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Showing posts with label Scottish MPs after YES vote. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish MPs after YES vote. Show all posts

Friday, 16 May 2014

The New West Lothian question–the status of Scottish MPs in Westminster after a YES vote

Baroness Jay has put the cat among the pigeons with her Lord’s Committee views on the status and rights of Scottish MPs after a YES vote in the negotiation period up to independence in 2016. The YES pigeons are fluttering agitatedly, and huffing and puffing about unelected Lord, etc. instead of addressing the issue properly, something that is long overdue from both YES and No camps. (I can’t stand Baroness Jay or unelected Lords, but somebody had to say something half-intelligent about this issue, and she has at least stirred a stagnant pot.)

On the MPs question, there are mixed messages coming in both directions, and the conflicting arguments are many.

 

The Scottish Government's position, as I understand it, is that since the UK remains in existence after a YES vote till March 2016, representative government continues, and the SNP will field candidates for the election and take up seats - if elected - until Scotland becomes independent in 2016. They will continue their present practice of abstaining from Westminster votes on purely English matters, e.g. NHS, education (effectively The West Lothian Question).

There is some difference of opinion in the wider YES campaign over this position. I am inclined to think they shouldn't, for reasons that oddly are shared with the No camp (see below) but I haven't made up my mind yet.
Other parties plan to field candidates from Scottish constituencies.

TWO CRUCIAL ARGUMENTS

1. UK remains in existence after a YES vote till March 2016, representative government continues, and therefore constituents cannot be left in a representative vacuum. It would be a denial of democracy for them to be unrepresented.

There are various problems with this argument. Firstly, the Scottish Government will be negotiating with the UK Government, but a UK government effectively acting as the rUK Government on behalf of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

How can SNP MPs who may well be part of the Scottish Government negotiating team sit across the table from them and at the same time be part of UK Government?

One answer to this is that the totality of Westminster MPs is not the UK Government (the Tory/LibDem Coalition), it is the UK Parliament, and therefore SNP MPs have the right to participate in the UK Parliament while the UK still exists.

2. The 2015 election would represent a democratic distortion if Scottish MPs from the SNP and the Scottish Labour, Tory, Green, and LibDem parties, from a country that had just voted to leave the UK and was negotiating its exit terms, was allowed to influence - perhaps crucially influence - the selection of a UK Government that one year on (2016) became the rUK Government? For example, what if Labour was elected only because of Scottish votes?

The other astonishing proposal, currently being discussed in Westminster, is that Scottish Unionist MPs elected in the 2015 general election (SNP MPs will vacate their seat in 2016) should be allowed to retain the seats (despite having no constituents!) and salaries and perks for the full life of the 2015 rUK Parliament.

However, a ancient Union is not dissolved without there being complex questions such as these to be addressed. Not the least of the problem is that the Scottish Government, the Scottish electorate and the Scottish media have been discussing these matters for several years and are highly aware of the complexities and the argument, but the rest of UK, having been in denial over the possibility of a YES vote for years, are just now beginning the appreciate the magnitude of the change that may occur, and are approaching the issue in a Ladybird Book of Politics, naive mode, not unmixed with astonishment, resentment and pique - emotions not conducive to grown-up politics, which will be vitally needed if there is a YES vote.

But at the moment, the No Campaign is still significantly ahead, the polls vary quite radically, and the outcome is unknown. 124 days is a short time, yet a week is a long time in politics, the world is a deeply unstable place, and there are always. as Harold Macmillan said "Events, dear boy, events ..."
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