Friday, September 19, 2014

After yesterday - the answer to the "West Lothian question"

UNISON Scotland’s position of neutrality on yesterday’s referendum is arguably justified by a close (55%/45%) rejection of independence.

As an English socialist, I strongly support the Scottish people’s right to national self-determination but am quite relieved that they didn’t use it to consign me to a nation in which political debate was to be between David Cameron and Nigel Farage.


It appears we have to deal with the “West Lothian question”.

I have an answer to that question.


No – I don’t care that the MP for West Lothian might be able to vote about hospital provision in West Bromwich whereas neither she (nor he) nor the member for West Bromwich could vote about hospital provision in West Lothian.

It’s not just that I am much happier that votes should be cast by good socialists like Katy Clark, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, than my own local MP (a Tory) – although I am.

(It does bother me that pathologically loyal Scots Labour MPs forced through foundation hospitals and tuition fees in England at the behest of Tony Blair, even though Labour in Scotland opposed these reactionary measures – but that is a political problem about pusillanimity in the Labour movement and not a national question at all).

More importantly, I won’t waste a moment’s thought on the question of whether or not someone elected by Scots should vote on matters of concern to the English whilst our antiquated constitution includes an entirely unelected House of Parliament.

Unless and until we finally abolish a hereditary and appointed part of our legislature we really would be wasting our time bothering about which elected members should have a say over which parts of the country.

If – like a genuine democracy – we had an entirely elected legislature – we could entertain ourselves with questions about which elected representative could vote about what. For as long as we doff our caps to a system of Government in which accidents of birth or careers of brown-nosing can bequeath a seat in Parliament then I think that the “West Lothian question” is no question at all.

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