Political Promise

An Answer to the West Lothian Question

In Uncategorized on June 13, 2010 at 7:51 pm

By David Radestock

A key part of Nick Clegg’s grand plan to revolutionise democracy in the UK was to seek to address the West Lothian Question that has plagued British politics since devolution to Scotland created a serious democratic contradiction.

Put simply, the West Lothian Question is the inconsistency of the voting system created by devolution. Scottish MP’s can vote in Westminster over matters such as healthcare and education, issues over which the UK Parliament has no authority in Scotland as they are devolved to the Scottish Parliament. A situation is therefore created wherein representatives can vote on issues which do not affect their constituency or even their country.

This is perhaps the biggest risk to the future of the UK. Devolution has created a situation in which the politics of the union is confused and contradictory. In attempting to satisfy the nationalistic tendencies of one country, Labour may have stirred similar feelings in another.

The rise of parties such as the English Democrats, who in 2009 won the Doncaster mayoral election, may demonstrate a rising desire for change in England. A recent study seems to support this claim, stating that “support for an English Parliament has grown from 18% to 29% in the past 10 years” with the same survey now suggesting 40% of people are unhappy with the current arrangement.  The issue seems to be moving into the mainstream of British politics with influential Conservative think-tank the Bow Group stating that they are “entitled, if not obliged, as unionists to get a fair deal for England”.

The possibility of an English Parliament raised by the West Lothian Question is an interesting one. Accepting what is perhaps the growing desire of the English electorate for an institution that serves their specific needs would mean creating the final stage of a process that grants each nation in the UK their own political body, creating a federalist state in all but name.

This is surely the answer to a situation that is undemocratic and unsustainable. A federalist UK would work in a similar way to the US. A national government legislates on issues such as foreign policy and national taxes. The parliaments of each country could administer laws on local taxes and variations on education and healthcare structures controlled by the central government.

This solution would go further than answering the West Lothian Question. It would satisfy any nationalist desires in the various nations of the UK, provide an opportunity to embrace and develop cultural and political differences across the nation and prepare the UK for any federalist future within the EU.

Critics who claim this would be too difficult to administer need only to look at the US. While not perfect, the system across the Atlantic has worked for centuries and allows a diverse nation to exist in peace and prosperity.

Change naturally scares politicians who have grown up in an establishment that has existed for centuries. However, to prevent the complete breakdown of a union that has served its people since 1707, a dramatic development is needed to answer a question that plagues not only political theorists but the very nature of democracy.

  1. I like how the UK is slowly slipping into a Federalist model while we simultaneously warn the EU is becoming Federalist ergo dangerous.

    I really doubt Labour would want to sort out the West Loathian question as Scotland and Wales provide them with a fair few MPs, therefore greater power in Westminster.

    The Conservatives have a grand total of one in Scotland, and a similar small number in Wales. So it wouldn’t damage their support in Westminster, but would damage Labour’s (And the LD’s). But they’ve traditionally been against devolution and most certainly Federalism.

    Either Labour and the LDs sacrifice their support in Westminster, or the Conservatives come around the the idea of Federalism, and go against their tradition of traditionalism, and land a blow to their opponents.

    • Seeing as how the Tories were voted into power solely by the English vote and leaving aside the UK issues surrounding Foreign Affairs and Defence, David Cameron is, ipso facto, no more than the First Minister for England, he can legislate to change or make financial cuts in Education, Health, Transport, Social Care, and Law and Order but, on these issues, he speaks only for England.
      The aforementioned issues (there are others) will be decided by elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament (increasingly referred to as the “Scottish Government”), the Welsh National Assembly (soon to get a second referndum on increased powers) and at the Stormont in Northern Irland.
      In England, the above issues will still be voted upon by elected MPs from foreign countries.
      The only equittable solution to the WLQ is a dedicated English Parliament with Englsih elected representatives looking after the intersts of the English people.

  2. I doubt an English Parliament would pave the way for a UK in a federal Europe. When it finally dawns on the English that the billions paid to the EU by the UK is English money and not British money they will demand withdrawal.English Democrats are also anti European union. They can see no point in having an English Parliament for it to be subservient to Brussels.The reason politicians are frightened of a referendum on Lisbon is not just because they know the answer would be no, but who would vote no and who might vote yes. Salmond always demanded Scots votes to be counted seperately and I’m sure the Welsh and Northern Irish would demand the same. The main stream parties are eternally grateful that the mainly English UKIP see it your way that an English Parliament would pave the way to a federal Europe and direct their English Nationalism disguised as British Nationalism over the water at Brussels and not at Scotland Wales or Northern Ireland.

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