Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's good for Scotland is good for England, isn't it?

Many people in England note that while Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have legislatures to consider local issues, English issues are decided by the UK parliament. They ask, "Shouldn't England have a legislature for local issues?"

Because an MP from West Lothian (in Scotland) raised the issue during a debate in Commons, the topic has become known as The West Lothian Question.

West Lothian question continues to puzzle
Lingering in the margins of Labour's conference on Sunday has been a simple question with a complicated answer: is the promise of further devolution to Scotland conditional on England getting the same?

Let us examine the evidence.

Early on Friday morning, a man relieved still to be prime minister of the United Kingdom stood in Downing Street and categorically linked the two issues together.

David Cameron said: "The question of English votes for English laws - the so-called West Lothian question - requires a decisive answer.

"So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland."

But what do "in tandem with" and "at the same pace as" actually mean?…

Chief Whip Michael Gove
Chief Whip Michael Gove… said: "It would be impossible to move forward without making sure you have changes both in Scotland and in England.

"This means that a system of English-only votes for English-only laws must be brought in before Scotland can get the devolution it wants."

From that, you might think Scottish devolution was actually conditional on progress towards English votes for English laws…

But after accusations from some that the prime minister was putting Scottish devolution at risk by linking it to change for English, Downing Street today acted to try to clear up the confusion… They said the chief whip had been misinterpreted by the paper.

They said it was always clear there were two separate processes.

The PM, they said, will keep his vow to the people of Scotland - no ifs, no buts…

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