In the Seventies, MP Tam Dalyell posed a simple, but unanswerable question. As the then Labour Government unsuccessfully tried to bring about Scottish devolution, he asked why a Scottish MP should be able to vote on legislation affecting England when an English MP wouldn't have similar rights on issues devolved to Scotland. This government paid Dalyell no heed, recrafting the constitution "with cavalier abandon", as The Observer puts it. Eight years after Scottish devolution, Dalyell's "West Lothian question" is back in the spotlight.
The Tories now say they would seek to bar Scottish MPs from voting on legislation affecting England alone. This strategy also puts pressure on Scottish MP Gordon Brown. David Cameron is "taking the low road to little England", according to Philip Stephens in the FT. The move suggests that the Tories, who have a single Scottish MP, "have given up any pretension to be a British party". Treating Scots as second-class parliamentarians will put off potential Scottish voters and fuel Scottish separatism. Moreover, English votes for English laws' "ignores the richness and complexity of the union by assuming it is nothing but a simple legislative arrangement". There are plenty of asymmetries in the relationship between England and Scotland, such as London's control over Scotland's security and immigration policies. The Scottish parliament is simply another example.
Michael Forsyth proposes another solution in The Sunday Telegraph. Scrap the members of the Scottish parliament, allow Scottish MPs to use it early in the week for Scottish issues, while English MPs discuss English business at Westminster. The two could then regroup later in the week to debate national affairs. That would retain the Scottish parliament and cut down on bureaucracy. "But I'm not holding my breath."
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