Questioning the Scottish question…

I have to admit to being one of those poor souls who doesn’t quite ‘get’ the West Lothian question. The anomaly of devolution in the UK always seemed in tune with the anomalous nature of the territory itself: the principle of subsidiarity a reasonable response to critics.

England was long ago bonded into one jurisdiction by that ‘astute and miserly politician’, Henry VII wielding the deadly weapon of his Star Chamber (‘let no man put asunder’). Scotland always pulled against the parliamentary reigns of a union, which had left it with radically different legal system and separate traditions in policy making.

For me at least, James Blitz sums up the danger for the Tories in pushing their own Anglo centric approach to solving Tam Dalyell’s strangely enduring question.


  • Rory

    Och, this is all hooey. The Tories are not exercised at the principle. They are simply appealing to English xenophobia of the Scots. If Malcolm Riffkin had not been booted out of his homeland to replace the replacement to the elegant bon viveur, Kenneth Clarke in Chelsea and subsequently won the leadership election, this pretence at principle would not arise. Principle is the Easter of bourgeois politics – a moveable feast.

  • The Beach Tree


    Out of curiosity, which part of the West Lothian question don’t you get?

  • Mick Fealty

    I understand the question and the premise. I’m just not sure why it’s had legs since 1977.

  • The Beach Tree


    I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand your comment “why legs”? What is your issue with it in plain english?

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ve cracked open a bottle of red, and am putting my feet up for Friday. I hope some other ‘poor soul’ will answer your question. Night all.

  • Brian Boru

    The Tories know they will never do well in Scotland or Wales. This is about improving their chances of controlling the Commons in my opinion. They can dress it up however they like.

  • Logically, the current system does seem ridiculous. Typically for me, I’m much better at spotting the problem than the solution. English votes on English Laws seemed like a good idea at the time but the FT makes a good point about the difficulties it woudl create for collective government if there was a Tory majority for English constituencies and a Labour one overall.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Easy answer to this. Have Scotland finally give England her independance.

    Let’s see how she get’s on without having Scotland govern, think and fight for her. Oh and up till recently Scotland’s oil and gas revenue carried a near bankrupt England for thirty years.

    See if she sinks or swims.

  • English MP’s voting on English issues is fair enough. However, why should they continue to be allowed to vote on matters that affect Scotland, such as defence and foreign policy, but are still reserved to Westminster?

  • tyke

    Strange the Scots always say its “oor oil and gas.” There’s a few gas rigs off the coast from me and I definitely live in England. Some of “oor oil” is also on England’s side of the border.
    We don’t care about the gas and oil. For the English, the issue isn’t about the gas and oil. The issue is about the growing opportunity for getting rid of that boil that festers on England’s arse – Scotland.
    It’s been a long time coming, but at last there is light on the horizon. A few Brits in all UK countries will cry into the pillows at night for the loss of Empire, but who cares?

  • Hidden Gem

    Nationalism has no positive contribution to make society.

    British Nationalism stinks
    Scottish Nationalism stinks
    English Nationalism stinks
    Irish Nationalism stinks
    In short, Nationalism stinks

  • IJP


    I see where you’re coming from, although only in that the anomaly always existed.

    It was always possible, for example, for a Scottish-based MP to become, let’s say, Minister for Transport which, in effect, only applied to England and Wales (as Scotland and NI had/have their own equivalent Ministries, typically under the Scottish or NI Office and Secretary of State).

    The only thing is that now it is obvious!

    The only time I remember comment on this pre-1999 was when William Hague was appointed Secretary of State for Wales. The point is, when it is obvious to the people, there is an easy campaign to run on the back of it.

    Combine this with the growing sense of ‘regional nationality’ in the UK since 1977, and you have the recipe for a question which lingers. Again, it is politics tied up with identity – and it’ll be very difficult to get a proper grip on it.

  • Prince Eoghan

    I agree with you, you little tyke, about us giving youse independance. However, in mentioning England’s oil rigs, are you aware that just prior to the Scotland Act 1998 coming into force. Westminster changed the sea boundry b/w My great country and the leach down below. They rushed it in while they still had the power to do so.

    Thus ensuring that England would have a dis-proportionate claim to oil, gas and fisheries rights. It will be a factor fought over in the future at some stage.

  • IJP

    Hidden Gem

    An interesting way of putting it, to be sure – but you’re darned right.

  • Nationalism and democracy are two sides of the same coin of popular sovereignty.
    As soon as there was a democratic deficit which affected England, English nationalism arose in response.
    It is not just a Tory issue. So far the net effect of the West Lothian anomaly has been the imposition of foundation hospitals and top-up fees against the wishes of a majority of English MPs, and in stark contrast to Labour policy in those Scottish MPs own constituencies.

  • Hidden Gem


    IMO Nationalism should be expressed in a spirit of giving and sharing. It should say this is what is our culture has grown to be and, if you would like to learn more, we would like to share it with you.

    Sadly, all too often, that is not the case. Certainly in these lands at least, it is bastardised by those who whish to use it as a stick to beat anyone who is different.

    Maybe at some point in the future we will be able to treat other people’s culture and expressions of nationalism with a mutual respect? Until then, down with the flags and down with nationalism.

  • Greenflag

    Professor Bogdanor says the Baker proposals would bifurcate the Commons. The lower house would have a UK majority – presumably Labour – for foreign affairs, defence and economic policy. But it would have an English majority – presumably Tory – on health and education where Scottish MPs would be excluded from voting. “This would make effective collective government impossible.”

    So the NI Assembly conundrum/nonsense would then have a near relative at Westminster ? A bit like SF having responsibility for the Health , Education, and Finance Ministries while the DUP have the rest ?

    Blitz’s article actually shows up the weaknesses in the whole NI power sharing ‘solution’.

    I winder who will/can suspend Westminster ?

    Bifurcate now 🙂

  • Greenflag

    ‘British Nationalism stinks
    Scottish Nationalism stinks
    English Nationalism stinks
    Irish Nationalism stinks
    In short, Nationalism stinks’

    So Welsh nationalism is okay then 🙂

    Nationalism in the sense of the glorification of one’s ‘nation’ at the expense of others is what stinks . I’d have said ‘extreme Nationalism ‘ stinks everywhere .

    As for

    ‘ Certainly in these lands at least, it is bastardised by those who use it as a stick to beat anyone who is different.’

    I agree . And that is why English/British nationalism in Ireland in particular stinks, no matter how much soap or deoderant HMG sprays on the smell .

    Irish Nationalism in Kent or Durham would also stink 🙂

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    “Irish Nationalism in Kent or Durham” – would also be on a par with pigeon fancying.

  • Hidden Gem

    I agree. I have no problem with anyone who offers to share their culture with others. Sadly, IMO, the world isn’t ready for this yet. I think we have a lot of growing up to do.

    Here people seem happy to vote in politicians who they know openly bastardise their culture. SF are better Irishmen the SDLP because they are greener DUP is a truer blue than the UUP.

    Don’t blame the politicians because we get what we vote for. I suppose there is an irony in the fact that those parties which profess to supporting the very best of the National identity are in fact, showing the worst side of their country and it’s culture.

  • DavidD

    The devolution of powers to Scotland (and to a lesser extent Wales) is an excellent example of the law of unexpected consequences (believe me I know about such things – I program computers). The manifest injustice of Scottish MPs voting on legislation which only affects England is so blatant that, either formally or informally, Scottish MPs at Westminster will eventually cease to vote on such matters. The result will be a de facto English devolution. This is the last thing that any of the three main political desire. They are all committed in varying degrees to a ‘regionalisation’ of England in accordance with EU directives. Such a policy has little support in England where the majority wish to see England treated as a single unit.

  • Q

    I’m intrigued by what the DUP and UUP must make of this debate. I’d imagine that a move to a federated UK would leave the Irish Grand Committee in an anomalous position. Have any of NI’s unionist politicians spoken out on the subject?

  • Ciaran Irvine

    Looking at all this from the outside, the UK certainly doesn’t look like a stable or permanent polity. Not in its current form anyway. It appears to be sliding towards disintegration. These things tend to rumble beneath the surface for decades, then all of a sudden burst on to the scene and 2 weeks later the cartographers are busy re-doing the maps.

    It looks to me like Scotland and England will be getting divorced fairly soon – perhaps within the decade.

  • The Beach Tree


    I personally think it depends on three key factors.

    1. The English having enough of Tony, vote for the Tories in Westminster.

    2. the Scots, having enough of Jack, vote for the Scot Nats in their parliament.

    3. Gordon Brown (or John Reid’s) ascension.

    One way or the other, the Scottish body politic would be out of sync with the English. It ha been Labour’s relative strength in both that have held the game together so long.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Scottish voters have long been out of sync with the English. During the 18 years of tory rule, Scots eventually ignored them so much that there was not one tory MP from Scotland.

    Of your three factors, 1 and 2 are already a reality, although both wee Jack and Blair aren’t bad guys on the whole, it is just the way the wind is blowin. Of your third factor, you do know that Reid is a Catholic?


    “It looks to me like Scotland and England will be getting divorced fairly soon – perhaps within the decade.”

    If only, I fear it may take longer, here’s hoping.

  • Levi

    I don’t think the devolution programme is going to go any further than it already has.. certainly not in our lifetime. As a single unit, the English make up nearly (or maybe over) 80% of the UK. If an English parliament were to become a reality, it would render the UK Westminster parliament a toothless tiger.. and make the UK as a whole pretty much ungovernable… the only way this particular programme can achieve full potential, I believe, is a federated system akin to the USA.

  • tyke

    It may interest you to know that prior to the general election, an Englishman in a certain campaign group telephoned the Labour spin machine and asked when England would also get its own Parliament. The dick head on the other end of the phone said that New Labour would never let England have its own Parliament; at least not until Ireland had decided where it was going.

    The Unionists in Ireland perhaps haven’t cottoned on to the growing demands for Independence in England. They should, because as sure as night follows day, we will get it.

  • PHIL

    The union between England and Scotland has been flawed from the start and only happened because of an accident of birth that foisted a Scottish monarch on the English a century earlier. March 26th next year marks the 300th anniversary of this unhappy marriage and I can think of no better way to mark it than to end it then and for England to become a nation once more.

  • The Beach Tree


    I’m well aware that John Reid is a catholic. i’m utterly unaware how it is significant. There is no constitutional bar I am aware of on catholics becoming Prime Minister.

  • Prince Eoghan

    “I’m well aware that John Reid is a catholic. i’m utterly unaware how it is significant. There is no constitutional bar I am aware of on catholics becoming Prime Minister.”

    Although the HR Act 1998 and EU law now means that the UK constitution could be said to be partly codified. The overwhelming practice is to follow convention, and it may not be down in writing that a Catholic cannot be PM, but I’m willing to bet it won’t happen for a good while yet.

    A wiley auld boy like Reid would not even risk putting himself forward as a candidate(even though he is clearly more than able) while the religion thing is still a factor.


    Again I agree with you 100%, Scots are only too willing to give the English their freedom. Let them get on with beating up Johnny foreigner on their own;¬}

    Would the Unionists in the 6 counties become English? when there is no GB.

  • PHIL

    “Would the Unionists in the 6 counties become English? when there is no GB.”

    I thought that they were Scots?

    Seriously though PE, don’t you think that it is for them to decide whether they go for an independant NI state or a united Ireland?

  • dodrade

    I think it may not be too long before the Conservatives become an English nationalist party.

  • Prince Eoghan


    Exactly and aye.


    “I think it may not be too long before the Conservatives become an English nationalist party.”

    Did you mean to say this 30 years ago? if so you were spot on;¬)

  • Greenflag

    “Irish Nationalism in Kent or Durham” – would also be on a par with pigeon fancying.

    Right SOTA and just as malodorous for Kentish folk or Durhamite:)

  • Greenflag

    ‘Don’t blame the politicians because we get what we vote for.’

    The ‘politicians’ of NI created the political cage and the bars through which both sets of politicians now snarl eternally at each other . Another ‘unintended ‘ consequence of the first Partition IMO.

    As to the Scotland ‘question’ . The interesting aspect of it from an Irish Nationalist perspective is how would a ‘fiscally ‘ independent Scotland manage it’s economy .
    Maybe a closer look needs to be made at how the German and American federal system’s work without SFAIK North Rhine Westphalia or Kentucky demanding independence .

    Of course if the UK disintigrates the Northern Ireland political entity will even look more insecure . Maybe the future for England/Scotland/Wales and Ireland should be more along the lines of the Scandinavian ‘Nordic ‘ council?

  • Prince Eoghan

    ffs greenflag catch up.

    Try reading the posts before posting.

    I’m bevied right now so don’t take offence. Slainte.

  • PHIL


    “I think it may not be too long before the Conservatives become an English nationalist party.”

    They could be, but I think that they still think it’s the 1950’s and there is still an empire to preserve, their title of “The Conservative and Unionist party” is appropriate and listening to Cameron I can’t see their policy on the union changing any time soon. The English votes on English laws policy that they have proposed may bring the union to an end though as I can’t see the non-English electorate tolerating their MP’s becoming effectively redundant. The only nationalist party in England at the moment are The English Democrats.

  • Bill

    UK Bills to be decidied by Parliament with other matters assigned to other assemblies. Simple really.

  • Plainspeaker

    Democracy in England does not require to be degraded much further, in order to enable his few supporters to justify a coronation of Gordon Brown in Westminster Abbey