Creaks and Groans

SNP: They’ve stopped Scottish MPs voting in Westminster on issues that only affect England.

Voter: Oh aye.

SNP: They will get a final say before anything becomes law but nevertheless…

Voter: So you say.

SNP: And they didn’t legislate for it, they used a statutory instrument to introduce it.

Voter: Is that the time? I’ve a bus to catch…

And who can blame him. A tweak to the rules in the Old Boys’ Club in a weak attempt to compensate for devolution is hardly the stuff to trigger insurrection. In fact some of the Nationalist hysteria is enough to induce a wry smile and a knowing wink – this is one we can build a grievance on.

Adjusting the rules to create the impression that things were being evened up for England should have happened years ago, but the House authorities never had the imagination or the nous to respond – after all they had the Unionist bloc to rely on when it came to the constitution and Labour always ultimately played their game.

There isn’t a voter from Yell to Yetholm who gives a tinker’s cuss about the arcane maneuverings of the Palace of Westminster. No sane person has anything but contempt for their self-serving, serpentine games and no sensate Scot could care less if the MP for Motherwell is denied a vote on grammar schools for Maidenhead.

As the SNP tiptoes through the daffodils of the Great Unwritten British Constitution © Magna Carta, they appear to have forgotten that they forfeited the moral ascendancy by breaching their own rule of omerta on England-only laws when they threatened to vote down the softening of fox hunting legislation.

It is surely a curious strategy too to protest that your voice is no longer heard when your specific selling point is that you are a stronger voice for Scotland…the metaphor is one of crying in the wilderness, so hardly the image of the all-powerful Sturgeonator.

We won’t play Westminster games, they said. We won’t fall into the Establishment trap. And yet here is engineered wrath at a Whitehall farce which exposes how lame the parliamentary system is at satisfying our democratic needs.

Why shouldn’t there be an English Grand Committee stage before a final vote? It still leaves the ultimate judgment in the hands of the whole House. It might mean that some legislation is simply dropped because it won’t get through the last stage but is something that doesn’t happen really likely to impact on Scotland?

There undoubtedly is an issue of funding consequentials but that has been partly met by excluding Estimates Resolutions which determine spending. The role of the Speaker will evolve because he will in effect have to decide what constitutes England-only law. (All that means is he’ll need his Weetabix from now on). To avoid tit-for-tat rebellions by Nationalists who could gum up the work of the House if they feel cheated, the Speaker will feel inclined to be generous in his interpretation of what is England only. (He seems in any case not to be flavour of the month with his own Conservative friends).

While the SNP fumes, the disgruntled English think they’re getting their own back, which is no bad thing. The poor things have had to put up with a lot of revolt from the Celtic peasants they allowed into their hallowed chamber.

It strikes a discordant note for them to complain they are second class MPs because English MPs get a Grand Committee, something Scotland has had since 1895. I’m afraid I am left distinctly cold by rows over procedures in the unrepresentative and medieval home of British democracy.

However…some points worth considering.

First is the enduring truth, discussed here previously, that the Commons has had an overwhelming, automatic and inbuilt English majority since Queen Anne bribed her way into the Union in 1707.

It is statistically impossible for any other part of the UK to outvote England – ever. There are 533 English constituency MPs and 117 from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. ‘England’ has an absolute majority and always will. What the Tories mean is that English Tory policies need a majority to go through, as opposed to simply English policies. If there was an issue of overriding English national interest – say Morris Dancing was to be made compulsory – it only needs English MPs to agree and it happens, irrespective of any other national viewpoint. It is only because English MPs (unlike the current Scottish ones) can’t agree among themselves or, just as likely, can’t find an issue of genuine English national interest at all, that we pretend they don’t have total ownership of parliament. So, in reality, what the government is doing with EVEL is gerrymandering the system to suit itself.

Next comes the logical solution they refuse to countenance – federalism. With three nations acquiring elected chambers and England demanding autonomy, Britain is one step away from a federal state. The combined results of the referendum and the general election have written in huge graffiti on the wall of Downing Street a clear message…we are prepared to stay, but only if we have effective independence of operation. Home rule. Real devolution. A federal Scotland. The British state doesn’t have the intelligence nor the desire to deliver what people want.

Lastly, they are once again poking fingers into their own mousetrap. Like Laurel and Hardy, the British governing elite stumble from cock-up to catastrophe. Error compounds error. Their primary gene is condescension. Somewhere in the foundations of Britain and empire an unblinking self -belief was born, a collective myopia that was closed to the possibility of fallibility. You see it in blind incompetence throughout British history, from Chelmsford leading his men to Zulu slaughter at Isandlwana and the prelude to Rorke’s Drift, to Elphinstone’s retreat from Kabul when William Brydon was sole survivor, to today’s disastrous aftermath in Libya…all driven by a leadership class predominantly from the same social hierarchy and the same schools and universities. My current read is 1776 by Thomas Fleming, an account of America’s belligerent departure from Britain’s embrace. It shows how a frightened, disunited and originally loyal population, many seeking reconciliation, was turned into a determined insurgent movement hell bent on independence by the arrogance and contempt of King George and his officers.

All the current crop of public schoolboys has done is create a new grievance, this time easily portrayed as a slight, a dismissal, of Scottish status at the very time the demand is for more, not less, empowerment. Rather than strengthening the Union, they have lit a fire within by allowing EVEL to be played out as a denial of democracy to Scots rather than an enhancement for England. And how will Unionists answer the emerging question of how a Scot might again be Prime Minister in a government he/she does not command totally?

This episode points in one direction – and presumably is the reason why the Nationalists are talking it up – and that is fracture. The creaking Union is now being wedged open from within by a cack-handed government that only understands its own selfish needs. They confirm the blinkered worldview, the lack of prescience and strategic thought of those who front the UK. The creaks and groans of dismemberment sound sweet indeed to a Nationalist.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

52 thoughts on “Creaks and Groans

  1. Your faith in the Speaker is touching, Derek. But a system which relies on good will and common sense to operate fairly rather than clear constitutional thinking, is one which can and will be corrupted.

    There can be few bills which are 100% English only. Fox-hunting is one of them, and I totally agree that the SNP had no right meddling. But they were flexing their muscles at that time, just to make a point. The point was made. Other English only issues might deal with ethical questions, such as euthanasia, or gay marriage (though legal rights for gays has a financial implication, though hardly one to affect the budgets of devolved governments. It would affect citizens rather than administrations).

    But any ‘English-only’ legislation is a chimera unless it is totally devoid of fiscal and financial implications. Fiscally, we ARE a unitary state. (In other respects we are a union state which retained certain pre-union Scottish institutions. Making us a curious hybrid). But the fiscal union was what was hammered through in 1707. Taxes raised seven-fold, but were eased in gradually, as a pragmatic measure. But there is one Treasury, one Exchequer, one Chancellor, and one central bank.

    The union is a grossly unequal one, as you point out. Given the grossly different sizes of the components.

    Meaning that in financial terms, if England sneezes, there’s a tsunami in Scotland.

    That, I submit, IS our affair, even if the sneeze and its cure appears to be located in England.

  2. Three entire nations/regions have been disenfrachised by EVEL. The people we send to Westminster from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are no longer able to decide what they are allowed to vote on.
    They can no longer be treated in the same way as English MPs, who can vote on everything put before them.

    I hope they all challenge every bill put forward as “English only” and take them to judicial reveiw. The midden heap of Westminster parliamentary process will grind to a halt.

    • dennis mclaughlin

      Now this pain description from Pam is all we needed Derek.
      my eyes glazed over at the mention of Rourke’s Drift…
      give it to us plain,unwrapped and you’ll be doing your job fine 🙂

    • And note one of the things they will vote on is the latest Scotland Bill, English votes for Scottish Laws. Not to mention the SIX English MPs on the Scotland Committee at Westminster.

      IF the measure was symmetrical then it would of course have lots of support, but it isn’t which is why it is unfair.

  3. And still, English MP’s can vote on Scottish only matters (Scotland Bill).

  4. In political science, a definition of empire is when you have a ‘state’ comprising of a metropolitan core and two or more peripheries, and the core can influence the policy for the periphery (by English MPs deciding on the Scotland Bill) but the periphery cannot influence the core (as by Scottish MPs being unable to influence the policy of the metropole).

    This has gone a stage further today. How can a Scottish MP ever become PM? Or Speaker?

    And if the Speaker is English, rather than British, isn’t there a conflict of interest in his deciding what is English legislation and what is not?

    The ‘Speaker’ ought to be a British committee, consisting of representatives from the four constituent nations. That would then make the ‘Speaker’ British. But of course the English would then argue they are outnumbered 3:1.

    It’s an unworkable fudge.

  5. The SNP need to withdraw from this parliament immediately. What more will it take! If there ever was a point in sending Scottish MP’s to WM it has now been extinguished.

    Got to love this UK. I as a Scottish catholic am barred from the Royal Family and now barred from becoming a Prime Minister. Due to my faith and nationality.

  6. The SNP have until recently adopted a self-denying ordinance of not voting on laws that in their view, only impacted on England, so you are right up to a point Derek. This need not harm Scotland. Why not have an English Grand Committee to scrutinise ‘English-only’ bills as you point out? We used to have one, before devolution. But what if the other nations don’t agree with the Speaker that they are English-only? Sure, they can vote them down in the final reading, but it will not matter, as they will only ever muster 117 votes to potentially 533. Even if the English MPs are divided along party lines, the government of the day is more or less guaranteed a majority: EVEL passed 312:270. Cameron has a slim majority but he still managed to get it through.

    It’s where this EVEL is coming from, the John Redmonds of this world, and how it will be used to brow beat Scotland that worries me. As a process it’s got more loopholes in it than a string vest. Ample wriggle room for all sorts of mischief.

    • “Why not have an English Grand Committee to scrutinise ‘English-only’ bills?”

      It’s just wrong in principle. The House of Commons can’t function simultaneously as a UK parliament and as an English parliament without creating two classes of MPs. It’s quite astonishingly arrogant that any English MPs should think this is a reasonable solution and complacently indifferent to Scotland’s democratic representation.

      It might seem like a little thing but then a stone in one’s shoe is just a little thing too…

  7. The SNP didn’t vote on fox hunting. They threatened to, with great effect.

  8. Steve Asaneilean

    I agree Derek. I won’t lose a wink’so sleep over EVEL.

    The SNP need to be on their guard for things trying to be slipped through as “English only” when they have clear financial or fiscal implications for Scotland.

    Should that happen they should kick up a fuss and there might well be legal challenges and the whole thing will become, as others have said above, unworkable.

    Otherwise they should sit tight, watch it fail and let the Scottish people make up their own minds.

    As for English MPs voting on the Scotland Bill – I don’t have a problem with that. It clearly has financial implications for rUK. In addition Westminster has already shot itself in the foot with this Bill by blocking all amendments and there seeming to be anti-Scottish. So let them carry on because all of this petty politics only brings independence closer in my view.

    • I wish I had your faith that people will be able to see through this. But I don’t. The 55% I mean. I fear they are as unionist now as they were a year ago because they have little access to, or interest in, Scottish affairs, and in themselves, are quite comfortable sitting where they are. I wish I was wrong, but I don’t think I am. I fear it’s just not getting through.

      • Steve Asaneilean

        I don’t think anything changes the mind of those who don’t want their minds changed.

        But I don’t think that the 55% are thinking as one. Many doubted voting No and many of them will no doubt regret having done so now.

        The more Westminster shoots itself in the foot with EVEL or a clearly dysfunctional and unambitious Scotland Bill the more these doubters may be swayed.

        But people are fickle and I sometimes find myself wondering how many who voted Yes would do so again in Indyref2. Just because you and I and everyone we know would doesn’t mean 100% repeating their Yes vote.

        • Steve, a good concern to have (would the 45 automatically vote Yes again?) I think it’s now a pretty solid bloc thanks to the behaviour of Project Fear during the referendum (“let’s frighten pensioners!”) and Labour after it (all that noble abstention followed by Get Corbyn). Many people crossed a personal Rubicon to vote Yes, and not to vote Labour in the general election. I don’t think they’ll be going back any time soon. More likely, the people i know who voted No “to give the Union one last chance” must surely realise they are drinking in a particular saloon. Jim

      • You’re not wrong. Time spent on a no voter, is time wasted IMO. We need to target the New voters, School leavers & migrants from overseas.

      • I fully agree with you MBC about at least 50% OF THE 55.Furthermore there are more soft YES voters out there than I’m comfortable with, so all in all I’d say a fairly hefty proportion of the population have little interest in or knowledge of what comes out of either parliament. It’s what comes out of Reporting Scotland that worries me. We have work to do. Now

        • It’s the problem of the Yes bubble that we occupy and convince ourselves that it’s growing. But I’m not sure that we are reaching beyond the converted. Don’t get me wrong – without blogs like Derek’s I might lose the will to live – but whether awareness is spreading – I just don’t know. My sister said to me the other week how much she enjoyed listening to Kaye Adams, and what a sensible person she was – and my heart sank.

  9. Let them have an English parliament in Manchester, let’s get rid of the house of Lords and have a UK senate at Westminster. Pre Indy ref if that was on the table with proper good will in making the Union modern and federal then I like many Scots would have taken it and I think the Union quite possibly lasted another 300 years but it has went too far now its indepence or nothing. The whole refusal to put a 2nd question on the ballot paper then offer something a week out before the vote. The joke that was Smith then the watering down for the Scotland bill refusing every amendment was bad enough but EVEL being introduced in this fashion is turning more to realise the Union is coming apart at the seam’s. Aye there is about 30% hardcore unionists but a lot of soft ones are paying attention and I believe more will cross to yes as the Tories scorched earth policy becomes clear. I work with some English guys and I told them no one up here has a problem with EVEL in principal and after I explain how the fiscal structure works and all the carry on mentioned they can see where we are coming from. Also the amount of bills that Scots MPs have had a hand in defeating are minimal. They already have English votes for UK laws

  10. Your article makes light of the importance of this legislation then you say, “And how will Unionists answer the emerging question of how a Scot might again be Prime Minister in a government he/she does not command totally?”

    I see a contradiction in that.

  11. Steve the fact that the SNP got 51% of the last vote. Tells us that at least 45% of those were yes voters anyway. I think we would be close to 50% on the indi vote.

  12. The intent of Cameron and friends with regard to Scotland is clear.
    The Scottish affairs committee is dominated by English MPs so that we do as we are telt.
    The only interest Westminster has in Scotland is continued Scottish funding of “union” projects and a place to park their nuclear weapons.
    I think this will also allow them to ignore Holyrood consent by designating legislation as being English only at the formulation stage when it suits.

  13. Does anyone think Cameron is pushing us out the door. After all Scotland is a lost cause for the Tories. It’s win win. As long as we stay he gets the oil and taxes. If we leave it will be because we got peed off with Westminster, and he will still blame us. He will say he delivered the vow and all that other rot. The Tories can rely on England voting Tory for ever more, as Labour are in the wilderness.

  14. I’m with Derek – this issue has been over-egged something rotten.

    One related point – when EVEL is introduced, is there any sane reason that the Scottish Affairs Committee should continue to have a majority of MPs from English constituencies?

    • Not only that. The Scottish Affairs Committee cannot veto any legislation relating only to Scotland even if it consisted 100% of Scottish MPs. So, a UK government could foist an unwanted Chinese nuclear plant on us and we could not veto it. All we would have would be planning law.

      • That’s right, we could use planning law to block it. A scare story without teeth.

        • Planning is a chocolate fireguard! I have seen planning authorities capitulate again and again to corporate power. When I said, we could use planning, I was being ironic! The SNP government are very cautious about fracking, issuing a moratarium rather than a ban. Local authorities are still largely unionist Labour fiefdoms. Planning could be used to block Trident extensions at Faslane, but it would be up to Argyll and Bute Council, currently Con-Lib Dem controlled, to face the UK government down and it ain’t going to happen.

  15. You’ve not thought this all the way through have you Derek, take a longer look to not far into the future
    This is only about the SNP today, tomorrow it’s about Tory Power Forever, Scotland is an irrelevance except for it’s use

    • EVEL just prevents UK governments from imposing unwanted laws on England. The SNP will try to make the most of uncertainty on what’s an England only law, but the general idea is reasonable. Peat Worrier has a good post on the reality. Far too much hysterical pant wetting going on here.

      • And what prevents UK governments imposing unwanted laws on Scotland?

        • Scotland’s MPs don’t have a 9:2 majority to bail them out 99.3% of the time.

          The voting field is nothing like level, it is tilted steeply in favour of English MPs, and EVEL tilts it even more in their favour.

      • Peat Worrier sometimes doesn’ t understand simple political concept. He can be too clever.
        Perception is the fuel of political change, nothing else.

  16. First signs there of a reversion to MSM hack mean.

  17. So why not a devolved English parliament with similar powers and budget formula to the other devolved assemblies? Why use backdoor legislation to exclude the MPs of other nationalities?

    This appears to be a direct attack on Labour mainly with an eye to long term Conservative majority government, and the bonus? Well the bonus is the ability to sideline those noisy barbarians from north of north Britain every now and again. This will create a two tier system in a house supposedly for the creation of legislation common to the entire UK state.

    Then of course there is going to be the odd debate on budgets concerning services and infrastructure. What has knock on effects and what doesn’t? Be interesting to see how much fairness, good will and commonsense is on show. We all know that a devolved English parliament, FFA and the complete federal solution is the end stop on the devolution journey. We also know the establishment ain’t about giving up power, resources or influence, so I don’t believe federalism was topmost in their minds with the creation of EVEL.

    We’ll know soon enough the whys and the wherefores, but IMO fairness and democracy ain’t it.

  18. Shortened evel vote to 4pm- reason(MPs had to catch planes,trains,automobiles)-wtf

    Most Scots must now feel they could space hop to Mars end up stranded and still return for amendments to Scottish Bill

    Welsh Labour MPs were most enraged,all SNP had to to was sit back and watch.(I thought Pete Wishart MP was ott ,always better subtle)

    Ian Murray MP tweeted today still 1st Class(joke)

    me thinks its no joke,and hes very worried

    great piece Derek

  19. OK so its been a long hard day,or maybe im just too thick,i just hear blah blah could have said it all in 2 sentences,or maybe you dont read these anymore

  20. Whatever the Tories are up to, they are certainly making it much more difficult for Labour to resurrect in Scotland. They are as dead as the DoDo.

    • As I said above, I reckon this all about Labour. Cameron has used Scotland to ensure a Conservative stranglehold on Westminster voting. Labour would struggle to hold a majority in any chamber vote with Scottish MPs. Without them? Not a chance.

      Side benefits include no further PMs of the wrong sort and the sidelining of the SNP and Scottish electorate, but primarily Cameron has stabbed his erstwhile referendum allies in the back and successfully dumped UK democracy in the bin.

      All the blue tories need do is keep the folks in those marginals happy and they can enjoy a very, very, very long run in government.

  21. No Labour MP in a Scottish seat, or a Welsh one for that matter, could realistically ever become PM under EVEL, as he/she wouldn’t be able to vote for his/her own England only bills. Or a Cabinet member either. Or even party leader.

    But as LPW says, if Labour ever did get back in, they could just reverse this standing order. There’s no doubt it’s a blow to aspiring Labour politicians in Scotland though.

    The worst is what is yet to come. Chris Grayling says it’s an experiment he hopes to improve on.

  22. The issue is they can fuck us about, it doesn’t matter if it happens or can be reversed at the next Government, we are stuck with these Tory wanks by the smart arses in Labour who thought they had some control of what was happening through the Referendum and in the aftermath.

  23. I enjoyed your article and looking forward to the London’s calling documentary. The near total blackout of msm re this topic needs to be addressed.

  24. Steve Asaneilean

    Excellent and rational critique of EVEL on Lallands Peat Worrier. Sorry can post link as on new phone which I am still getting to grips with but please have a look and read it.

    I care even less than zero about EVEL having read that.

    But anything that enhances the view that we are politically hard donenough by is all.grist to the mill…

  25. It is slightly interesting how the MSM in Scotland have ducked this issue. It’s almost as if ‘they’ know it is toxic and very capable of setting the heather on fire.
    In fact, to extrapolate from their collective cowardice, if IR2 were held on the first Thursday in July 2014, the MSM would now have a heck of a problem.
    4th July, Independence Day, the USA and the reason, taxation and representation.

    Anyone got a match?

  26. The “creaking and groaning” can only get louder. The disgusting unionist media in Scotland can only ignore it for so long. Mony a puckle maks a muckle – bit by bit we’re getting there.

  27. shh don’t tell them…we’re biding our time

  28. As someone above has already alluded to, it’s the effect on Labour which will probably be the clincher. Once the Labour Diehards realise that Labour is a busted flush as a consequence they have no reason to keep voting for them. This is all about preventing Labour from being able to deliver policy in the unlikely event that they scraped a small but effective majority in 2020. It would rely on the Scottish vote but if this is constrained by EVEL its game over unless labour can sweep the Board in England but again it only reinforces the irrelevance of the Scottish and maybe even Welsh votes on occasions for Labour.

  29. We live in interesting times. The Vow was made 15 months ago and not one bit of devolution has changed

    Yet the Tories have managed to pass EVEL in one sitting at Wm.

    They are playing with us and the Scottish media are helping them. But things are moving so fast now. I wouldn’t rule out anything regarding Scottish independence.

  30. In defence of foxes, the SNP could argue that some moral issues supercede normal debating rules so that they would vote against a bill to bring back hanging in England, or to wage war against Syria using only English troops.

  31. Screwing the future for the Labour party was the only possible reason for pressing ahead with EVEL. Can’t imagine that any Tory voters even remembered that pledge from the 19th September or that any that did were thinking, “when will Cameron deliver his pledge to stop the Scots from interfering in our English laws?”

    But we can and should bide our time with this one. There will be a fight to come with some kind of legislation that is designated as ‘English-only’ but which affects us big time. In the meantime, we can view it as yet another nail in the Union coffin.

  32. “There isn’t a voter from Yell to Yetholm who gives a tinker’s cuss about the arcane maneuverings of the Palace of Westminster. No sane person has anything but contempt for their self-serving, serpentine games and no sensate Scot could care less if the MP for Motherwell is denied a vote on grammar schools for Maidenhead.”

    Can’t help but disagree: disenfranchisement is disenfranchisement no matter how minor the vote. Once you start deciding that some MPs are barred from voting on some manners, one of the last lonely bastions of democracy in a parliament already bloated and seeping with corruption is gone.

    *Functionally* this doesn’t change things, for as long as UK MPs can participate in the final vote. But there’s a binary here: can all MPs vote on all votes, or can’t they? It used to be that all MPs were permitted to vote on all stages. Now they are not.

  33. Every bill has an economic dimension – its costs money, or saves it. While Scotland doesn’t have separate finances, EVEL is wrong.

Leave a Reply