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We must devolve more powers to Scotland - but we also need to treat England fairly
19/09/2014 20:32:00

 
 

I am relieved that Scotland has voted to remain within the United Kingdom. After all we've achieved together, it would be very sad to see our countries broken apart.

But there's absolutely no room for complacency. Nearly 85% of those eligible to take part cast a vote - far higher than in any General Election - and nearly 45% of them voted for independence. In places like Glasgow and Dundee there was a majority for independence and polling suggests that if it wasn't for strong support for the Union among elderly voters the Yes campaign would have won.

Clearly many, many Scots are unhappy with the current arrangements. If we want to secure our Union, we need to address those concerns.

It was with this in mind that the Prime Minister - along with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg - promised to devolve further powers to the Scottish Parliament. He was quite right to do so. Crucially, these powers will include much more tax raising powers. This will make the Scottish Government more accountable for the decisions it takes - if it wants higher government spending in Scotland (eg having no tuition fees), it will have to raise taxes to pay for it, relying less on funding from the UK Government calculated using the Barnett formula.

Since the Prime Minister announced his support for more powers for Scotland a few days ago, a number of constituents have contacted me saying "That's all very well but what about England?"

It's a valid point. The current situation - where Scottish MPs can vote on laws relating to England, but English MPs have no say on many laws relating to Scotland - is already unfair. If even more powers are devolved to Scotland, it will become even more so.

That's why I am delighted with the statement the Prime Minister has made this morning. I would encourage you to read it in full.

He starts by explaining why it was right to have this referendum - the SNP won the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections and they therefore had a democratic mandate to put the independence question to the Scottish people.

He makes it clear that he intends to honour the promises he made to devolve further powers in full.

But crucially he says that the new arrangements must also be fair to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the case of England, that means ensuring that laws that only relate to England must have the support of a majority of English MPs and also devolving more powers to our counties and great cities.

And most importantly of all, the Prime Minister said that these changes must happen at the same pace as the devolution of new powers to Scotland.

It's good to see a number of Labour and Liberal Democrats agreeing with what the Prime Minister said. Sadly, Ed Miliband seems to want to kick the issue into the long grass with a "citizen-led constitutional convention" whatever that means. He clearly doesn't think he can win a majority in England and is putting his self-interest above what is fair. Disappointing but perhaps predictable.

If we want to keep our country together, it is clearly that our Union has to change, but that change must be fair to all four nations of the United Kingdom. The Conservative & Unionist Party, to give us our full name, will work with others to make sure that happens.

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Readers' Comments

On 24/09/2014 18:54:00 Anthony Miller wrote:
I love the SNP's claims that they "Scots never get the government they vote for”. Perhaps but there are still a lot of governments that could not have been formed without them. Your one has 5 Scotts ministers. John Major's government would have ended in about 1995 without the 10 Scots Tory MPs. Mrs Thatcher actually had 20 (1/3) of Scottish MPs till she introduced the Poll Tax and reduced them to 10. After that Conservatives were wiped off Scotland's electoral map in 1997 never to recover. Where did your voters go? Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP. So did a whole lot of people overnight stop being right wing? Or did something go horribly wrong?

The three party leader's pledge is an UNCONDITIONAL pledge to the Scottish people. If Cameron backtracks on it he will have broken his word and this may eventually brake the UK. You may think “no great issue” or “Ed Miliband’s responsibility” but look what has happened to you on the electoral map in Scotland and think again …? ask yourself if the UK got smaller would UKIP get larger and be much more viable and an even more serious threat to you? Just as the electoral map radically changed in Scotland in 1997 so could the map in England change…?

We are told the West Lothian question is very complicated. Actually it is a very simple question with a very simply answer. The answer is no devolution isn't fair. It creates a democratic deficit because it erodes the basic principle of Universal Suffrage. One Person One Vote.

So why do we have it? The answer is that the alternative is a Federal structure in which England would no doubt dominate the smaller populations. I suppose the logic is something to do with protecting minority populations. I don’t know the answer but preventing non-English MPs voting on all non-English devolved issues might be more complicated than it sounds. Look at all the effort to get the Deformation Bill passed only to find more legislation is needed because it doesn’t apply in Northern Ireland? There’s also a divergence effect with having multiple small legislatures. Many Caribbean nations have laws that are stuck in the 1960s because for a small government passing new laws is actually very difficult so the easiest solution is leave-it-be.

So yes devolution is unfair …but it has advantages - for example Sovereignty remains at Westminster so can be switched off in an emergency as in the case of Northern Ireland where Stormont …had isssues… or if, for example, Salmond and Sillars were to as they have threatened do something unconstitutional and declare themselves independent without a referendum….? In theory Scotland has tax raising powers but in reality it never uses them because the revenue raised from 5 million vs the effect using them would immediately have on take home pay would be the electoral kiss of death. The geopolitical reality is as 5 million people they’ll always be dominated by the nearest largest economies.

Never-the-less was this devolution thing actually such a good idea? Tam Dalyell clearly thought it was all rubbish and there is much to be said for this view although devolution has been generally good for the Scots and Welsh economies. After all what was the point before devolution of so much being decided in the Scottish Office in London. Sometimes I think it would be more logical to simply move parliament about a bit like the EU does. Okay Ministers need to be close to the executive and government offices but there are telephones, computers and trains. Do you need to sit in Westminster all the time? Why not move it about a bit like the Witan used to?

Whether or not Scotland decides to stay in the long term I am deeply disturbed by some of the propaganda of the SNP puts out and I think you should be too. Do the SNP government really need to offer schoolchildren subsidised trips to Bannockburn and Culloden? I mean I don’t think anyone’s got anything to be proud of at Culloden. The Anglo Scottish wars seem to be completely deleted from the SNP’s selective history and the Act of Union was “forced on” the Scots by “bullying and coercion”. What does the government or the Conservatives do to counter these historical perversions and one sided versions of history? In the USA you never see the State flag far away from the Federal flag. Somewhere to start? No one wants to go all BNP but neither should the Scottish Nationalists be allowed to go unchallenged in their interesting interpretations of the past. And don’t get me started on their fantasies about unending oil….

 
On 25/09/2014 13:59:00 Peter Brown wrote:
Agree that fairer arrangements are required for England. In the recent past it has been ok to declare that you are Scots, Welsh or Irish (fair enough) but it seems that the English have had to be British. It will be wonderful to 're-establish English identities.
 
On 26/09/2014 10:52:00 Donald Chambers wrote:
Dear Gavin,

The Scottish people (those just living in Scotland) had a referendum last week on the question of independence, and the answer was 'NO'. Now we have both Salmond and Sturgeon bleating that the electorate was tricked, and that it may be necessary to hold another referendum in the not too distant future. As Boris Johnson says in his Telegraph article on Monday, what part of 'NO' is it that Salmond does not understand.

However, I have a serious point to make. Any future referendum on Scottish independence should be, must be, decided by the whole population of the UK. We cannot have four million Scots holding the remaining sixty million plus population of England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ransom again over this matter. The majority of the population of the UK wish the UK to remain united, and this must be demonstrated if there is ever to be another referendum. In any case,if the result had been 'Yes', it would be to the detriment ultimately of Scotland, as well as to the rest of the UK.

I hope you will transmit these thoughts to David Cameron. I have to say I am not impressed by the Prime Minister of the UK using language like 'effing Tories' and disclosing the private emotions of the Queen!

Best regards,

Don Chambers

 
 

 

 

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Gavin Barwell, House of Commons, SW1A 1AA, Tel  020 8660 0491      © Gavin Barwell  2017       Promoted by Ian Parker on behalf of Gavin Barwell, both at 36 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 2LG