Sunday 4 November 2007

Reply to James Higham (Part 3)

Now of course Scottish nationalism is a potent force. Before May I had always voted Conservative and did so again in the Edinburgh City Council election. But, unlike four years ago, I switched to the SNP for the Scottish parliament vote. Partly that was because it seemed the best way to expel Labour from government. Many others took the same view and there was much rejoicing up here when Labour was kicked out. It also helped that so many of Scotland's entrepreneurs had switched to the Nationalists although there's no doubt that the SNP activists are still predominantly social-democrats.

I now turn to the outbreak of Scotophobia that's recently infected the English body politic.

It seems to me that the initial cause is the infamous West Lothian Question, which asks:

whether it is just that members of the UK Parliament (Westminster) elected from Scotland can vote on issues only affecting England, but English MPs, in turn, cannot vote on these same aspects in relation to Scotland.
Well of course it's not just. And not only should Scottish MPs be barred from voting on England-only issues, they shouldn't be able to debate them either. Indeed, they should suffer a commensurate cut in salary. And, get this. Apart from Labour apparatchiks, almost everyone in Scotland agrees with me.

The West Lothian Question and the coming of devolution have made English commenters aware of a Scotland that was previously of no interest to them.

I'm always surprised that so many English people don't seem to understand that there always were separate budgets for lots of government expenditure pertaining to Scotland long before devolution. Those "Highers" that I obtained at Ayr Academy long before the Blair era were administered by the Scottish Office in Edinburgh, not by the Department of Education down in England. Similarly, Scotland had its own budgets for health, justice, agriculture, fisheries and farming ages before devolution was on the horizon.

What the establishment of the Scottish parliament in 1999 brought was the freedom for local politicians to decide how to allocate Scotland's total budget between the various categories of devolved expenditure. (Technically all expenditure not "reserved" to Westminster.)

One part of the budget that's become a particular bone of contention is health. We're constantly hearing - at least if one reads the English versions of the press - that Scotland spends more per capita on health than England. Is that true? Yes. But how many English people have read that we spend less per capita on policing?

Then we've all read about the cancer drugs that are available on the Scottish NHS but not in England. What we don't hear about are the drugs that are available in England but not in Scotland. The two countries have separate drug approval bodies. Sometimes they make different decisions.

I repeat, the point of devolution was to allow different budgetary allocations to be made in England and Scotland. This is perfectly normal in other countries with devolved or federal governments. There seems to be something in the British psyche that can't stand the idea of differences. It's probably because Britain has an unusually centralised media, especially in the form of the BBC.

Aha, you may be thinking - but does Scotland get too much money altogether no matter how it is allocated?

More follows.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Joshua Holmes
Are we talking a separate Parliament, or just the English MPs?
6 November 2007, 23:06:39 GMT – Like – Reply

David Farrer
If the PM is not English, should the government have a English First Minister?

Yes, England would need to have its own First Minister.

The UK PM would deal with UK-wide matters such as defence and he/she could come from any part of the UK.
6 November 2007, 07:27:43 GMT – Like – Reply

Joshua Holmes
And not only should Scottish MPs be barred from voting on England-only issues, they shouldn't be able to debate them either.

How exactly would this work? The current PM is a Scot, and he gets no say in England-only laws. If the PM is not English, should the government have a English First Minister? Or could you have a Conservative English government with a Labour UK government, with different parties holding the English First Ministership?
5 November 2007, 23:38:45 GMT – Like – Reply

The thing is, David, no one was particularly up in arms befoe Blair/Brown drove the wedge in and then people suddenly began noticing. These two men ahve much to answer for and I consider them traitors in the sense that they could be tried for this.
4 November 2007, 19:16:26 GMT