The Inconvenience of Democracy

The United Kingdom is not very united and not much of a kingdom. There is one Parliament which makes laws for the whole country and separate elected parliaments which administer and make laws for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The monarch has very little to do with the making of these laws, but signs off on them as a matter of formality. 

At first sight this seems perfectly fair until you understand that members elected for Scotland get to vote on measures that affect England and Wales only, whereas members elected for England and Wales never may vote on a purely Scottish measure.

Is this right? Should this be the case? – that is the essence of the so called West Lothian Question. To me the answer to this question has always been obvious. You cannot justify the present arrangement except by believing that Scottish politicians have some exceptional quality, perspicacity, insight and intelligence which does not subsist in English politicians and therefore it is perfectly meet and proper that we give Scottish members of Parliament the right to vote over English and Welsh affairs and make laws about them, while denying a reciprocal right to English and Welsh members of Parliament.

The point is important because England has no separate Parliament, Assembly or administration and Scotland has disproportionately more representation in the UK parliament as well as having its own parliament.

The UK government is setting up a commission to consider these matters. It strikes me as an unnecessary expense but no doubt the appointees to the commission could use the money in these straightened times.

The point could be simply remedied by enacted a law that Scottish MPs could not vote on matters in the UK Parliament which affect only England and Wales. Such a law would render the West Lothian Question answered. It might be inconvenient for a UK government. Had such a law been enacted Mrs Thatcher could not have given the Poll Tax a trial run in Scotland and much of Tony Blair’s reforms would not have been enacted in England and Wales.

Yes, that would be inconvenient for politicians but democracy has always proved inconvenient for politicians.

One Response

  1. Did you know that in Cornwall in 2002, during the debate about regional devolution in England, the Cornish gathered a petition of 50,000 signatures calling for the establishment of a Cornish assembly? This was backed by an opinion poll in Kernow putting support for Cornish devolution at around 55%. Cornwall has it own national identity and wants a greater say over its own future.

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