At one point the conversation turned to what Mr Tam Dalyell many years ago called “the West Lothian Question”. This, you may recall, dealt with a potential unfairness to English voters if a devolved assembly were set up in Scotland. The Scots would determine, in their own parliament in Edinburgh, important issues affecting them. However, when those same issues – notably health, education, transport, environment and local government – were debated in the United Kingdom parliament at Westminster, Scottish MPs could speak and vote in debates on them, even if they affected only the English, and even though the English were now excluded from deliberations on these questions as they affected Scotland. When Mr Dalyell raised this point it was but a distant possibility. Now it is fact….
Whoever becomes leader of the Tory party next week must start to oppose this standing offence against the English. It is bad enough that we subsidise by around £10 billion a year a Scottish economy over whose expenditure we have virtually no say; but the insult is compounded when Scottish MPs can alter the will of English ones on purely English matters. I don’t approve of a smoking ban: but I would rather have one in total imposed by my own elected representatives than avoid one with the aid of people who have no moral or constitutional right now to vote on the subject. A brave Tory party would offer the Scots a vote on independence, to bring home to them the full consequences of the devolutionary and separatist path on which they have now embarked. After all, in these post-imperial times no one should be forced to stay even in a partial union. And whether Scotland finally goes its own way or not, the Conservative Party must now stand up for democracy, and commit itself unreservedly to a parliament at Westminster that permits only English votes on English laws.
Yes yes, very domestic-British and nothing to do with the world at large, but still a topic I find endlessly fascinating.