Monday 24 January 2005

The Forsyth Plan

It may surprise readers to learn that I have always favoured devolution. Of course much of Scottish public life has always been "devolved" - administratively. Our separate legal and education systems and many other government functions had their headquarters here in Edinburgh even when they were subject to legislation made in London. It always seemed sensible that the law-making function should join the administrative one by moving north. That has now been accomplished.

None of the foregoing means that I approve of what the devolved legislature actually does. There's almost nothing that's its done that meets my approval.

One thing that the Scottish parliament should have done is to have rejected the Holyrood building that was imposed on us by the Westminster government. We could have saved millions by using the existing Royal High School site where everyone in Scotland had expected the parliament to be located.

There are other ways to save money as has been noted by Michael Forsyth:

Speaking last month in the House of Lords, Lord Forsyth stated: "As the Scottish Parliament sits only one and a half days a week on average, why cannot we get rid of all 129 [MSPs] altogether? "Why cannot we have Scottish MPs sitting in the Scottish Parliament on Mondays and Tuesdays? They could discuss English business at Westminster. On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, they could come down and we could discuss UK business."
That's a very good idea and would end the nonsense of Scottish MPs legislating on English domestic affairs.

What I don't understand is this:

THE Scottish Tories suffered an embarrassing setback yesterday in their efforts to portray themselves as supporters of devolution when it emerged that one of the party’s most senior figures, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, had publicly called for the abolition of all MSPs.
Lord Forsyth's scheme is perfectly compatible with devolution so why should it "embarrass" the Tories?

A Labour minister says:

"We know the Tories are committed to savage cuts in Scotland but axing the Scottish Parliament is a cut too far."
But Forsyth isn't calling for the Scottish parliament to be "axed". He is pointing out the embarrassing truth that one lot of politicians is sufficient to carry out the duties of both MPs and MSPs. Ms Curran seems to think that the Edinburgh parliament is an end in itself whose purpose is to provide employment for her cronies. Not so. I say that we should adopt the Forsyth plan immediately.


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Robert Hill
I am afraid Michael Forsyth's idea is not a new one. He probably heard it from me, when he was briefly a Scottish Minister. 
Naturally I think its a good idea!

31 January 2005, 22:12:28 GMT
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Andrew Ian Dodge
I agree with both of these bills. Neither is rediculous nor socialist. The latter is an issue of personal sovereignty and the former is a realistic view of prostitution. Course a better idea would be to just legalise it. 
Prostitution Tolerance Zones (Scotland) Bill  
Proposed Right to Die for the Terminally Ill Bill – euthanasia

31 January 2005, 13:56:38 GMT
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Stuart Dickson
-"What does it mean ..." 
I don't know. I just made it up cos it sounds funny. 
Alex Salmond did not call it "a sweetie-shop parliament" for nothing. It is all trappings and b. all substance. It's primary aim is to fool the Scottish electorate and "kill nationalism stone dead" - it ain't working. 
-"What is devolution? 
Devolution is the first step to re-establishing Scotland as a sovereign nation.  
Under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Parliament is able to pass laws on important issues like the colour of sweetie wrappers and the weight of toilet paper used in hospitals.  
The Scotland Act also specifies certain issues on which the Scottish Parliament cannot pass legislation. These are known as reserved matters and include Foreign Affairs, Defence, National Security and anything else important to the ongoing control of Scotland by Westminster."

27 January 2005, 13:09:48 GMT
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I have trawled the Scottish Parliament website in search of something positive, to maybe lighten my spirits a little, and possibly make me even a little but grateful for the Parliament itself. However I came across the Bill proposals, and was I shocked at how socialist or ridiculous most of them were: 
Prostitution Tolerance Zones (Scotland) Bill  
Dog Fouling (Scotland) Bill 
Sunbeds Licensing (Scotland) Bill 
High Hedges (Scotland) Bill 
Proposed National Register of Tartans Bill 
Fur Farming (Prohibition) (Scotland) Bill  
Transportation and Sale of Puppies (Scotland) Bill 
Breastfeeding (Scotland) Bill (M) 
Civil Registered Partnerships (Scotland) Bill 
Abolition of Council Tax (Scotland) Bill 
Community Based Drug Facilities (Scotland) Bill 
Ethical Standards in Public Life etc (Scotland) Bill 
Free Nursery and Primary School Milk (Scotland) Bill 
Free School Meals (Scotland) Bill 
Proposed Right to Die for the Terminally Ill Bill – euthanasia 
Can anyone find a Bill which has been useful to Scotland?

27 January 2005, 12:26:06 GMT
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David Farrer said...

Gareth Young
I tried autocogniscance once but my self-cogniscance had never heard of it.  
What does it mean, that one automatically has self-awareness?

26 January 2005, 23:19:20 GMT
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Stuart Dickson
Dear David 
Autocognisance is a rare property, so we must look upon your defect sympathetically.

26 January 2005, 20:11:33 GMT
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David Malloch
My dear Stuart 
"Eh...let me get this right" 
"You think that replacing a government of 50 "muppet" Scottish Labour MSPs with a government of 50 "common-sensical", "intelligent" and "wise" Scottish Labour MPs would be a move?" 
Well it would be a move, yes. Where they would get such people I don't know, but I also meant from the other parties too, I call for cross party muppetry to be done away with. 
"I know who the real muppet is." 
Do tell do tell do tell!

26 January 2005, 19:27:06 GMT
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Neil Craig
How does Forsyth say they should be elected.  
If elected by PR then we have 2 electoral systems in Westminster, one which gives a proportional result in the area where Labour gets disproportionate representation but keeps a biased result in southern Tory areas. 
If by FPTP we get an 80% Labour Parliament on a 40% vote - if you think the current lot are numpties imagine this reform. 
Perhaps Forsyth is seeking a genuinly representative system for the whole UK but if so he is approaching it crabwise.

25 January 2005, 18:40:20 GMT
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Bishop Hill
What I found depressing was the reaction of the other parties to what was a reasoned, practical suggestion. Basically this amounted to "He's a wicked man" and nothing else. No attempt to address the issue at all.

25 January 2005, 17:07:24 GMT
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OK, no Federation. But how will Forsyth's (rather attractive) scheme work? Snooks is English First Minister, controlling The House on Monday and Tuesday, and McSnooks is UK Prime Minister, controlling it on Wed - Fri. Well, if we still think that we have some genius for improvising/accommodating/muddling through, perhaps it is worth a shot. Alternatively, accept that Brussels will rule, and that an irreversibly more dirigiste way of life faces us. Emigrate to either a freer country, or one that does dirigisme more successfully?

25 January 2005, 11:43:45 GMT
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Stuart Dickson
should read "good move"

24 January 2005, 19:16:52 GMT
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David Farrer said...

Stuart Dickson
Dear David, 
-"replacing that bunch of muppets at Holyrood with some people of common sense and intelligence would also be a wise move" 
Eh...let me get this right. You think that replacing a government of 50 "muppet" Scottish Labour MSPs with a government of 50 "common-sensical", "intelligent" and "wise" Scottish Labour MPs would be a move? 
I know who the real muppet is.

24 January 2005, 19:15:49 GMT
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Stuart Dickson
Dear dearieme, 
-"The solution will presumably be a federation with a written constitution?" 
In the LibDems dreams! I'm afraid that the electors of North East England knocked that pipe-dream firmly on the head when they said No to an assembly recently. 
There is absolutely no appetite for either federalism or confederalism in the UK, nor for a written constitution (how terribly un-British). 
The scenario that you pose is a very famous one, for it is the wonderfully astute West Lothian Question. Tam Dalyell finally retires this year, as Father of the House, but his Question is nowhere near being answered by the British Establishment. That is because they know what the only answer is, and they don't like it: Independence.

24 January 2005, 19:05:30 GMT
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David Malloch
Blair doesn't give a squirt of piss about the problems devolution will face in the future, he won't be there anymore. 
In some ways its not really Blair's doing, its the people like Gordon Brown who insisted devolution be kept in the Labout manifesto, Blair had no interest in it at all. 
But yes it is an intellectual pigs breakfast. No doubt it shall become an issue one of these (post Blair) days. 
I think Forsyth's plan is the only credible alternative for unionists, the business of Scots MP's voting on England only legislation is a piece of nonsense and cannot go on. But it seems a bit like the tail wagging the dog. 
However replacing that bunch of muppets at Holyrood with some people of common sense and intelligence would also be a wise move.

24 January 2005, 17:23:12 GMT
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The fun will start when a British govt has a UK majority but a minority of English seats. In the old system, that was perfectly OK: they could still legislate for the UK, and separately for England and for Scotland. That balanced up cases when they had a UK majority but a minority of seats in Scotland. 
But under devolution it makes no sense at all: a UK govt with a minority of English seats will now have no legitimacy when it legislates for England. In other words, our current devolved system is an intellectual pig's breakfast. (No surprise, under Blair.) The solution will presumably be a federation with a written constitution?

24 January 2005, 10:25:07 GMT