There is a new round of speculation over what additional powers will be granted to the Scottish Parliament assuming a victory for the Union in the forthcoming referendum. Some wish to see much more extensive revenue raising powers resting with the Scottish Parliament. They point out that at the moment the Scottish Parliament has the pleasure of spending the money and the Westminster Parliament the pain of raising it. All the main Westminster parties seem to be moving towards some version or other of devo max, probably what Mr Salmond wanted all along.
If this is true, it is time to think of England. The present system is unacceptable. Underemployed Scottish members of the Westminster Parliament come to debate the Union matters, but cannot contribute to health, education, local government or criminal justice in their country. They retain their vote and their voice over these matters in England. This lop sided devolution cannot survive a further major increase in powers of the Scottish Parliament.
The immediate need is for a rule which says Scottish MPs do not speak and vote on issues and in debates which the Speaker has identified as non Union matters. In purely English matters the same ruling should apply to Northern Ireland and Welsh MPs. If Parliament grants Scotland revenue raising powers, then Scottish MPs should be excluded from consideration of the devolved taxes being imposed or altered for England or the rest of the UK by the UK Parliament.
Many English nationalists want a separate English Parliament to mirror the Scottish one. I see the English Parliament as being at Westminster. Westminster is the sacred plot of English democracy, predating the Union Parliament. Westminster Hall is the scene of many important dramas in English as well as in Union history. The English Parliament should remain or be refashioned at Westminster. We do not need expensive new buildings with no traditions and history in the walls.
I also think a single person can do the job of representing their voters on English issues when we meet as the English parliament, and representing their voters also on Union matters when we meet as the Union Parliament. The last thing I think we need is more politicians and another very expensive Parliament. Let’s use what we have got more intelligently. Above all let’s make sure we now speak for England, as more devolved power goes to Scotland.
I made a speech yesterday about this in the Commons which I will post later today.