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The West Lothian Question

Comment 13th August 2010

Now that they have devolved governments, MPs from constiuencies in Scotland, Wales and Ulster should be banned from voting at Westminster on matters that exclusively affect English constituencies. MPs from English constituencies should continue to be banned from voting at Westminster on matters that exclusively affect Scottish, Welsh or Ulster constituencies.

In recent years this has not been the case, with the result that, whilst the Scots, Welsh and N. Irish are insulated from English intereference in their affairs, the English have no such protection. Indeed, the outgoing Labour government was essentially Scottish, with the Prime Minister, Chancellor and a large percentage of Labour MPs all being Scots and often supported by Welsh and Ulster nationalist MPs.

This is not a veiled plea for dissolution of the United Kingdom. All MPs will remain free to vote on matters that affect all four regions, such as the Constitution, electoral law, immigration, the EU, general taxation, economic policies, MPs' salaries, expenses and allowances, etc.

This would not necessarily debar MPs from constituencies in Scotland, Wales or Ulster being eligible for ministerial appointments, though it might create some problems for them if they cannot vote on policies which they have promoted.

The opportunity afforded by reforming the system could also allow the rules of Parliament to be amended so that MPs who refuse to take their seats at Westminster and/or swear allegiance to the Monrach, would not be eligible to draw Parliamentary salaries, expenses or allowances .

Why does this matter?

The present situation is perceived, by a majority of the UK electorate, to be unfair. This causes resentment, especially when the 'Celtic fringe' MPs push through policies that are unfavourable to the English, or prevent polcies that would benefit English constituencies; yet their own 'sacred cows' remain unchallengeable by English constituency MPs.

Failure to resolve the West Lothian Question — first posed by Gladstone in the 19th century — has contributed to a gradual weakening of the Union, because a majority of the electorate is dissatisfied with the situation. If nationalist aspirations to sever the Union are not countered effectively, the UK  could eventually split into its constituent parts. Such a development would be most undesirable and significantly reduce Britain's influence in the wider world.

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