The Prime Minister tells us he will do whatever it takes to save the Union.
He should begin by remembering it was the Labour government he supported which put through lop-sided devolution for Scotland, and half-hearted devolution for Wales. Far from saving the Union, as advertised, these schemes made the Union unstable. I wrote my book, â€œThe Death of Britainâ€, to explain how Labourâ€™s constitutional revolution meant â€œtearing our country up by its rootsâ€. I argued that â€œdevolution Labour style will devolve more power not to people, but to politicians and administrators. Far from cementing the UK, it will pull it apart as advocates of a Europe of the Regions intendâ€.
If Gordon Brown is serious about wishing to save the Union, he needs to understand the strong feelings of injustice in England.
1. English people do not want their country balkanised into Euro regions. We do not think you make up for the lack of an English Parliament by offering elected Assemblies for the South East or the North West. Indeed, these unelected regional governments throughout England, which Labour wishes to offer in elected versions as substitute, need to be abolished to show the government has at last understood the meaning of the â€œNoâ€ vote in the North East. Regional government in England is an insult to those of us who love our country.
2. English people want some symmetry in the constitutional arrangements. If Scotland can decide matters like local government finance, planning, health, education and the environment without English MPs being involved, why canâ€™t England decide the same things without Scottish MPs being involved? Nationalists in England now want the extra cost and complexity of a full English Parliament in addition to Westminster. I prefer making English Westminster MPs do both jobs. The same could also apply to Scotland, with the Scottish MPs settling Scottish matters in Edinburgh for part of the week, and joining us to settle Union matters for the rest of the week. If Scotland wants to have two lots of representatives, as they do now, they should have the pleasure of paying for them.
3. Many English people want fairness in allocating the money. Constituents want to know how it is that Scotland can afford a better deal on student finance and, in some cases, a bigger range of pharmaceuticals on the NHS. Gordon Brown should tackle the more obvious anomalies that hurt England.
4. The Prime Minister should grasp that the biggest constitutional threat to the Union comes from EU developments. English people are not going to be happy until they have a vote on the Constitutional Treaty, and have their view taken seriously that we want less EU power over us, not more.
I concluded in 1999 that â€œThe Governmentâ€™s devolution plans will create more tension and conflict, rather than less. We already see London complaining that Scotland gets too much money. We will soon see Wales complaining that it is not being treated seriously and Scotland complaining that the powers it has received are not enoughâ€¦ It is all playing into the Commissionâ€™s hands beautifully. It is creating a Europe of the regions in the way the Commission wants. It is helping to fuel nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales. London is useful to begin the process of regionalising Englandâ€¦The end result will be a more divided, more factious, more overgoverned, more overregulated UKâ€¦ it will just create more armies of bureaucrats and politicians wringing their hands, complaining that they do not have enough power, and levying money from people to keep themselves in a lifestyle to which they wish to become accustomedâ€