The federal UK

Iain Dale covers the remarks of Conservative MP Mark Field on the relationship between the home nations. It’s not exactly how I would do it, but it’s an interesting idea.

  • Dewi

    At least it’s coherent and consistent. What would u do differently Michael ?

  • It is interesting, although I can’t quite see how he can argue against “English Votes for English bills” as pandering to English nationalism, yet on the other hand, suggest a full “national” English parliament.

    I realise that it is only an idea which is being floated but a crucial problem that is ignored os the one of taxation.

    An English parliament would solve the gripe of the West Lothian question, but if the English were still expected to largely subsidise the enormous public sector bureaucracies, free university education etc etc in Scotland, Wales and NI, what tangible financial benefits would this suggestion bring?

  • ozy

    Interesting ideas here Michael – as a design for a federal system I would say this is a bit overly much imbalanced towards the “national parliaments”.

    There’s also the question of what would happen if the First Minister of England, with a mandate from 80% of the UK people, got into a serious fiscal or constitutional conflict with the UK federal prime minister.

    He talks of a continuation of UK “cohesion funding” – the subsidy of Westminster of the poorer regions like Northeast England, N Ireland, parts of Wales. But what if , say, a freshly elected English FM swept to power on a penny-pinching agenda aimed at reducing SE England’s subsidy to the rest?

    I definitely think we need to shift on from our rather ad hoc devolution towards a more settled form of federalism such as in Canada or Australia – but it is much more tricky when one “unit” has 80% of the population.

    But certainly an interesting topic to raise – would be interesting to hear what you would propose doing differently?

  • Dewi

    I think we all need to challenge this idea that England is subsidising everyone. You add in the money, and the multiplactor effect, of money spent on defence establishments, government departments, royal palaces etc, mostly located in England then it ain’t as clear – and to chuck in a grenade they have raped us for centuries so a bit of payback might be welcome.

  • observer

    Michael – thanks for flagging this up. In many ways an English parliament is a natural development from devolution to the ‘celtic fringe’ (not the best term, but has its merits). All sides in the devolution debates during the 80s and 90s got it wrong. The anti-devolutionists said it would be the end of the Union. The devolutionists were too relaxed about the dynamics devolution would unleash.

    Admittedly this might be heresy for a unionist, but devolution is fundamentally changing the nature of the Union. A more flexible, federal union is emerging.

    And – though it pains me to say this – FM Paisley may have been on to something when, in answer to Burnside, he emphasised that irrespective of what transpires in Scotland, ‘the Queen remains Queen of Scotland’ (I paraphrase). Perhaps devolution inherently means the end of a legislative union, which means that the Monarchy takes on a renewed role as a symbol of unity in the Kingdom. (Now what good tory is going to oppose that?)

    Westminster then reverts to the role proposed at various times in British history – by American colonists before 1776, by Irish Home Rulers, and by ideological imperialists throughout the Empire in the late 19th century – as the ‘Imperial Parliament’: responsible for foreign affairs and Empire/Kingdom-wide matters.

  • Turgon


    Is most defence spending in England; a question not a criticsm? Is it still on a per capita basis? There is a big RAF base at St. Athan isn’t there and the Trident submarines live in Scotland. then there is the amusingly long runway at Campbelltown which no one has ever fully explained. Where is Trowbridge when you need him?

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>he emphasised that irrespective of what transpires in Scotland, ‘the Queen remains Queen of Scotland’<

  • Michael Shilliday

    Ozy raises an interesting comparison with Canada and Australia. While Canada has different dynamics, look at the differences between Ontario and Quebec and the tiny Atlantic provinces, particularly PEI.

    I know I wouldn’t have the UK Parliament elected by anything other than Universal suffrage, and I know that there are problems with having such huge differences between the populations of the four constituant countries, but for devolution to work, I reckon that England, sooner or later and by one means or another, needs it.