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Tories get it right on English Votes

Scotsman.com News - UK - Tories 'would break up UK' by stopping Scots votes on English issues

THE Tories were accused of prompting the break up of the UK last night as it emerged David Cameron is set to commit his party to stripping Scottish MPs of the right to vote on English matters at Westminster.

He will back proposals by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Scottish secretary, to create an English Grand Committee of the House of Commons to deal with issues which only affect people living south of the Border.

...David Cairns, the Scotland Office minister, said: "Once you breach the principle that all MPs should vote on matters before them in Westminster you get constitutional anarchy."

Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that the suggestion could lead to a break-up of the UK. She said: "I think it's very ironic that we've got a situation where Malcolm Rifkind, who was a Scottish member of parliament until he lost his seat ... is now proposing something that would ultimately end up with Scotland being pushed out of the union."

Alex Salmond, the First Minister, described Sir Malcolm's proposal as "some sort of spatchcock solution to appeal for votes in Middle England". He said:

"I am a great believer in an English parliament, and you know a lot of folk say that England couldn't manage on its own. I decry that entirely. I've got every confidence in the people of England to be fully self-governing. I think they'll make a fantastic job of it and we'll be the best of neighbours and the best of friends."

I think the Tories have pitched this just right as a fair and measured response to the inequality the English put up with. Of course it isn't as far reaching as the English deserve, or Alex Salmond cheekily proposes; nor it is it completely ineffectual. The BBC gave Harriet Harmen's hysterical outburst full exposure last night, and I think most of Middle England listened and crystallised their thoughts that she was barking and that the situation was unfair. And the appeal to "fairness" is one of the most powerful emotive calls a politician can make.


As an English resident, I agree that MPs for Scottish seats should have no votes on English matters, nor England & Wales matters. Similarly, no MPs for Welsh or NI seats should have a vote on purely English matters. All of which makes it clear how profoundly stupid the devolution arrangements were - or how intended to favour Labour. It would surely have been possible to design a devolution that would have strengthened the Union rather than weakening it. My own guess is that nothing would so strengthen the Union as Englishmen learning to distinguish "English" from "British" with care and courtesy. But it may be too late for that and, anyway, it perhaps would make excessive intellectual demands on a people who often take pride in knowing little history.

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