Mr Redwood’s contribution to the Scotland Bill, 15 June 2015

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I have always been a Unionist, but my idea of my country, the United Kingdom, is that it must be a democracy at peace with itself, and can only proceed as a happy and successful democracy if it has the consent of most of the people most of the time to the Union institutions and the powers of those institutions.

I am pleased that, because we proceed democratically and understand the need for consent, this Parliament listened to Scotland and, quite recently, granted a referendum to establish whether it was the settled will of the Scottish people to leave the United Kingdom altogether and set up their own arrangements. We discovered two things as a result of that democratic exercise. We discovered that the Scottish National party itself was not arguing for full independence: it wanted to remain part of the currency union, for example. I do not see how it is conceivably possible for an independent country to be part of a currency union.

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that Germany is not an independent nation?

John Redwood: That is exactly the problem: Germany is not an independent nation. No member of the eurozone is an independent nation, and that is why those countries are experiencing such trouble. The trouble is not just for Greece, which is very visibly not independent, because it is being told how to conduct its economic policy. Germany is not independent either. Germany did not wish to lend Greece huge sums of money, but the European Central Bank, acting in the name of Germany, has advanced huge sums of money, which it will find very difficult to get back, but which Germany has to stand behind.

Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP) rose—

John Redwood: If SNP Members will allow me a little time, I will say things that they will like. I am not trying to make life difficult for them.

This is my analysis. In the referendum the SNP went for something more akin to home rule than what I would regard as full independence, but at that stage the Scottish people said no even to that. They seemed to say yes to the rather larger devolution of powers that the three main Unionist parties were then offering. However, we are now experiencing new circumstances.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), who has tabled a very interesting amendment, I think that this Parliament must listen to the new voice of the Scottish people. It is clear that there has been a shift of opinion towards more home rule than the Unionist parties were offering at the time of the referendum. That is why we are here today, listening very carefully to what the SNP has to say, and that is why I think it extremely important for us to have this debate on full fiscal independence, or fiscal autonomy. It would be one way for our Parliament to respond when the Scottish people have said, “We do not want to be completely independent as a separate country, but we want much more self-government—or home rule—than was envisaged by the Unionist parties at the time of the referendum, because we can see that that was not very popular.”

The Unionist parties collectively did rather badly in Scotland come the general election. [Interruption.] Well, between them, they received just under half the vote, while the Scottish nationalist party received just over half the vote. Because the Unionist vote was split, practically no Unionist Members of Parliament were elected, but it is still the case that Scottish opinion is fairly evenly balanced. The Scottish nationalists did not get 70% or 80% of the vote. If they had done, then, as far as I am concerned, they would really be in a position to tell us the answer, but, as judged by the vote, they speak for only about half the Scottish people. However, as representatives, they speak for practically all the Scottish people because they have most of the Members in this place.

I am listening very carefully and will want to hear more about what SNP Members want, but I am also very conscious that, in parallel with this exercise on powers as set out in this Bill, in some way far more important negotiations are already under way on what the new financial settlement will be, and those are not yet being reported to this House. That is crucial not just to the SNP and its representation of the Scottish people, but to the people of England. I find the more home rule that is on offer and the more we hear the Scottish voice, the more I have to be an advocate not of the Union, but of England, because someone needs to speak for England and to say that the consequences of much enhanced Scottish devolution, and some fiscal devolution as well, are serious for England. England needs to be in the discussion just as Scotland does, as this is our joint country and a major change in its arrangements will have a fundamental impact on England.

While I am very attracted to the idea of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough that it would be a shrewd move to, for once, get ahead of the Scottish appetite for home rule and on this occasion to grant full fiscal devolution, we need to ask how feasible that is and what the consequences will be for Scotland and England. If Scotland wishes to be part of common welfare and pension guarantees, some limitation is already imposed on the spending side of full fiscal devolution. We have to think about the position of England if cross-guarantees are being offered for some part of that welfare package. If we are going to proceed in the way the Government currently plan and the way the negotiations are currently being undertaken—as I understand it, there is an attempt to find a way of adjusting the block grant for Scotland to take into account the new Scottish responsibilities, as some items of spending will have to be added in as a result of the devolution of new functions, and there will be a reduction in the block grant to take account of those taxes that are now Scotland’s to fix and collect—therein lies an immediate problem.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): Would not an easier solution be for Scotland to collect its own tax, as Catalonia does, and then pay into the centre, rather than the centre paying out? The taxes should be raised by the Government of the territory paying the taxes and paid into the centre rather than giving them to the centre for it to then pay out. In that way, the centre will have to stop saying it is subsidising people when it returns their own taxes.

John Redwood: But if Scotland wisely decides to have lower tax rates to make itself more popular, the Union will be losing out if those lower tax rates collect less money.

Mr MacNeil: The right hon. Gentleman should realise that it is not lower taxes that have made the SNP more popular; it is better public services in Scotland—that has given us 50% of the vote versus his party’s 37%.

John Redwood: If Scotland wishes to impose higher taxes, the Union has less of a problem with that—unless it chooses to impose higher tax rates which collect less revenue, because those could be a problem for the Union as a whole—but it would be a problem for Scotland if it had to collect higher tax levels and it did not get all the money back; I would have thought it would want to get all the extra money back that it was collecting. Full fiscal autonomy means it would take responsibility for both raising the money and spending it. If Scotland wishes to spend more under fiscal autonomy, she can do so if she has a magic way of getting more money off people through either higher or lower tax rates, whichever work in the particular fiscal circumstances.

We need to have working papers on how full fiscal devolution might work and whether it is truly full fiscal devolution, because if we are going to full fiscal devolution, England will want guarantees that we are no longer acting as a buffer or subsiding the Scottish settlement, just as Scotland will want guarantees that she has got a fair deal and is capturing the benefits of her fiscal independence. If we go for a mixed system, which is where we currently are with the real debate between the Smith commission, the pro-Union parties and the SNP, there is a lot to be worked out, and I hope that at some point those on the Treasury Bench will share some of their thinking with the House.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with much of what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. Do not these arguments illustrate the asymmetrical nature of the devolution settlement across the four nations of the United Kingdom? Does he agree that whichever funding model we go for in relation to Scotland, there will be implications for the finances of the other three nations? Does he not think that we need a constitutional convention to put that right?

John Redwood: No, I do not think that we need a constitutional convention, because that would create endless delay and complications. I agree with previous comments that we are here to try to solve this problem for our respective constituents. I spent quite a lot of my time during the election speaking for England and saying that I wanted to ensure that England got a reasonable deal out of this. SNP representatives clearly did the same in relation to Scotland, and we both achieved similar levels of success in attracting lots of votes for what we were saying.

Mr MacNeil: The right hon. Gentleman talks about getting good deals for the various parts of the UK, but let us look at the wider British Isles. Does he think that the aggregate GDP of the British Isles would be as high as it is today without the full fiscal autonomy that the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom all enjoy? If the aggregate GDP of the British Isles is higher for those reasons, does he not agree that it will be higher still when Scotland achieves its full fiscal autonomy?

John Redwood: I start from the point of view of democracy. A democratic state has to have the full range of powers, including fiscal autonomy and its own currency. That is different from asking: what is your state? I would still rather have the United Kingdom as my state, but I have just explained that if it is the will of the Scottish people that the UK is no longer their preferred state, they must leave—of course they must.

Mr MacNeil: The right hon. Gentleman is being very kind in enabling our dialogue to continue. I am sure he would acknowledge that the UK functioned between 1603 and 1707, when the Parliaments were independent.

John Redwood: Well, it functioned after a fashion, but I would not have wanted to live through that time. The nations were clearly not nearly as rich as they are today. Labour Members sometimes try to pretend that we have gone back to an ancient age, but I am sure that none of them would willingly go back in time and live in that era, because we are obviously so much better off now.

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): I do not want to divert from the subject, but was not the reason for the Scots’ enthusiasm in going forward in 1707—[Interruption.]It was not an economic blockade; it was speculation in the colonies of central America.

John Redwood: Yes, it was a kind of early version of the banking crash, which also reminds us that Scottish banks can sometimes get into trouble, and that the Union’s insurance can be quite helpful to them.

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP): May I return the discussion to the here and now? I should like to clarify something that the right hon. Gentleman said, because I think I agree with him. Is he saying that there was a clear desire in the debate that took place in Scotland post-Smith for a fuller measure of complete domestic fiscal control within the UK, but that achieving it would require serious discussions about how it would work in Scotland and how it would affect the fiscal arrangements in the rest of the UK? Does he agree that it could be done reasonably quickly, but would require transitional arrangements? It cannot be done overnight, but it is the way to go. If we do not do this, we will end up having endless piecemeal discussions, which would produce more friction than light.

John Redwood: I am making an even more urgent point than that. I am saying that that discussion is going on in parallel while we are debating this Bill. I hope that its content will be shared with the House at some point, because it is a matter of great importance to the United Kingdom, to England, to Scotland and so forth. As I understand it, those taking part in the negotiations are up against these very issues. If, for example, too much independence is given to Scotland on spending patterns, would there be a Union guarantee to pay for it all? How would it be fair to other parts of the Union if Scotland could increase her spending without having to take responsibility for raising the money for it? If Scotland starts to raise more of her own money, how do we adjust the block grant? In the current negotiations, nobody is suggesting getting rid of the block grant and saying that Scotland can have all her own money and just spend her own money. I am not even sure that is what the SNP wants. Negotiation is going on about how far—[Interruption.] If the SNP genuinely wants all that, that is fine. We then have to have a serious discussion, before it could be agreed to, over the borrowing. I will call it “borrowing”; I do not think “black hole” is a terribly useful term.

It is obvious that the United Kingdom has been living well beyond its means as a state for many years and is still borrowing large sums, and that, collectively, the United Kingdom, including Scotland, has built up those debts. Some of that money has been spent in Scotland and some of it has been spent in England. If we went for so-called full fiscal autonomy, we would face the question of what do we do about the new borrowing and what do we do about the past borrowing. One thing we have surely learnt from Greece and other places in the euro currency union is that the borrowing of a state in a currency union is of great concern and interest to the rest of that union. There would therefore have to be an agreement on borrowing, with past debt levels attributed to Scotland, because it would have to pay an interest bill on those. Future build-up of Scottish debt would also have to be addressed: whether it would be separate Scottish debt or would still come with the full Union guarantee, which would probably make it a bit cheaper. That becomes the centre of the row, rather than it being over which taxes we have.

Patricia Gibson: Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that successive Westminster Governments could learn much from the economic management of the Scottish Parliament, which has balanced its budget, in a fixed budget, every year, while Westminster has run up successive debts?

John Redwood: That is because all the time that it is a subsidiary Parliament of the Union, and part of our public expenditure and borrowing plans, it has to abide by the remit. The hon. Lady is right in that it has been given a tougher remit than the Union gives itself, but it is not fair to say that that is of no interest or benefit to Scotland, because of course much of the Union expenditure is also being committed proportionately in Scotland and so it is Scotland’s share of the debt as well. I am making a factual statement; I am not trying to make party political points, wind up the SNP, rerun the referendum or anything like that. I am just trying to get this Committee to understand that grave and big issues are being hammered out elsewhere, we are not hearing about them and they impinge very much on this crucial debate that we are now having.

I have intervened in the debate because I want an opportunity to talk about this financial settlement, which matters to England as well as to Scotland. The proposal put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough brings things centre stage. If we went down his route and had full fiscal autonomy, I would want to know what that meant; how much responsibility Scotland would take, for example, for pensions as well as welfare; and what the borrowing settlement would be. The residual is the borrowing, and unless we know what the answer is on that, we still will not have a happy Union or stable expenditure.

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP): I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his most gracious speech and his thoughtful remarks about the future of the constitutional arrangements between Scotland and the rest of the UK. It is perhaps worth remembering that when Gordon Brown spoke on behalf of the three Unionist parties prior to the referendum, what was offered was as close to federalism as we could  get. What was talked about was home rule in the spirit of Keir Hardie. It is akin to the remarks that the right hon. Gentleman is making. It is perhaps worth remembering that the manifesto commitment the SNP stood on was delivering powers for a purpose to the Scottish Parliament. He is right: that is what the Scottish people voted for in returning 56 Members of Parliament to this Chamber.

John Redwood: Then I think we need to have another debate, on another day, which looks at what is going on in these important financial discussions. Although my constituents are interested in what powers Scotland gets, they are far more interested in how the money works between the different parts of the Union. We have no papers before us today to elucidate that.

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): For the second time in five and a bit years, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. On the complicated nature of the fiscal framework, which I believe he is trying to unpack, does he not agree that the Labour new clause, which will be debated at some point, to set up an independent commission on the costs and implications of full fiscal autonomy provides a much more reasonable and sensible approach?

John Redwood: We are where we are. Promises were made, I thought in good faith, by the three Front-Bench teams. They were not my chosen promises; they were made on behalf of the three Unionist parties. They did the job for the referendum, but they then did not do much of a job for the Unionist parties at the general election. However, we cannot now be seen to be delaying for any great length. There needs to be proper work—and I am sure that proper work is going on in the Government at the moment as they try to work out a financial settlement in parallel to this Bill. I am just suggesting that perhaps this Parliament needs to have some of that thinking shared with it.

Today is the first opportunity, within the clear parameters of new clause 3, to try to expose a bit of the thinking on how a limited amount of fiscal autonomy will work, and on how many of these taxes Scotland will not only collect, but be responsible for and have knocked off the block grant. As I remember it, when the leaders came up with this promise, Gordon Brown was a big voice—obviously, he was not one of the leaders at the time—for rather less fiscal autonomy. He was trying to stop Scotland controlling her own income tax revenues, so I do not entirely share the interpretation of the Labour Front-Bench team of what Mr Brown was trying to do at that point.

I will bring my remarks to a close with the simple conclusion that the world has moved on because of the general election result. The debate on money is taking place elsewhere, but we currently have a short debate about money here. I hope that the Front-Bench team will share some of its thoughts on money. Fiscal devolution seems to be attractive to many people in Scotland, but we need to know where it ends and how we sort out all those crucial issues about debt and borrowing as well as about shared policies such as pensions.


  1. Lifelogic
    June 19, 2015

    Excellent well done, keep up the good work.

    1. Lifelogic
      June 19, 2015

      I am not so sure the promises by the Front Bench teams were made “in good faith”. They were just last minute panic measures for political reasons (that were never even really needed).

      They were given without the authority of the rest of the UK voters. There is no need for this government to stand by these whatsoever. A promise is only valid if the person making it had authority to give it and the power to deliver.

      The Government should just say they need a referendum (of the rest to the UK) to agree to any concessions and structures proposed. This as the English will almost certainly have to pay for it all. Also it affect the rest of the UK’s democratic structures & funding, just as it affects Scotland.

      , by the three Front-Bench teams.

    2. Richard1
      June 19, 2015

      I agree these are the 2 key issues: how do we ensure, if there is fiscal autonomy for Scotland, that there isn’t cross-subsidy by the rest of the UK?; and, in the event Scotland gets to borrow, how do we ensure there isn’t recourse to the UK taxpayer, and indeed how do we attribute legacy debt and future interest on it to Scottish taxpayers? As JR points out above, the SNP’s position on these issues is unclear.

    3. Hope
      June 19, 2015

      This is very good, but Cameron did not put this sort of thought to the vow or the mess he has created.

      I commend Ambrose Evans-Pritchard article today for you to read. It chronicles the EU and IMF behaviour toward Greece and why for me tthe EU is such a vile political construct that ought to be dismantled. The sooner the UK gets out the better. Nevertheless questions need to be asked of our govt what they have tried to influence either in the EUor IMF . From Osborne’s comments this morning it appeared he was trying to help a run on the Greek banks/ finance system.

    4. MIke Stallard
      June 19, 2015

      Doesn’t the underlying research gleam through too!
      Well done, Mr Redwood.

      Reply Thank you. Someone needs to talk beyond the soundbites.

    June 19, 2015

    I viewed much of the debates of the Scotland Bill. Many MPs were not there. It had to be dominated by yourself, few others of the main parties and virtually all the SNP MPs. In times of greater attendance I saw numerous MPs plonking on computer tablets, seemingly in another world within the other world which is Westminster. There are few if any instances in the world of work where such multi-tasking would not immediately lead to a worker’s immediate suspension and probable dismissal.

    JR, I found your contributions throughout the debates full of detail and to the point. Many others of all parties, especially those of the SNP, were grandstanding and re-fighting the Scottish Referendum campaign and even older battles.

    Meanwhile, outside Parliament we have had the Home Secretary and other senior Ministers trying to stop representatives of foreign powers dictating what number if any of other foreigners should enter the UK having marched thousands of miles across numerous countries, caught the first dugout to Italy with a view to marching clear across the whole of Europe possibly with a view to settle in Slough.Oh, and the Rt Hon Theresa May made an appeal to “British people” not to enlist for suicide missions with ISIS.

    I can assure the Home Secretary that despite my not being individually acquainted with the thousands who passed through before my time at state schools, during my time and for years afterwards…not one single one of them will have thought to enlist for ISIS. To which British people does she refer? etc ed

    1. Jerry
      June 19, 2015

      @CH; “There are few if any instances in the world of work where such multi-tasking would not immediately lead to a worker’s immediate suspension and probable dismissal.”

      Pardon! More likely these days if you can’t do such multi-tasking your would get disciplinary action and probable eventual dismissal, even more so if the multi-tasking is merely listening to someone else talking…

  3. Mick
    June 19, 2015

    Can somebody tell me why Scotland shouldn’t leave the UK, I just cannot see any advantage of them, all they do is gripe about being part of us, if the government only want them for the deep waters for the nukes then base them off the coast of Gibraltar , it gets my back up when I see them in the hoc with there smug looking faces thinking they rule the place, just let them go and let’s see how long they last without the UK

    Reply I don’t think you have seen the geography and geology of Gibraltar!

    1. petermartin2001
      June 19, 2015

      just let them go and let’s see how long they last without the UK

      That’s what they would have said about Ireland a hundred years ago. Notwithstanding their rather foolish decision to adopt the euro, their GDP per capita is now higher than the UK’s.

  4. Margaret Brandreth-J
    June 19, 2015

    Yes it was an interesting debate and it seemed to be cut short quickly.One feels that the idea of Scottish independence was born when the oil fields were full , but now as the supplies begin to dwindle, the NHS changes shape, the binds that tie us do not want to be completely broken as a different scenario looms significantly large on the horizon.

  5. Old Albion
    June 19, 2015

    Good try JR. I wonder if they will listen?
    However, the whole charade can never please everyone. The only answer is FULL federalism, with separate governments for all four nations of the (dis)UK. That means an English Parliament.

    1. Andy
      June 19, 2015

      Trust me, Hell will freeze over before we English are allowed a Parliament with exactly the same powers as that in Edinburgh. The political class (particularly on the Left) loath England and the English or they would have created an English Parliament in 1998. They didn’t did they ?

    2. Denis Cooper
      June 19, 2015

      But if we had a devolved English Parliament and government they might speak for England, and that would never do. It’s bad enough having a few Westminster MPs like JR speaking for England on their own initiative without having elected representatives in an English Parliament and ministers in an English government who could feel that they also had a duty to do it. So you can see the terrible risks in going down the route of giving the whole of England its own voice through English devolved governmental institutions, and after all we have been warned by Hague long ago that “English nationalism is the most dangerous of all forms of nationalism that can arise within the United Kingdom”.

    3. petermartin2001
      June 19, 2015

      Yep. That’s really the only option if we are serious about preserving the UK. There’s not much time to lose, so we need to start making plans for that.

      Westminster can then become the English Parliament. Then we’ll need a Federal Parliament. That would be better situated in some more central position to the UK as a whole. Somewhere in the NE of England would be my choice. Middlesbrough maybe? Why not?

      1. Denis Cooper
        June 20, 2015

        The other way round, I think. The Westminster Parliament comprises three elements, the monarch and the two chambers, the Lords and the Commons. There were not always two chambers, and it is something of a historical accident that it evolved in that way, but in principle it is a good configuration for a sovereign parliament dealing with the matters of greatest importance to the state as the second chamber can act as a check on the first and prevent it making rash or dangerous decisions. As one example, in theory it is only the need for the consent of the Lords which can stop MPs passing a Bill to postpone elections and keep themselves in post indefinitely without good cause, which is said to be what prompted Cromwell to dissolve the Rump by force in 1653. On the other hand the assemblies at lower constitutional levels can be unicameral, with the bicameral supreme parliament acting as the backstop to prevent any abuses which threaten to arise at the lower levels. So I would prefer to keep Westminster as the federal or Union parliament – which of course is what the rest of the world is accustomed to, they are using to looking to London to speak for the whole of the UK – and for the purposes of internal administration create a new unicameral devolved English Parliament, and a devolved English government, both located somewhere near the centre of England.

  6. Steve Reid
    June 19, 2015

    “I have always been a Unionist, but……” .

    Not quite ‘some of my best friends are Scottish’, but not far off.

    1. Auror
      June 19, 2015

      Really? I didn’t read JR’s opener in that way at all. It was a fair statement of his view, and I didn’t detect any bile or resentment at all. Bit too cynical perhaps?

  7. David
    June 19, 2015

    @”The Unionist parties collectively did rather badly in Scotland come the general election. [Interruption.] Well, between them, they received just under half the vote, while the Scottish nationalist party received just over half the vote. Because the Unionist vote was split, practically no Unionist Members of Parliament were elected, but it is still the case that Scottish opinion is fairly evenly balanced. ”
    Do you think that is a good thing? Or would some form of PR (not ATV it is not PR) be better?

  8. Know-Dice
    June 19, 2015


    That was a great speech, really puts in a “nut shell” all that has been discussed on your blog in the last few months. And clearly indicates what should be a fair settlement for all.

  9. oldtimer
    June 19, 2015

    Thank you for drawing attention to the financing side of the equation. I find it unsatisfactory that it has taken so long for this to be aired in Parliment or in wider political debates. But, given the ease with which many in government and Parliament have allowed the public finances to plunge into the depths they now are in, I am not surprised. Parliament seems to be inhabited by an army of financial illiterates. There are far too few, like yourself, able and willing to talk common sense. As Ms Lagarde is reported to have commented on the Greek debt negotiations, we need more grown ups in the room.

  10. Bert Young
    June 19, 2015

    From the detail of the debate it is clear that few MPs have a grasp of the Scottish problem . The respect given to JRs contribution shows that he should be given a significant role in how this mess is sorted out . The ramifications are huge and time is running out . England must not come out of it the loser .

  11. Chris S
    June 19, 2015

    An excellent and well argued contribution to the debate. It amazes me how often we see issues being discussed where the argument revolves around periferal matters and the fundementals are ignored.

    In this case your contribution placed the most important issues front and centre.

    Scottish politicians have a long established tendency to whinge and complain that if only they were free of the English they would prosper and everything would be rosy. We will never have a good neighbourly relationship unless we create conditions where that can no longer be argued.

    Obviously Independence would be one solution but that is not on the agenda at present.
    However, if we win the EU referendum ( IE we vote to leave ) another Independence referendum will surely follow and is likely to result in a different outcome. That would make all the current discussions irrelevant.

    On that subject, I think a version of the SNP’s triple lock has some attractions.

    If Scotland wants to have some form of veto to stop England taking them out of the EU against their wishes that will be fine.

    I would suggest that votes be counted separately in Scotland and the rest of the UK and if the outcome in Scotland is different to that voted on by everyone else, they can remain in the EU and the rest of us can leave.

  12. Vanessa
    June 19, 2015

    In all this debate I feel that England is being ignored as the ONLY country (virtually) in all the Union which funds everybody else. We are the “Germany” of the European Union and I am, as an English woman, fed up with all this “me, me me, I get such a bad deal from the Union” They are bloody lucky to have England to bail-out or help whenever they do something stupid (usually socialist largess) and find themselves in a mess. Nobody does that for us but us. No wonder Germany is so fed up with the southern countries – cut them loose ! My feelings exactly !

  13. Peter Stroud
    June 19, 2015

    I watched the speech on the day, but missed a lot of the content. Reading it now confirms what a sensible, and thoughtful speech it was: the lack of hostile interruptions supports this view. Thank you – please keep up the good work.

  14. Ex-expat Colin
    June 19, 2015

    I learnt a lot from your good speech. What I noticed from the questions to you that the SNP are only just learning – simply placing in foot in it? Bit late for them I think.

    Patricia Gibson: Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that successive Westminster Governments could learn much from…..LOL

    And for some reason it all has to be dragged back to the ugly past.

  15. Denis Cooper
    June 19, 2015

    “I am sure he would acknowledge that the UK functioned between 1603 and 1707, when the Parliaments were independent.”

    I find that an astonishing statement.

    That was the Union of the Crowns, a personal union based upon Scotland and England, and also Ireland and Wales, sharing the same person as monarch, and when it went wrong it did so very badly, with civil war, and it was the threat by the Scottish (or in those days, “Scotch”) Parliament that it might choose somebody different to succeed Anne and pursue a foreign policy inimical to the vital interests of England which drove English politicians to insist on an “incorporating” Union of the Parliaments.

    Incidentally the Hanoverians brought their own personal union, which endured for more than a century until 1837 when one of Victoria’s uncles, Ernest, became King of Hanover separately from Victoria becoming Queen of the United Kingdom, Hanover having a form of Salic law forbidding female succession.

  16. Atlas
    June 19, 2015

    Thank you for posting this John. I agree that you cannot hold people in a Union against their will over the long term.

  17. Denis Cooper
    June 19, 2015

    “Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that successive Westminster Governments could learn much from the economic management of the Scottish Parliament, which has balanced its budget, in a fixed budget, every year, while Westminster has run up successive debts?”

    This was a totally misleading claim made by Salmond during one of the TV debates, which Darling failed to knock on head there and then. The fact is that part of the debts run up by the UK Treasury has been the money borrowed to fund the Scottish budget deficit that the Scottish government would have to fund for itself it was in a position to borrow the large sums involved, which it is not yet allowed to do.

  18. Bob
    June 19, 2015

    Should this be filed under the “debates” tab?

    Reply YEs, as well. I wished to share it more widely, as many will not have seen or read it from Hansard.

    1. Stuart B(eaker)
      June 20, 2015

      Thank goodness, I’ve found this piece again – lost it from its previous location, and urgently wanted to read it to my wife! What occurs to me forcibly is how well it does read, for a piece given verbally, including responses to interruptions in the Chamber. And it does take reading, more than once, to appreciate the sophistication of thought you have put into it. Marvellous, thank you.

  19. DaveM
    June 19, 2015

    I concur with MacNeil – the UK Treasury issues a bill to each country and they pay it, the rest is theirs to do with what they will.

    That would need an English Parliament of sorts though, or a major reorg of the Treasury/HMRC.

    Question slightly OT – if EVEL is ever introduced, would English laws still have to be passed through the HoL? Only, Scottish laws don’t. Or would non-English Lords be excluded from the English law making process?

    Everything to do with this devolution business is becoming so complex – have you ever heard the mnemonic KISS?!!

  20. Iain Gill
    June 19, 2015

    Are we really going to throw more money at one of the worst sectors of service provision the public suffer, namely GP’s? Are the government mad? Please please please give the public some buying power and stop all this nonsense.

  21. bluedog
    June 19, 2015

    Masterly, Dr JR. A truly superb contribution to the debate on the future of the United Kingdom. Well done indeed.

  22. forthurst
    June 19, 2015

    “JR. The Unionist parties collectively did rather badly in Scotland come the general election. [Interruption.] Well, between them, they received just under half the vote, while the Scottish nationalist party received just over half the vote. Because the Unionist vote was split, practically no Unionist Members of Parliament were elected, but it is still the case that Scottish opinion is fairly evenly balanced. The Scottish nationalists did not get 70% or 80% of the vote.”

    JR has elucidated the situation viz a viz Scottish devolution both in political and fiscal terms and as, he says, we don’t know what the government would propose in addressing these issues, there is really nothing further to add.

    However, another issue does raise its ugly head, that of the First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system that not only served the Scottish Unionist parties badly but also those in England who supported neither the Conservative nor Labour parties; as the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (which I assume is somewhere in the UK) observed, the Conservatives got 37% of the popular vote; however, they obtained with just over a third of the votes, a (slim) overall majority in the House of Commons.

    As so presented, the issue of FPTP is one of the lack of parity; it should also be examined on the issue of expediency, in which case it would be appropriate to go back at least a century to examine how the polarisation of politics has served this country so badly for so long. It might be argued that the decline of the Liberal Party was attributable to its association with the the slaughter of the Great War; nevertheless, the extension of the suffrage, together with the popularity in some quarters of the doctrine of Bolshevism (not shared by the Liberal WS Churchill at the time) promoted the rise of the Labour Party, a Party which when in office was entirely clueless as to the governance of the nation.

    Meanwhile, the House of Commons lost representatives of the Liberal Party which traditionally had been the party of moderate reform and free trade, representing those who created wealth in the Midlands and North. From its inception the Labour Party was always a coalition between those who who simply wanted a better deal for the toilers and those who wanted to create a socialist utopia along the lines of the Bolshevik Terror state. The Conservative Party for its part, by default, absorbed ex-Liberals without ever successfully absorbing and promoting their polical perspective, since the old Tories, those of landed and banking wealth, did not like to rock the boat, and were most happy with their own privileges, hence when the Labour Party set about wrecking our manufacturing industry which traditionally had been supported by the Liberal Party, the Tories largely turned a blind eye, content that the City was making money in the takeovers of businesses crippled by virulent trade unionism, until the advent of Thatcher, by which time it was far too late.

    We now have two main parties in the Houses of Commons which internally are both coalitions of those who disagree about fundamental issues, issues which under a proportional system would have spawned new parties and representation in Parliament. Many of us have very little sympathy with the domestic ambitions of Labour or the foreign ambitions of the Conservative Party including warmongering and locking us into the ever-expanding, ever-failing EU; we feel disenfranchised

  23. acorn
    June 19, 2015

    JR, your speeches lately end up asking a lot of questions but, you never seem to profer any engineered solutions. Graham Allen MP and Edward Leigh MP got close yesterday, but they all seem scared stiff to fire off the whole nine yards, even in a committee setting. I suppose it must be “whipped” party lobby fodder syndrome.

    I am sure that the latter pair could come up with a cross-party federal solution; bring it to the HoC and get a none Punch & Judy vote on it. The same way the US Congress works and other, more modern legislatures like it.

    Like wise, the HoC seems to have made a mountain out of a mole hill over the referendum franchise. Has anyone thought to ask the Swiss how they do it, having referenda four times a year?

    The UK democracy is even more knackered than the building that houses it!!! Crikey, have you seen; some of these emerging nations even have electronic voting in their parliaments!!!

    Reply I do put forward solutions on the money and on powers for England and Scotland – you should know that from past blogs here. I am not speaking on whips orders!

    1. Denis Cooper
      June 20, 2015

      Well, this is one account of how the Swiss do it:
      Voting qualifications[edit]

      “Switzerland currently has about 7.5 million inhabitants; 5.6 million are Swiss citizens who have the right to vote although some cantons (states) and municipalities have granted foreigners the right to vote if they have lived a certain number of years in Switzerland.

      All Swiss citizens aged 18 years or older have been allowed to vote at the federal level since women were granted suffrage on 7 February 1971. All adult citizens have been able to vote at the canton level since 27 November 1990, when Appenzell Innerrhoden, the last canton to deny universal suffrage, was compelled by a federal court decision.

      In addition, Swiss citizens living outside of the country who are older than 18 are also allowed to vote on federal matters and, in some cantons, on cantonal matters. For these voters, registration through the local or nearest Swiss Consulate is compulsory (as they are not already registered in the municipality in which they live). They can choose to register in any Swiss municipalities in which they have been registered previously, or at their place of origin.”

      Personally I think the Swiss cantons and municipalities which allow foreign citizens to vote in their elections, and I suppose probably also in referendums at those levels, have got that wrong and only Swiss citizens should be allowed to vote at any level, as is the case at the federal level.

      We now have the crazy situation where our Parliament will allow Irish citizens to vote in our EU referendum even though the Irish constitution restricts the franchise for Irish referendums to Irish citizens, and likewise Parliament will allow citizens of other Commonwealth countries such as Australia to vote in our EU referendum even though Australia no longer allows UK citizens to vote in Australian elections, apart from those who already had that right in 1984.

  24. petermartin2001
    June 19, 2015


    Good contribution to the HOC debate.

    Also I’ve just read your Guardian article which was equally good!

    I’m pleased to see that you are challenging those of us who might be well to the left of you, politically, to be consistent in our views. Exactly right. If we went on marches against high unemployment when Mrs Thatcher was PM we should not be silent when the EU is doing far worse things.

    To be fair to Mrs Thatcher, there was a far stronger case for a dose of deflationary economic policy in the early 80’s than there is now in the EZ. Inflation had been allowed to get out of hand in the 70’s and it was right that the problem was tackled. We might disagree on the way it was tackled, but that’s history now.

    The years 2015 – 2020 are not yet history though. I hope this government does not make the same mistake in the UK as is being made in the EZ. That is applying deflationary policies with the aim of balancing govt budgets when there is neither any need for them nor any realistic prospect of achieving them.

    Reply The aim of current policy is growth and rising living standards and so far we are delivering just that

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