And on the subject of Scotland and England ...
Not long ago Scotland had some legitimate grievances against England. For example, it was a bad mistake to impose the Poll Tax on Scotland before it was introduced in England. But for the past eight years the boot has been on the other foot.
It was totally outrageous for Scots MPs to impose top-up tuition fees on English students when the Scottish parliament had voted not to impose any equivalent top-up on their own constituents. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and the Scottish Affairs committee of the House of Commons, including Labour and even Scottish Nationalist MPs, are starting to recognise this.
The present system is an unhappy half-way house between a centralised nation and a proper federal system, and is increasingly unsustainable. A few years ago, in the Northern Irish context, it was suggested that the principle of "equal citizenship" should apply between the different parts of the UK, and the present set up does not achieve this.
MPs on the Scottish Affairs committee have expressed concern at the resentment caused by the fact that MPs representing constituencies in Scotland are in a position to impose unpopular policies on England which will not apply to their own constituents. The committee suggested, without expressing a preference, that there are four possible solutions;
1) dissolution of the United Kingdom;
2) English devolution;
3) fewer Scottish MPs;
4) only English MPs to vote on issues which only
A similar, though less extreme, problem exists for Wales.
I could never support the breakup of the UK, and I don’t believe that many people in England want yet another layer of politicians – the candidate advocating that policy in Copeland at the last election came last with well under a thousand votes.
To have fewer Scottish MPs would be unfair to Scotland when issues are discussed which are still dealt with at a UK level, such as foreign affairs and defence. Thousands of Scotsmen fought in Afganistan, Iraq or both; their families deserve an equal say on decisions which cost Scots lives as well as English ones.
There is only one answer which keeps the UK, does not involve vastly more expense, and corrects the injustice currently facing England without creating new ones for Scotland and Wales. This is to establish rules whereby Westminster MPs representing Scottish seats do not vote on matters which in Scotland have been devolved to the Scottish parliament: similarly MPs representing Welsh seats should not be allowed to vote at Westminster on matters which in Wales have been devolved to the Assembly.
This is not a perfect solution, but the disadvantages it has are massively outweighed by the problems with any of the other options, including the status quo.