Alex Salmond’s attempt to disown the UK national debt should be a non-starter

Robert Henderson

During  February 2014 the Conservative, Labour and LibDem parties all  pledged not to enter into a currency union consisting of Scotland and the rest of the UK if there is a YES to independence in the coming referendum ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/10657721/Scottish-independence-Alex-Salmond-reveals-currency-Plan-B.html). In response   the SNP leader Alex Salmond  threatened that Scotland would not take  on a share of the UK national debt unless Scotland can share the Pound ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/scottish-politics/10634697/Scottish-independence-SNP-retribution-plan-over-pound-would-cripple-economy.html).

The idea that Scotland can just walk away from the UK National Debt  is a nonsense both legally and  as a matter of realpolitik.  Legally, the Union would have to be dissolved by an Act of Parliament because the Act of Union   contains no provision  for the Union to be dissolved, viz: “That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England shall upon the first day of May next ensuing the date hereof and forever after be United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain …” (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aosp/1707/7/section/I)

Consequently, the Act of Union would need to be repealed  formally or a further Act granting independence to Scotland passed with the Act of Union falling on the doctrine of implied repeal. Until either of those things are done there can be  no legal independence.

The passing of such legislation is entirely dependent on reaching terms. If  terms are not reached then there is no obligation of  Parliament to grant Scotland independence.  Moreover,  no Parliament can bind another. Consequently, if the  next General Election is held in 2015 ( before Scotland is  independent),  there could be no bar to a new Parliament refusing to accept any or all  of the terms agreed by the previous Parliament or of refusing to grant Scottish independence under any circumstances. Even if the previous Parliament had passed an Act granting Scotland independence on agreed terms, the incoming Parliament could repeal the legislation and nullify the independence.

A possible refusal of legal  independence is both inherent within the situation and reasonable. The idea of  holding a referendum to divide a state without agreeing  first the conditions for separation means as a matter logic  that independence is conditional on terms being agreed.  If that were  not so then Salmond could demand anything and could not be denied it because of the vote for indepenence.

That brings us to realpolitik. Its use is reasonable because  what is called international law is no law at all. That is so  because there is no supranational  agency which, as a last resort, has the power to enforce breaches of such putative law by armed force.

The realpolitik blocks to Salmond’s position are many and powerful.  For example, the  punitive measures Westminster could deploy to force Scotland to accept their share of the debt include  these:  vetoing Scotland membership of the EU, setting up border controls, denying Scots the right to work in England and  blocking the export of Scottish goods through  the rest of the UK .

Salmon has made much of Article 30 of the Edinburgh Agreement:

30. The United Kingdom and Scottish Governments are committed, through the Memorandum of Understanding  between them and others,  to working together on matters of mutual interest and to the principles of good communication and mutual respect.  The two governments have reached this agreement in that spirit.  They look forward to a referendum that is legal and fair producing a decisive and respected outcome.  The two governments are committed to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome, whatever it is, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Memorandum of Understanding has no legal  standing, viz:

2. This Memorandum is a statement of political intent, and should not be interpreted as a binding agreement. It does not create legal obligations between the parties (para 2 of the introduction -  http://tinyurl.com/Devolution-Memorandum ).

Consequently, the memorandum can be ignored with impunity as far as legality is concerned. Moreover, the language  of Article 30 is woolly. There are clearly issues where the best interests of two parties cannot be served. The question of  a currency union is one of them. Its creation would grossly disadvantage the remaining UK members  and grossly benefit Scotland. The international markets would immediately downgrade the currency and the  UK’s credit rating,   both because of the uncertainty of what Scotland would do when it had control over its spending and as a result of the long shadow of the Bank of England’s standing as the lender of last resort  for Scottish banks.  Scotland would gain immensely because they would have the use of one of the most stable currencies in the world and the UK taxpayer (in reality the English taxpayer because Wales and Northern Ireland do not come close to meeting their public expenditure out of tax raised in their territories) would shoulder the risk of Scottish banks defaulting.  Conversely, the refusal of a currency union would benefit the remainder of the UK and be very damaging to Scotland.

On the question of the Pound being  a currency  which is part owned by Scotland, the position is simple. Scotland only gained access to the Pound by the Union of 1707.  The Pound Sterling before the Act of Union  was the English currency. Sterling was pressed into service as the currency of first Great Britain. Article 16 of the Act of Union applies:

That from and after the Union the Coin shall be of the same standard and value throughout the United Kingdom as now in England . . .( http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aosp/1707/7/contents)

The Scottish Pound (worth only a few shillings Sterling in 1707) was abolished by the Act of Union. By leaving the Union Scotland  loses the legal right to the Pound Sterling.

It is worth noting in all the huffing and puffing from the SNP that in the 307 years of Union  Scotland has built up a massive debit balance between the taxes raised in  Scotland and the public money spent there.  Right from the off Scotland was given a much lighter tax burden than England through Article IX of the Act of Union, viz:

IX. THAT whenever the sum of One million nine hundred ninety seven thousand seven hundred and sixty three pounds eight shillings and four pence half penny, shall be enacted by the Parliament of Great Britain to be raised in that part of the United Kingdom now called England, on Land and other Things usually charged in Acts of Parliament there, for granting an Aid to the Crown by a Land Tax; that part of the United Kingdom now called Scotland, shall be charged by the same Act, with a further Sum of forty-eight thousand Pounds, free of all Charges, as the Quota of Scotland, to such Tax, and to proportionably for any greater or lesser Sum raised in England by any Tax on Land, and other Things usually charged together with the Land; and that such Quota for Scotland, in the Cases aforesaid, be raised and collected in the same Manner as the Cess now is in Scotland, but subject to such Regulations in the manner of collecting, as shall be made by the Parliament of Great Britain. (https://englandcalling.wordpress.com/the-act-of-union-1707/)

The population of  Scotland in 1707 was about one fifth of  England and Wales estimated six million or so. Had the taxation been the same in Scotland as in England , under clause IX Scotland would have paid around £400,000 not £48,000.

There  is  also the vexed question of how to ensure Scotland services  the debt after independence., It is all too easy to see them defaulting. The only practical way would be for the UK to continue to administer all the debt with Scotland paying the money for their share to Westminster. The idea that Scotland could create a new currency and pay for it with that would be a non-starter because such a currency would have no international credibility for many years. I have addressed  this subject in depth at https://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/the-wages-of-scottish-independence-public-debt/

Worryingly, not one Westminster politician has challenged Salmond or the SNP generally on the  claim that  Scotland could refuse to take on a share of the UK national debt.  This suggests that either that no Westminster politician  has considered the matter properly or that our political elite have already decided to sell England down the river in the event of a Yes vote by letting Scotland either have their currency union or to walk away from the UK without taking on any of the UK national debt.

Posted in Devolution, Nationhood, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Scottish Independence – How Cameron sold England down the river with the Edinburgh Agreement

Robert  Henderson

The Edinburgh Agreement was signed By David Cameron and Alex Salmon  in Edinburgh on 15 October 2012.

(http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/Government/concordats/Referendum-on-independence#MemorandumofUnderstanding ).

It established the legal basis for the Scottish independence referendum.

The first point to note is that Cameron went to Edinburgh. As Scotland are a  supplicant which wishes to  leave the Union,  Cameron should have insisted that Salmond came to Westminster. By going to Edinburgh it at best created a spurious equality between UK national government and the devolved Scottish one and at worst that Salmond was controlling the negotiations. .

The gratuitous pandering to Salmond went far  beyond the place of negotiation and signing. The clauses in the agreement which pander to the SNP are these:

4. The Order enables the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum that takes place at any point before the end of 2014.  The date of the poll will be for the Scottish Parliament to determine and will be set out in the Referendum Bill to be introduced by the Scottish Government. The Order requires the poll for this referendum to be held on a day with no other poll provided for by legislation of the Scottish Parliament.

6. The Order enables the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum with one question on independence.  The wording of the question will be for the Scottish Parliament to determine and will be set out in the Referendum Bill to be introduced by the Scottish Government, subject to the Electoral Commission’s review process, as set out in the paragraphs which follow.

9. The Referendum Bill introduced by the Scottish Government will create a franchise for the referendum.  Both governments agree that all those entitled to vote  in Scottish Parliamentary and local government elections should be able to vote in the referendum.

10. The Scottish Government’s consultation on the referendum also set out a proposal for extending the franchise to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in the referendum.  It will be for the Scottish Government to decide whether to propose extending the franchise for this referendum and how that should be done.  It will be for the Scottish Parliament to approve the referendum franchise, as it would be for any referendum on devolved matters.

11. The Scottish Government’s decision on what to propose to the Scottish Parliament will be informed by the analysis of responses to its consultation exercise and by practical considerations.  The Order does not restrict the extension of the franchise in the case of this referendum.

25. The Referendum Bill to be introduced by the Scottish Government will provide for the spending limits in the regulated period for the independence referendum. Both governments agree that the rules and standards set out in PPERA provide the basis for setting the limits.

Cameron gave away any say in the following matters by leaving it to the Scottish parliament to decide what should be done:

1. The general referendum legislation

2. The date of the referendum

3. The referendum  question

4. The franchise

5. The  referendum expenditure rules

There is also a clause which may well cause difficulty should there be a vote for Scottish independence, viz:

30. The United Kingdom and Scottish Governments are committed, through the Memorandum of Understanding 4between them and others,  to working together on matters of mutual interest and to the principles of good communication and mutual respect.  The two governments have reached this agreement in that spirit.  They look forward to a referendum that is legal and fair producing a decisive and respected outcome.  The two governments are committed to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome, whatever it is, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom.

The final sentence is the fly in the ointment. Although it is vaguely worded it could give Salmond a platform to argue for things such as a currency union.

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BBC drama goes in to bat for Scottish independence

Robert Henderson

The BBC Radio 4 play  Dividing the Union was  a crude piece of propaganda for Scottish independence (Broadcast at 2.15pm 14 March  – available on IPlayer  for six days from the date of  uploading this blog post  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03xgsly).

The actor playing Alex Salmond ( Greg Hemphill) sounded and behaved like Salmond, that is,  he was aggressive and wilfully  patronising. The actor playing David Cameron (Greg Wise) seriously  failed represent Cameron’s  voice and manner. He spoke  with a form of received pronunciation but  it did not sound like Cameron,  who has a much crisper delivery and somewhat posher voice. However,  that weakness in characterisation is dwarfed by the lack of dominant tone and energy in his persona. This Cameron  came across as dithering and uncertain, constantly fretting that Salmond will be too clever for him in conversations with his adviser Robert (David Jackson Young). These conversations include the fictional Cameron whining to Robert that  he  (Robert) should not have left him alone with Salmond when the Edinburgh Agreement was agreed.  All that is utterly unlike Cameron, who is naturally aggressive in debate and quick on his mental feet.

Then there is the deal they  come to. The play has Cameron agreeing to a currency union, a split of the national debt by population and a division of the oil and gas revenues on a geographical basis favourable to Scotland. What does he get in return? An extension of the period in which the nuclear submarines on the Clyde can be kept there before being  transferred to the rest of the UK.  That is precisely the type of deal that Salmond has been angling for and saying Westminster would agree to when faced with the fact of independence. Such a deal would be grossly  to England’s disadvantage.

Finally, why a play about  the YES camp winning this close to the referendum? Can we expect a balancing play in which the independence vote is lost?  If not, why not?

Posted in Anglophobia, Devolution, Nationhood | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Old Buffoonian treads on dangerous ground

The Old Buffoonian treads on dangerous ground

Robert Henderson

Boris Johnson  has suggested that the radicalisation of Muslim children should be treated as child abuse and children subjected to such an environment should be taken into care:

“At present, there is a reluctance by the social services to intervene, even when they and the police have clear evidence of what is going on, because it is not clear that the “safeguarding law” would support such action. A child may be taken into care if he or she is being exposed to pornography, or is being abused – but not if the child is being habituated to this utterly bleak and nihilistic view of the world that could lead them to become murderers. I have been told of at least one case where the younger siblings of a convicted terrorist are well on the road to radicalisation – and it is simply not clear that the law would support intervention.

“This is absurd. The law should obviously treat radicalisation as a form of child abuse. It is the strong view of many of those involved in counter-terrorism that there should be a clearer legal position, so that those children who are being turned into potential killers or suicide bombers can be removed into care – for their own safety and for the safety of the public. “(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10671841/The-children-taught-at-home-about-murder-and-bombings.html).

Even for the Old Buffoonian this is extraordinary obtuseness. Johnson has failed to recognise three very obvious facts: (1) removing Muslim children from their parents will also certainly radicalise the children;  (2) it will provide potent ammunition for Islamic extremists and (3) you can bet your life that once the principle of “bad” ideas is established as a reason for the social workers to come in, it will be extended to many other “bad” ideas, for example, in these  pc times anything which is non-pc.  Let us have a look in detail at those disturbing implications of Johnson’s proposal.

To begin with at what age would children be removed from the family? If at birth or shortly afterwards,   the child and eventually the adult will feel that their lives have been ruthlessly changed by the state and may well turn to extremism to revenge themselves on the society which has treated them so. If  taken away at an older age the child, especially if they are old enough to have imbibed the radical message, is likely to be not merely confirmed in their radical ideas but  have them substantially amplified.

Of course  it is not only parents who could be a radical influence within the home. What about brothers, sisters, Aunts and Uncles and cousins who were Jihadists? Would they be grounds for removing children? Would they have to be banned from having any contact with the children?

There is also the ticklish question of what constitutes an idea radical enough to sanction removal of the child.  Would it have to be direct exhortations to kill non-Muslims? If less than that, where would the line be drawn? At Muslims telling children non-Muslims are damned to Hell?  At  Muslims simply telling their children that they should not associate with non-Muslims?

Then there is the question of where the children would be placed after they were removed. Most would probably end up in care because if  the policy was enforced rigorously,  thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of Muslim children would have to be removed. This might seem extreme but think of the hundreds of Muslims  who have already been convicted in Britain of terrorist related crimes (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24454596)  Think of the hundreds or even thousands  who are reported to be fighting abroad in places such as Syria and Afghanistan (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25893040). They will often have children or  be uncles,  cousins and aunts to Muslim children.

Even with much smaller numbers the chances of a Muslim child being left in  care would be strong because Muslim adopters and foster parents are thin on the ground. If they are left in care that would be likely to provide an unhappy childhood which  would engender a strong sense of victimhood, fertile soil in which to plant Jihadist ideas. The child would also be brought up as a Muslim to ensure that he was not denied his “cultural heritage” and would consequently be exposed to other Muslims who might well be Islamic radicals.

Adoption and fostering might provide more palatable lives for the children than care,  but they would have difficulties of their own. The current politically correct adoption and fostering policies  very strongly favour placing a child in families which are racially and culturally akin to those of the child. That would mean most, possibly all, of such children ending up in a Muslim family. That family  might be moderates who treat their religion in the same way that the average C of E worshipper does, as a tepid private observance rather than a fervent matter of public policy. But even in such circumstances, the child would still be regularly be exposed to Muslims with more rigorous Islamic ideas and could easily become radicalised or have  radical ideas obtained before their removal from their birth parents enhanced.

Then there is school. Whether in care, foster homes or an adoptive home, the child is likely to be in a school with a significant number of  Muslims because of the emphasis on providing a racially and ethnically environment which matches the child’s original circumstances. To achieve that the child will almost certainly be  living in a town or city which has a substantial Muslim population. There will also be pressure on those responsible for the child to place them in a school with a healthy Muslim intake. The child might  even be placed in a Muslim  school if  he or she  is adopted and the adoptive parents favour such an education.

Aside from all this, there is the Internet. Any child forbidden to have contact with anything whether it be  radical Islam or pornography is likely to be drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

The propaganda value of Muslim children being forcibly removed would be immense. Muslim terrorists would use it to justify their violence and, because the issue is such an emotive one, they would gain sympathy  from Muslims generally in the way  IRA bombers enjoyed a sympathy amongst the wider republican movement along the lines of “I don’t agree with their methods but…”  the practice  would undoubtedly resonate throughout the Muslim world and have effects far beyond those willing to engage in violence. In particular, it could seriously affect trade with Britain.

Such a policy  would almost certainly have an antagonising effect on other minorities, both because they would fear that the same might happen to them and because of a sense of solidarity with Muslims, for  they are all  part of what one might call the victimocracy,  the army of  those who harbour a grievance,  justified or otherwise, simply because they are minorities or from some notion that white Western society owes them something.  The policy would also be a fundamental questioning of the policy of multiculturalism which has ruled the British elite roost for over thirty years.

There would also be the danger that in a bid to boost their pc credentials to offset the non-pc draconian removal of children. For example,  concessions could be made to Muslims generally by the British political elite, concessions such as the relaxation of immigration rules for Muslims and allowing sharia law to be expanded in Britain from the supposedly voluntary sharia courts which now exist to Sharia courts which were compulsory for Muslims.

In short doing what Johnson proposes would make matters considerably worse for all concerned, for Muslims and the general population of the UK. What should be done? We need to start from the fact that there  is no realistic way that Muslim children can be shielded from radical Islam. Nor is there any hard proof that most radical Muslims in Britain were radicalised by their families or became radicalised when they were children. Radicalisation within mosques or through a radical   preacher operating outside the mosque at a fairly advanced stage of childhood or in early adulthood seems far more common. Moreover, Britain’s inability to control her borders whilst within the EU will always allow radical Muslims to come from abroad.   Short of expelling every Muslim in the country (several million)  and  allowing none to visit the country, the danger of Islamic terrorism, home grown or otherwise, will be a constant. Just as Irish republican terrorism had to be managed rather than exterminated, so Islamic terrorism will have to be managed.

All of that is depressing enough, but the really sinister aspect of what Johnson  proposes is the opportunity it would provide for the interference by the state in how parents generally bring up their children.  This could be in part a politically correct desire to create a spurious equality between Muslims and non-Muslims, but it could equally be an ideological  vehicle for the extension of political correctness.

As things stand,  the politically correct  legions in our midst  incessantly chomp at the bit as they try to ensure that  any opinion but their own is at best driven from public debate and at worst made  illegal in any circumstances. An excellent recent example of the  totalitarian mentality of such people is the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett’s call for cabinet ministers, senior public officials and political advisers to be sacked unless they unquestioningly backed the idea of man-made global warming (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/the-british-green-party-expose-their-totalitarian-mentality/).

If it was allowed that Muslim children could be removed from their homes because of the beliefs of their parents (or any other family member), why not permit the removal of children whose parents disapproved of mass immigration, were members of the BNP or the EDL, refused to accept the claims of the man-made global warming believers, thought gay marriage was a nonsense  or simply ridiculed the idea of human equality?

This might seem fanciful at first glance,  but think of the absurdities  the politically correct have forced upon us in the name of racial and sexual equality and multiculturalism  and the use of the law to intimidate and increasing charge with criminal offences those who speak out against the effects of political correctness, for example, https://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/courage-is-the-best-defence-against-charges-of-racism.

Posted in Immigration, Nationhood | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

What happens if Scotland votes NO to independence?

Robert Henderson

The Scottish independence referendum is deeply flawed as a democratic process because (1) the terms of independence have not been agreed before the referendum is held so Scottish voters will be buying a pig in a poke; (2)  the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have  been allowed no say in  whether Scotland should be allowed to secede from the union or, if they are to be allowed to leave,  the terms on which they may secede and (3) the political circumstances  of the UK if Scotland votes NO to independence have gone largely unexamined.

I have dealt with the points (1) and (2) [1]elsewhere and a great deal of public attention is being paid to what will happen if Scotland votes for independence. Consequently, I shall not further labour those matters. But point (3) does require attention because next to no attention is being paid by politicians or  the mainstream media to what happens if  Scotland votes to remain within the UK.  The question has so far engendered little more than vague talk about DevoMax with unspecified additional powers being given to Scotland.  As the vote is likely to be NO, this is a matter which needs to be publicly discussed  now not after the referendum when Westminster politicians may  cook up any deal they want, a deal which is likely to be,  as all the other devolution deals have been, to England’s disadvantage.

The complication of the next General Election

There is a very  awkward fly in the post referendum ointment: the referendum will be held in 18 September 2014  and a General Election must be held by 7 May 2015 at the latest. That raises the question of who  will be making the post referendum decisions at Westminster. With a General Election so close to the referendum it is improbable that any agreement on what will happen after a NO vote could be reached before the election. The parties might produce their devolution agendas for their election manifestoes but that would be about it.  Consequently, it is anybody’s guess as to which  party or parties in a new coalition would be making the final decision on any further devolution of powers  to put before Parliament. Equally important would be our ignorance of the size of the various parties in the Commons after the General Election, for this is an issue which is fundamental enough to make quite a few MPs vote against the party whip. A government with a small majority could easily find itself outvoted.   These facts mean that all the variations of probable governments – Labour, Tory or the LibDems  in coalition with either major party -  and the effects of the size of the majority of the  government need to be considered when judging the likely shape of devolution after a NO vote.

The moral balance after a NO Vote 

On the face of it, the narrower the margin of rejection of independence the greater will be the moral bargaining power of the SNP to obtain further powers on favourable terms. However that does not automatically mean generous terms would be forthcoming, because once a vote on independence is lost the politics of the Union come into play.

To begin with it is unlikely that another vote on independence would be held  for at least ten years and more probably fifteen or twenty years, even if there was growing support for it in Scotland. Westminster politicians are very short-termist and might well think the subject has been kicked into the long grass sufficiently far to forget about it. The fact that none of the major parties have shown themselves willing to take action to redress  the imbalance created by the present devolutionary settlement (with England left out of the equation) suggests they may wish  to restrict further devolution concessions to minor matters. However, as there is further substantial devolution of powers to Scotland (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-11863388) and quite possibly Wales (http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/wales-in-line-for-extra-powers-after-major-review-of-assembly.1393858063) in the pipeline this may not be a serious bar  to additional serious devolution.

Then there is the self-interest of the three major British parties.   A strong case can be made for both the Tories and Labour  not wanting serious amounts of new power given to  Scotland. The Tories have ideological reasons; Labour and the LibDems the reason of crude numbers in the Commons.

The Tories are still at heart a Unionist party  and want to retain the Union as a matter of policy. Substantial new powers would weaken the Union and new powers given now would inevitably be deemed insufficient in the future, probably  in  the near future, because devolution is a form of appeasement and the appeased always come back for more. Moreover, every increase in devolved powers acts in effect as preparation for independence. Eventually Scotland would reach the stage where independence would not seem such a frightening thing simply because they were doing so much themselves.

As for Labour and the LibDems, they have a direct vested interest. Greatly increased powers for Scotland would make it next to  impossible to justify the present Scottish representation in the House of Commons.  Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats  have a  substantial reliance on Scottish  MPs at Westminster. Thus both parties  would have a strong incentive to deny Scotland substantial new powers to ensure that Scottish MPs are not severely reduced.

All three major parties have a further reason: if substantial new powers were granted to Scotland it would be next to impossible to deny them to Wales and  Northern Ireland and make the denial of an English Parliament ever more outlandish.

If the NO vote was overwhelming,  on the face of it there would be no great pressure to devolve substantial new powers. An SNP which had failed to deliver either independence or  DevoMax might  be seen to have shot its bolt if it cannot deliver on its promises beyond a few superficial changes. At best the SNP would be severely diminished and  at worst would  so thoroughly discredited that they would be finished as a serious political force, doubtless remaining as an entity but restricted to an ever smaller and shriller cabal of true believers.

But even if the referendum was lost by an overwhelming vote it is unlikely that the demands for further devolved powers would diminish, especially from Scotland. As mentioned above further powers are already on the horizon.  Nor would the demands for even more powers than those already proposed necessarily go unsatisfied. Devolution has already created well established regional political establishments and the presence of nationalist MPs in the Commons not only provides a permanent platform for further demands,  but the existence of cabinet ministers to represent Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  and  Commons  committees to promote their national interests means that there are powerful administrative mechanisms to promote and develop further devolutionary powers. Unionist MPs may also continue the fatal game (from their point of view) of imagining that giving away more and more power is the way to maintain the Union. Nor should the House of Lords be overlooked because it  provides a very useful platform for both advocating further devolution and of influencing the Commons through committees of both houses and voting down and amending legislation

There is also the possibility of nationalist MPs  wielding disproportionate influence if there is a hung Parliament and their votes are needed to either help form a coalition or to support a minority government on an ad hoc basis.

The alternatives to an English Parliament

But regardless of whether or not a  NO vote was  won narrowly or by a large majority, the elephant in the room is an English Parliament. It might be thought that if  DevoMax becomes a reality,  an English Parliament will be seen as a  political necessity by all. That is far too sanguine.

There would  be politicians who would try to refloat the idea of the Balkanisation of  England  through regional English assemblies – an  attempt to revivify the project was made in 2012 by Labour MPs (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-16932030). But after the Blair  government’s attempt to introduce regional assemblies met with a humiliating rejection (78% voted no) in the area deemed to have the strongest regional identity in England, the North East  (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/nov/05/regionalgovernment.politics), it  is an idea unlikely to fly.

There would also be the practical problem of producing regional devolution throughout England. If each region had a referendum to say whether or not they wanted a regional assembly,  it is wildly improbable that there would be a vote for assemblies in every referendum.  Indeed the referenda might well result in a universal rejection of such representation   The only way all of England could be devolved to regional assemblies would be by Parliamentary action to impose it on England.  That would be very unlikely to gain the support of a House of Commons, not least because any government likely to propose such devolution – it would have to be a Labour government or a Labour/LibDem coalition -  would almost certainly have to rely heavily on MPs from non-English seats to pass such a measure because of the  heavy Labour and LibDem reliance on MPs from the Celtic Fringe (it is rare for  a Labour government with  majority of landslide proportions to even hold a bare majority of English seats). To force such a change on England through the votes of non-English MPs should be politically impossible.

If there was a Tory majority government or a Tory\LibDem coalition , that would make   a majority for  the imposition of regional assemblies without referenda very unlikely because the Tory Party has officially opposed regional assemblies. In 2004, the Shadow Minister for the Regions  Bernard Jenkin pledged  that if Labour set up  regional assemblies the Tories would  “l end Labour’s phoney regional agenda. Every power that Labour gives to regional assemblies, we’ll give back to local councils.” (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2004/oct/07/conservatives2004.conservatives2). Perhaps more importantly many Tory MPs are strongly opposed to regional assemblies on principle so even if the Party leadership wanted to change the policy it is unlikely they would be able to do so.  It is also worth noting that even in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats the Tories have managed to abolish unelected the Regional Development Agencies which could have been used as the skeleton for elected regional assemblies and the administration arising from them. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk/the-northerner/2012/mar/31/localgovernment-regeneration-gordon-marsden-regional-development-agencies-leps).

The other alternative which might be tried as an excuse to deny England a Parliament would be English votes on English laws. This would be difficult to implement because of the difficulty of deciding what was and was not legislation which affected England only.

It  might be possible to do it simply by saying that any policy area  devolved to the Scottish Parliament (which has the broadest devolution power) would also be treated as an English-only area of legislation. However, to do that would require the Welsh  and Northern Ireland assemblies to have the same powers,  because a good deal of the legislation currently  passed at Westminster covers Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England. This happens because Wales and Northern Ireland those countries have much less devolved power than Scotland. Whether Wales and Northern Ireland would be competent to receive such extra powers or would want them is debatable at best. It is worth noting that a recent BBC Cymru Wales poll  found that 23% of Welsh voters wanted to abolish the Welsh assembly (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-26378274).

That is the position at present. But if Scotland was to have DEVOMAX the other home countries would have to be given the same enhanced devolved powers otherwise we would be back to a variable geometry devolution.   That would greatly increase the importance of the competence and desire questions for Wales and Northern Ireland.

Apart from the difficulty of deciding what was an English-only affecting law, to exclude MPs from non-English seats from participating in English only matters would be to remove them from much of the discussion and decision making of the House of Commons. That would be so even with the current level of devolution enjoyed by Scotland. With DEVOMAX the position could  become absurd because MPs for non-English seats could easily end up being restricted to not much more than the classic federal issues of  foreign policy, diplomacy,  defence and management of the currency.  At that point the taxpayer might well ask what are we paying Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs for?

There would be a further complication with the House of Lords. At the moment England uniquely amongst the four home countries has all its domestic legislation subject to Lords scrutiny and approval. That is bad enough as things stand, but if DEVOMAX was granted to Scotland but not England the problem would be greatly magnified. Conversely, if DEVOMAX was granted to all the home countries, then the Lords would become to a large extent redundant because most of the legislation it now deals with would be removed from it.

All in all it is difficult to see how anyone could seriously put forward English votes for English laws as an answer to the injustice England currently experiences with a substantial part of their laws being decided in part by MPs from outside of England while English MPs have no say about the legislation involved in the areas of devolved powers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If the regional assemblies and English votes for English laws are ruled out then an English Parliament is the only alternative to the  increasingly unfair dichotomy between the governance of  England and the rest of the UK.  The neatest solution would be to go for a true federal solution.  Instead of having separate members elected to the Commons and national assemblies, a member should be elected to serve in both the Commons (when non-devolved  matters are dealt with) and their  national assembly to deal with devolved matters. The Commons should also serve as the English national Parliament with of course only English MPs sitting.  This would prevent any  great additional expense from either a new English Parliament or additional politicians. Indeed, there would be fewer with the ending of separate members for the Celtic Fringe national assemblies and the House of Commons.

Whether the Lords needs to be retained is debatable. I do not like single chamber parliaments because they have no brake on them, but it is not obvious what function  the Lords would have once and English Parliament was up and running. Perhaps the Lords (or some other second chamber) could deal just with non-devolved powers. That would at least place England on an  equal basis with the other home countries with all devolved issues being subject to a single chamber national parliament. If the UK had a written constitution, something sorely needed, the Lords could also act as a form of Grand Jury to decide constitutional questions.  

The one thing which is absolutely clear is that the practical need and moral justification for an English Parliament, which is already great, would be substantially advanced by a vote against Scottish independence and an increase in devolved power to Scotland.

Posted in Anglophobia, Devolution, Nationhood, Politics | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Roger Scruton on the injustice done to England by devolution

Robert Henderson

Below are extracts from a talk by the philosopher Roger Scruton on the position of England within the UK since devolution . They were made one BBC Radio 4 (21 Feb 14)  in their Point of View series.

I have omitted the parts of Scruton’s talk which concern the historical and economic background because they are superficial , frequently wrong and often embarrassingly sentimental  - the final quote I offer gives a good idea of what has been omitted.

Where Scruton is on solid ground is his description of the situation England finds itself in now.  That is what  the quotes I offer  deal with. It is also very useful to have someone like Scruton with something of  a media profile speaking out on the subject of England’s current disadvantaged position.

Roger Scruton: United We Fall: Point of View http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/pov  extracts

In all the complex changes  leading to the Scottish bid for independence  the English have never been consulted. The process has been conducted as though we had no right to an opinion in the matter. It was all about Scotland and how to respond to Scottish nationalism

“As an Englishman I naturally ask why my interests in the matter have never been taken into account. When the Czechs and Slovaks achieved their amicable divorce it was by mutual agreement between elected politicians. What is so different about Scotland that it decides everything for itself?”

The English tend to blame the migration which threatens to overwhelm them on a succession of Labour Governments. By allowing mass immigration into England and refusing to confront the European Union’s commitment to free movement of peoples the Governments of Blair and Brown seriously undermined the English sense of identity .  At the same time through the creation of the Scottish parliament gave a new identity to the Scots.

The effect of the Scottish Parliament, however, was not only to ensure the Scots governed themselves, but also to make it more likely that they would continue to govern the English.  The Labour Party did not want to lose those Scottish MPs since it was thanks to them and the Scottish vote that the Labour Party had achieved such  a large majority at Westminster. Scots were disproportionately represented  in the cabinets of both Blair and Brown. Tony Blair owed his position in the Labour hierarchy in part to the networks which had grown in that country.

 Elections to the Scottish Parliament show that the Scots have shifted their allegiance from the Labour Party to the SNP, but they still want the English to be governed by the Labour Party. Hence, they vote to place Labour politicians, whom they don’t  particularly want at home, in Westminster . As a result of this the English, who have voted Conservative  more often than Labour in all post-war Elections, have to accept a block vote of Labour Members of Parliaments sent to Westminster by the Scots.  The process  that  brought this about was one in  which the Scots themselves were given the final say in a referendum from which the English were excluded. In other words the process of devolution has an air of gerrymandering, the effect of which has been to secure a Labour bias in the Westminster Parliament while allowing the Scots to govern themselves in whatever way they choose.  

And the process continues. In response to Alec  Salmond’s bid for Independence the people of Scotland have been  granted another referendum but again the people of England have been deprived of a say. Why is this, are we part of the union or not?  Or are the politicians afraid that we would vote the wrong way?  And what is the wrong way?  What way should we English vote given that present arrangement gives two votes to the Scots for every vote given to the English? Should we not  vote for our independence given that we risk being governed from a country  that already regulates its own affairs and has no clear commitment to ours?

Suppose then we English were finally allowed a say in the matter? Which way would I vote?  I have no doubt about it. I would vote for English independence as a step towards strengthening the friendship between our two countries.  It was thanks to independence that Americans were able at last to confess to their attachment to the Old Country and to come to our aid in two world wars. Independence is what real friendship requires and the same is true for those like the Scots and the English who live side by side. 

Full text of Scruton’s talk at 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26173128

 

Posted in Immigration, Nationhood, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Frank Field calls for an English Parliament on Any Questions

Robert Henderson

Any Questions on 21 Feb 2014 (BBC R4) came from  Blundells School in Tiverton, Devon. The panel answering the question were the  Secretary of State for Scotland  and LibDem MP Alistair Carmichael, Conservative backbench MP Nadhim Zahawi  MP, New Statesman columnist Laurie Penny and Labour backbench MP Frank Field.  A classic example of the BBC’s idea of political  balance one might say  with two left leaning MPs in Carmichael and Field, an ethnic minority representative in Zahawi and a hard left ideologue in Penny.

The programme   contained this question: Will England be better off without Scotland? Carmichael and   Zahawi waffled about how successful the Union had been and  Penny exhibited routine hard left bile over the prospect of a Tory government in the rest of the UK if Scotland left the Union.  But then came Frank Field who upset the politically correct applecart by berating the present devolution settlement, suggesting that England would be well-rid of Scotland  and advocating an English Parliament. I have made a transcript of his words and the programme  presenter Jonathan Dimbleby’s interruptions ( The programme can still be heard on the BBC IPlayer  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03vh0d1  - Enter at 33minutes 54 seconds )

Frank Field: “I think this question is a really good example of how the elites whether in England or Scotland stitch up issues in that if you are giving one part of the United Kingdom a vote to say damn you we are leaving,  I think that should be a vote for all of us to decide. And I think we should be having actually a say  on whether we want Scotland to stay with us. And  I think that what we might well  find is that England would vote for Scotland to  leave  and the Scotland  would  vote to actually stay.”

Dimbleby: “How would you vote?”

Field: “I would vote for them to leave. For this reason, I voted against devolution. I feared that once we started this process the inevitability would be an independent Scotland. We have the unfairness now of this Government proposing issues which affect my constituents but don’t affect Scottish constituents and Scottish MPs vote on those issues affecting my constituents. …

Dimbleby attempts to interrupt but Field shrugs him off.

Field “And therefore I support Alastair [Carmichael had suggested English devolution without specifying what it would be, but implied he was thinking of English regional devolution not an English Parliament].  I think we actually need as a first step in this an English Parliament. I don’t fear that because as we withdrew from Empire , particularly Scotland but also Wales and also Northern Ireland, began to gain a huge sense of national identity, of  not being associated with Empire and actually feeling a proper role for themselves. And I think England has been too giving in this situation, I think we need likewise with Scotland, and with wales and Northern Ireland  to begin to find out what our own identity is, how we then join together mix together,  govern together is something downstream, but I do think this huge injustice that the others have assemblies  or parliaments  and yet the English do not have their own Parliament to make their views known …. “

Dimbleby cuts Field off at this point and calls for further remarks from Carmichael who just waffles about  England having a voice rather than a vote in the question of Scottish independence.

Dimbleby then tried to distract the debate away from such an alarming  idea (for liberal bigots) as an English Parliament by calling for one of the ad hoc pseudo polls of the studio audience the BBC loves to use to propagandise the pc view on anything by asking for shows of hands for those for and against a proposition. In most circumstances they can be certain to get the “right” pc answer because  BBC audiences for political programmes are routinely   packed to ensure that the “right” pc answer will be given. However, Any Questions audiences are a little less  easy to predict and control than most BBC audiences because the programme often goes  to parts of England largely untouched by mass immigration. Tiverton is such a place.  Any Questions audiences tend to be drawn from the area of the broadcast  and consequently  the Tiverton audience was  less likely to be rigid with political correctness than the ordinary BBC audience  simply because it was a genuinely  English audience.

Dimbleby  put the questions “Who thinks  England  would be better off  if Scotland became Independent? followed by “Who thinks  England would be worse of if Scotland became independent?”. This produced the desired pc answer with a large majority saying that  England would be worse off.

So far so pc good. Then it all went horribly wrong.  Field immediately jumped in and asked Dimbleby  to put to the audience the question  “Should England have a Parliament?” Dimbleby  did this and an overwhelming number of hands went up to say Yes, we want an English Parliament.   Such an  open expression of Englishness  was made easier for the audience because the politically correct have not made English patriotic sentiment a formal part of pc. Instead they have simply censured it from public discussion. Hence, the audience did not have the normal pressure of fearing that they would be called a un-pc bigots.

When Any Answers went out on 22 February no phone calls  were taken or tweets, texts and emails read out on the subject of Scottish devolution and where England should stand in a devolved UK.

The liberal bigot tendency who deny England a Parliament always claim that there is no demand for it. This is the exact opposite of the truth. The only reason there is no overt public demand is because the mainstream media and politicians refuse to address the issue.

Field’s view of England needing to find its identity, and indeed of the other home nations needing to do so after the end of Empire, is mistaken because true nations never lose the habit of knowing who and what they are.  Anyone who  believes  the English doubted the reality of their nationhood even at the height of Empire should read  Froude’s History of England (1850–1870), or wonder why when foreigners speak of the UK they to this day more often than not refer to England.  It is only a Quisling elite who suppress public signs of English identity and celebration. Take the politically correct brakes off  English society and the English will leave the world in no doubt of who they are.   The quickest and most certain way to achieve that is the establishment of an English parliament.

Posted in Devolution, Nationhood, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments