Last week I asked in the Commons Who speaks for England? This week I find myself developing my Speak for England campaign, with huge support coming in from all round our country.
Whatever the Scots decide on Thursday, our country is going to change substantially. If they vote to stay in our Union, they will do so only on the basis of much more home rule in Edinburgh. They will expect to fix their own Income Tax rate and much else besides.
I will vote for these changes as they have been promised and will form part of the referendum outcome. I will only do so as long as the same powers of self government are also granted to England.
We English have accepted lop sided devolution as the price to pay to keep the Union together ever since Labour first invented it. It means that English students at Scottish universities have to pay fees whereas Scots and people from other EU countries go free. It has meant more public spending per head in Scotland than in England, and a better deal on care for the elderly. As the aim is now to give the Scottish Parliament an even better deal, of course we must be fair to England and sort out the injustice of the current arrangements .
The Liberal Democrats agree England gets a poor deal, and agree there should be some devolution to England as well. However, they just want to give more powers to big cities. This goes nowhere near tackling the imbalance. If Scotland can settle her own Income Tax rate, why can’t England? If Scotland is going to make decisions on welfare benefits, why can’t English MPs settle those matters for England as England wishes? Why would there be devolution to Sheffield but not to Wokingham?
Others want to devolve power to unloved English regions. Are we in the rest of the South-east, the south, Thames Valley or what? This system was defeated by a huge majority when it was offered to the North East by the last government.
If devolution to a Scottish Parliament is what Scotland wants, England should be offered no less. If the new relationship between Scotland and England is one between two nations with a strong sense of their own identities as well as a wish to have a common defence and currency union then England too must have a Parliament to make decisions and express the national will on all devolved matters.
If you would like to support my “Speak for England” campaign then please email your support to the media and put it on your favourite relevant websites.