Well, it’s all over. The question of Scottish independence is settled, for now at least. With a slender majority, Scots opted to stay in the United Kingdom (thanks guys!). However, whilst talk of independence may be on hold for now, another, older concern has once again reared its head: devolution.
Following Scotland’s decision to stay in the United Kingdom, all three of the major political parties have come out in support of devolving further powers to the Scottish Parliament, but this raises further issues: if Holyrood is to be given greater power over governing Scotland, what is to happen to the UK’s central Parliament in Westminster?
This age old (well, 40 year old) question has been posed pretty much every time we devolve powers to anyone anywhere, but Scotland is our most pressing example, so we creatively name it the West Lothian Question. And the answer the government has decided upon saddens me deeply.
The conservative government has somehow come to the conclusion that the best way to prevent Scottish MPs from deciding on English law is to simply ban them from voting in certain votes. On the face of it, it seems like a fairly pragmatic and strong idea, but it unravels pretty easily.
If this proposal was enacted, Westminster would be made up of two kinds of MPs: English MPs who would be able to vote on English law and UK law and Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs who would only be able to vote on the latter. Essentially, there’ll be two tiers of MPs in our central government and this opens up several cans of worms.
Will we pay both groups the same? Will they be entitled to the same level of expenses? It simply just won’t work. Luckily there are other solutions to the West Lothian question. One solution favoured by UKIP and the English Democrats is to create a new English Parliament. Whilst I’m deeply embarrassed and concerned for agreeing with Nigel Farage, they’re sort of on the right track.
Federalising the United Kingdom may be the best way to save it from itself. Devolution has been a success in Scotland, London, Northern Ireland and, to some extent, Wales, but creating an English Parliament is not the best idea (but hey, none of Mr. Farage’s ideas are) as too much of the population lives in England. Such a body would be far too powerful and not too dissimilar from the Westminster Parliament in composition. There must be another solution.
And, of course, there is. Regional Assemblies could solve the West Lothian Question without making any region too powerful. My investigation of the devolution Yorkshire movement dismissed it on the grounds that I didn’t think people wanted it, but things have changed. The time to devolve is now. We must do it to save the nation from certain collapse.