JAMES Gray, the shadow Scottish secretary, was sacked yesterday after suggesting in The Scotsman that all MSPs should lose their jobs, with Holyrood being turned into a part-time home for Scottish MPs.The editorial in the Scotsman points out that Mr Gray's views were well known before he was appointed shadow Secretary of State:
Mr Gray had been in his high-profile job for only a week, but his position became untenable after a furious David McLetchie, the Scottish Conservative leader, demanded that the North Wiltshire MP be fired from his front-bench role.
Mr Gray, the Glasgow-born MP for North Wiltshire, was known for his wayward views on devolution: he called in January last year for doing away with MSPs and having Scottish MPs sit at Holyrood for two days a week.I share Mr Gray's belief that we don't need two lots of politicians serving (sic) Scotland, although I do support domestic legislation being made here. Given our many-party political spectrum I could be persuaded that Scotland should have some form of PR and that could be taken as meaning that MSPs spend part of the week in Westminster rather than MPs working (sic) in Holyrood part-time. But that's a detail; the point is that one lot of politicians can easily serve at both Westminster and Holyrood. So where did Mr Gray go wrong?
Unfortunately for Mr Gray, his views were:
... at marked variance with official party policy, which is to support both the parliament and its MSPs.I suspect that we haven't heard the last of this by any means. Many English Tories are upset about Mr Gray's treatment:
Some in England believe that the party could profitably exploit the growing unease over Scotland's constitutional and financial position within the United Kingdom, albeit at the cost of handicapping Mr McLetchie and his party.But the English Tories should be exploiting asymmetrical devolution and their subjugation by the Scottish Raj. The real question up here is this: Will sorting out "Scotland's constitutional and financial position within the United Kingdom" harm Scotland? I don't think so. It may well harm the Scottish Conservative Party as led by Mr McLetchie, but that's because far too many McLetchieite Tories share Labour's belief that we're too poor to stand on our own feet financially. Given that Scotland's per-capita GDP is close to the British and European average it seems to me that our problem is profligate spending by an out-of-control government machine rather than insufficient wealth to fund a much-reduced state sector. Scots Tories should embrace fiscal devolution and provide a radical alternative to the all-too-numerous socialist parties that infest the Scottish body politic.
That leaves what I call, for want of a better term, a "bravura act" to catalyse change. The adoption of a flat tax would be one such act. Another might be the abolition of business tax.If that requires a separate party from that led by Michael Howard and with a more radical leader than David McLetchie, so be it.