Friday, 25 July 2014

The West Lothian Question

As a lawyer who conducts a fair amount of divorce work it seems quite surprising that in the debate on Scotland’s possible “divorce” from the rest of the UK it is only the home based Scots who are getting to vote and apparently expected to have a view. For what it is worth I hope that they vote “no” as I think that it is the best interests of all of us to remain as one. I also wonder about the Scots future without even control over their own currency. However whatever the outcome it does seem that this vote, over which we have no control, raises big questions for us too. If Scotland were to vote “Yes” we would have the bizarre situation at next year’s General Election where the result could be determined by Scotland’s voters notwithstanding the fact that they will have started their long goodbye. I also feel that if the Scots are leaving it is essential that those negotiating those arrangements on behalf of the rest of us are suitably bullish in their approach and do not make concessions which would adversely affect our position. There are a range of issues to include the pound, ECC membership, the allocation of debt, control of the military etc where we need to drive a hard deal and if the Scots want to leave I am sure they would not expect any different. However I am of the view that the interests of the English will need even more proactive defence if the Scots vote “No”. I suspect that following such a vote further concessions will be made on the devolution of powers and finance in circumstances where the famous “West Lothian Question” has still to be addressed. As I am sure you know this asks why in circumstances where powers have been devolved to Scotland and to a lesser extent Wales, but not England, it can be right that Scottish MPs still debate and vote on issues which do not take effect in Scotland. It amazes me that we have put up with the situation for so long although this is probably in part caused by the fact that any Labour government is dependent on the Scottish mps to provide a majority. I do believe that the time has come for some movement on this. I am not a great supporter of the creation of a new tier of regional government in England but at the least it should surely be made clear that any issues which relate to England and where powers have been devolved to other parts of the UK it should be only English mps who are involved in and vote on decisions. I am concerned that this makes me sound like I am auditioning for the English Democrats (which obviously I am not), but in circumstances where our celtic neighbours can seek to defend their interests without being accused of extremism the English need the same opportunity and as the largest force in English politics I would hope that the Conservatives lead the way by announcing some proactive policies to defend the right of the English to make decisions on “devolved” matters whatever the Scots choose to do.

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