Our system of government is like a great tree, long in the making. Tinker with its roots and you imperil the entire structure.
The question: should Scottish MP’s be allowed to vote on English issues and vice versa has an answer. It is: Yes. Why?
The answer was given in 1871 by John Stuart Mill who, expected to vote reflecting the wishes of his constituents and said that he was not put in parliament to be a puppet but to exercise his discretion. He was elected to make judgements based on his intellect, education, honesty, decency, courage and insight. These qualities we expect in our MPs, all of whom can be expected to vote on every issue for the good of the union as a whole.
If not, MPs should not be there.
In wartime they are invariably present (recalled to Parliament today to debate Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.) MPs are less present in times of peace. The values we Britons possess assume this care for the Union as a whole.
If every decision on the interior, domestic issues of Scotland were to be taken only by Scots that would probably be a bad idea. The expensive fiascos of the Scottish Parliament building, the Edinburgh trams that do so little for traffic chaos and the opera house that failed to get off the ground for 40 years should cast doubt on the idea that ‘We can look after our own interests best.’ What we need looking after our interests, are the best people in the Union, a different thing.
The House of Lords is one of the glories of our system. Why should the best brains be excluded because they have no experience or taste for electioneering? While the Commons is full of self-promoters, it is a good balance to have a chamber where the unelected, excellent can be influential. What great poet or scientist could be bothered to canvass his election? He has better things to do. A chamber full of brilliant folk whose first concern is not politics is a check on the other.
The current problem of the Union is not that it requires further devolved powers. That is probably a mistake. Devolution of powers should always be temporary to see if it works and should be taken away if it does not, or adversely affects other parts of it. The extent to which powers are devolved should be reviewed from time to time.
The root cause of the 45% vote for Scottish Independence is not lack of self-governing powers but lack of respect for the English and vice versa. A union without respect on both sides can be expected to divorce.
The very word ‘English’ is a hate word to many Scottish ears. They will support any country playing England at sport but never England. The English supported Andy Murray in his historic win at Wimbledon.
That Scots have to cross the border with Bank of England notes (instead of our own) is an outrage every Scot is aware of. There ought to be one banknote for the Union, it should have the Queen’s head on it and best of all, if the very institution is changed to ‘The Bank of Britain’. That elementary move would do much to decrease the heat of rage in many Scottish hearts. There is a perception by Scots that the English are arrogant, patronising and selfish. That needs to change. The concept of ‘The Briton’ has to be put above that of the Scot or the Englishman. The Union must come first.
A decade ago racist language was outlawed. It worked, largely. Disrespect within the union between brother nations should likewise be outlawed. Snobbery, arrogance, have no place in our union. Excellence in every dimension is what we seek and what we should stand for. A proper respect for those well off or endowed is part of it.
What must not change is Westminster itself. That is one of the glories of this Union. It should remain preeminent, no matter that there are devolved parliaments. And every one of our 650 MPs should be expected to vote on every issue.
William Scott, Rothesay, Isle of Bute