish Constitution's approach to devolution, as Spain is a country of 50 provinces with a few historical nationalities (Galicia, Basque Country, Navarra, Catalonia) and two archipelagos totalling 15 provinces. The issue of having Catalan or Basque MPs voting on national legislation on public services was never posed that I'm aware of. It was just not considered an issue. However, within a few years of the approval of the Constitution, Spain had been carved into 17 autonomous communities and no province was left out of one (Santander, Rioja, Madrid, Murcia consist of one province each, as do Navarra and the Balearics, but Navarra is a historical nationality and the Balearics an archipelago so that was to be expected).

Anyway, here's the Spanish procedure (which would ultimately lead to a federate England and no English Parliament)

Spanish Constitution of 1978
Section 143
1. In the exercise of the right to self-government recognized in section 2 of the Constitution, bordering provinces with common historic, cultural and economic characteristics, insular territories and provinces with a historic regional status may accede to self-government and form Self-governing Communities (Comunidades Autónomas) in conformity with the provisions contained in this Part and in the respective Statutes.
2. The right to initiate the process towards self-government lies with all the Provincial Councils concerned or with the corresponding inter-island body and with two thirds of the municipalities whose population represents at least the majority of the electorate of each province or island. These requirements must be met within six months from the initial agreement reached to this aim by any of the local Corporations concerned.
3. If this initiative is not successful, it may be repeated only after five years have elapsed.
The Scottish Parliament, Greater London Authority, and the Welsh and Ulster Assemblies would be grandfathered in.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 07:15:53 AM EST
In my planned utopia each person is going to be their own country.

The UK needs some sort of federalist arrangement like that in the US. The issues that make this work poorly are not determining where the authority for certain policies lies (should health care be a federal or state program, for example), but how federal money is to be allocated to the states.

My guess is that underlying all the "nationalism" in the UK is also resentment over tax allocations.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 11:25:10 AM EST
Yes there is some English resentment that the Barnett formula (which allocates funds to Scotland) is more generous than the equivalent figures in England. The Scots do not want any change which reduces their government grant.

Recently London politicians are complaining that they do not get enough back. The problem is that London Region is the richest part of the UK but also contains areas of considerable poverty.

These arguments tend to degenerate into disputed statistics as to which area contributes most to tax receipts and gets the least back. Everyone uses the facts and assumptions which support their case and ignores the rest.

by Gary J on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 01:23:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But it is not right that it's just tax resentment that underlies the nationalism. It's the easiest argument to use but that is hardly enough to mobilize nationalistic sentiments.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 01:28:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For more than twenty years North Sea oil collected in Scotland kept the UK economy afloat. I'm not sure if tax redistributions reflected this. But if not, perhaps they should have.  
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 04:18:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've noticed that England is now getting uppity now we've hoovered all the oil out of Sctoland's bit of the N Sea. How convenient !!

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 05:05:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not the only reason for the nationalist movement but, for historical reasons, it is the one that they have used. The Scottish National Party have long shied away from using cultural arguments to further the cause of independance - as a left of centre party they consider the slipper slop to racism.

The money argument is the SNP's frame however. They have long argued that Scotland should be the main beneficiary of the North Sea Oil and Gas.


So, "It's Scotland's Oil" seems to have become "It's Holyrood's oil".

Is it just the same old nationalist argument or is there a bigger economic argument this time?

The revenues Holyrood could expect to line its purse next year alone are estimated at £12bn.

And according to the SNP, this could rise to as much as £300m within 20 - 50 years. And that is just based on "known" reserves.

But critics dismiss the proposal as a non starter. Peter Wood is an Economic Consultant based at Tribal in Edinburgh.

He says the Treasury would never allow Scotland to keep oil revenues that would increase by 50% the money the Scottish Executive currently has to spend.

The bill they are talking about in the article is a bluff. The SNP's real target are the Scottish Parialment's elections next year.

<snark>
We're Scots, of course the arguments are money based
</snark>

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying

by RogueTrooper on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 04:37:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<snark>
We're Scots, of course the arguments are money based
</snark>
For Scots read: Catalans, Lombards, Flemish, Bavarians...</snark>

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 05:20:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The SNP's real target are the Scottish Parialment's elections next year.

I remember this recent story...

The Scotsman: McConnell warns Blair over SNP threat in Holyrood elections (12 Jun 2006)

JACK McConnell has warned Tony Blair that the Scottish National Party poses a "real threat" to Labour at next year's Holyrood elections.

The First Minister's warning coincided with a call from Welsh Labour MPs, who are anxious about the devolved assembly election there next year, for the Prime Minister to quit before next May.

The devolved elections next year are fast emerging as a major focus for concerns about Labour's performance and Mr Blair's position.

Between Blair and Cameron they are going to give us a very interesting 3 years until the next Westminster elections.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 05:42:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The United Kingdom was assembled over a thousand years or so. Breaking it up may involve unpicking a number of different unions. Changing it in other ways may produce a workable system of federation or devolution all round.

1. England (divided into regions). There were seven Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms which eventually got consolidated into England, with some other territories like Cornwall and Cumbria. Although those Kingdoms are not, as such, a current concern there is a regional feeling within England which has not really had much expression in government during the last thousand years. The attempts by central government to create English regions by drawing lines on a map rather than have the people define their own regions, has been a terrible setback. I suspect that given the chance regions would have been constructed largely based on one or more of the traditional counties. For example the three counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire have traditional links. They would form a more natural unit than as part of the vast South East Region to which they were assigned by government whim.

Of course the result of a bottom up regional policy would be more regions with smaller populations than Whitehall is comfortable with. They would also have to be given far greater powers than central government would want (I would suggest the minimum should be the powers the Scottish Parliament was given).

  1. England (as a whole). An English Parliament and Executive, whether as distinct bodies or a sub-set of the UK Parliament, (on the Scottish model) implies the speedy breakup of the United Kingdom. As I have previously suggested the only hope of avoiding this would be to elect the UK and English Parliaments by a proportional system, so it would be unlikely there would be a single party Labour UK government contending with a single party Conservative English executive.

  2. Anglo-Welsh union. Plaid Cymru exists but it is not clear that a majority of the Welsh would want independence.

  3. Anglo-Scottish union. The original Union deal was that England got security, because Scotland could no longer acquire a different Monarch from England or ally with English enemies, whereas Scotland got the economic advantages of free trade with England and its colonies. In modern circumstances neither of those objects requires the retention of an incorporating union. It is a matter for Scotland whether it wants independence. The ostensibly unionist Conservative Party has done much to weaken the union and its latest policy is lighting matches in a gunpowder factory. Cameron may do more to end the union than the SNP ever could.

  4. Anglo-Irish Union. The most problematic of the lot. Do we really want to end up with the United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland? I suspect the default position of the loyalist community if that union was not on offer would be an independent Northern Ireland. I do not see that a United Kingdom of Scotland and Northern Ireland is likely but if everyone wanted it I am sure the English would be delighted to agree.
by Gary J on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 12:43:46 PM EST
The ostensibly unionist Conservative Party has done much to weaken the union and its latest policy is lighting matches in a gunpowder factory. Cameron may do more to end the union than the SNP ever could.

Which begs my question in today's breakfast... What's wrong with the Tories? Are they that desperate to get back to No. 10?

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 12:50:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"What's wrong with the Tories? Are they that desperate to get back to No. 10"?

Yes.

The longer answer is that Cameron is imitating the worst part of Blair's governing style. Making major changes piecemeal with inadequate thought and consultation.

The Conservatives would prefer to go back to the pre-devolution status quo ante. As that is not going to happen why should they not engineer a country which they think they can keep control over?

The Conservative Party has for generations considered itself the party of the union, but at the same time they always considered Labour and Liberal majorities produced by non-English MPs as a bit illegitimate.

by Gary J on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 01:13:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think if if Brown does make it to No. 10, he would be well-advised to sit down with Ming Campbell and introduce PR into the Westminster elections. If Labour could do it for London, Wales, Ulster and Scotland, it can do it for the UK.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 01:19:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
PR for the House of Commons should have been the core of the constitutional changes introduced since 1997. The fact that Labour preferred self interest to principle is the greatest missed opportunity since the Liberals made the same mistake in 1918.
by Gary J on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 01:28:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
amen to that. Short-term self-interest rules

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 03:53:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't know a damned thing about this issue but what I've observed.

I believe in free internet commerce, and getting the best price I can for what I buy.

Was buying pipes from a tobacconist in Edinburgh, Scotland. Scotch pass a law 1/06 banning smoking in public places. Guy more or less shut down.

Googled a bit. Found a great 4th generation tobacconist in Yorkshire. Get what I want at an even better price.

Think it's a bit about keeping officious fools out of our lives, our bedrooms, our lifestyle choices, and our EMails, among other things.

I live in Virginia, USA, by the way.

Keep to the Great North Road, Helen.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 06:21:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're Scots not Scotch ( Scotch is a drink ).

Get it right.  

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying

by RogueTrooper on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 04:40:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The three bullet points at the end of the diary are actually quoted from the original Independent article. Shouldn't they be in a <blockquote>?

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 02:51:58 AM EST
Yes, they should. I have amended.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 05:08:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian:We must not give Cameron the chance to tear our country apart

The cross of St George still flies from the odd car roof and hangs in the occasional newsagent's window. Their owners know England are out of the World Cup; they just don't want to believe it yet. Meanwhile, on Andy Murray's website a row rages over whether Scots should support the English in their sporting endeavours and vice versa. And now the Conservatives are fleshing out their plan to stop Scottish and eventually Welsh MPs from voting on laws that only affect England. We are, in other words, in the midst of one of those perennial debates about our national identity.

They come regularly, often in summer, usually coinciding with a major moment in sport. In the case of the latest Tory announcement, that's unlikely to be a coincidence: it's proved smart media management to raise English votes for English laws while the white and red face-paint is still wet. A victory last Saturday would have made it even more timely.

The motive is pretty obvious, too. When Alan Duncan says it has become "almost impossible" for Britain to have a Scottish prime minister, we know who he has in mind. The Tories are raising the English question now to undermine Gordon Brown.

Which is not to say they don't have a point. The logic of the case is as sound now as it was 30 years ago when Tam Dalyell, arguing against devolution for Scotland, raised his famous West Lothian question: why should Scottish MPs be able to vote on schools or hospitals in England when English MPs cannot do the same for Scotland? The Conservative proposal - not new but in the manifesto in 2001 and 2005 - would untangle that anomaly. The Scots would do their thing in Edinburgh, and English MPs would do theirs at English-only sessions at Westminster. When there were matters affecting the whole of the UK, then everyone would come back together. That makes sense and, what's more, it's popular: polls show healthy majorities of Scottish and English voters in favour.



Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying
by RogueTrooper on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 07:32:00 AM EST
It's interesting that this seems to be happening across the entire EU, as large nation states start facing pressures to split into smaller ethnic groupings. (Or in the case of Cornwall and the West Country, smaller fictional groupings.)

What would an EU be like with - say - France and Germany as the only big nation states, and the rest a patchwork of local affiliations?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 09:40:45 AM EST
Germany is already a collection of smaller states, isn't it?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 09:43:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed - That is making the assumption that neither Germany or France would disaggregate with the evolution of the European Union.

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying
by RogueTrooper on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 10:45:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, guys, stop channeling José María Aznar. Devolution is not disaggregation, unless Cameron is in charge of it.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 10:57:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
devolucao, in portuguese, means reimbursement. It pretty much sums it up how I feel about it: that's not a way to deal with relationships between people.

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine
by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 05:04:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
devolver means to return in Spanish. It can be a tax return, but it can also mean to return the power [closer to] the people.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 05:14:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I went to the Corto ingles, which you must know, yesterday, where I saw that word. I had just read this diary, which is why it struck me. I can't really say all the way you can use this word.

It's funny how parliamentarism has lost its glory. Who could have predicted that a conservative would defend ideas that imply, somehow, that the people decide better?

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine

by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 05:23:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just look at the PP in Spain [not only now but in 1993-6]. When the conservatives are desperate to get back into power they stop at nothing, not even putting the state itself at risk.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 05:31:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The State and its political system. The old justifications for parliamentarism (concertation, debate, open-mindedness, desire to be convinced) seems to hold no more value in the politicians' mind than in the people's. And yet these are the values the EU is building itself on.

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine
by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 05:41:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is this why the fans now fly the St George cross flag? In 66 they flew the Union Jack. I still have the Lion mascot keyring.
by Lupin on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 11:14:06 AM EST
This is a tough call, in my opinion.  My knee-jerk reaction is, honestly, to support the Tories on this, because it hardly seems fair to give the Scots control over issues that do not affect them.  On the other hand, I'd very much prefer Brown to Cameron.

Thanks for digging all of this up, Helen.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 02:29:22 AM EST


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