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Voting changes

Nick Robinson | 18:58 UK time, Tuesday, 1 July 2008

It was the votes of Scottish MPs which ensured that students at English universities have to pay top-up fees. Even though Scottish students at Scottish universities do not have to pay them, thanks to a decision of the Scottish Parliament.

Houses of ParliamentThat sort of thing, say the Tories, should never happen again. They've rejected one idea for dealing with it - the creation of an English Parliament alongside Westminster. They used to argue that the answer was English votes for English laws. In other words that Scottish MPs should be barred from voting on issues that only affect the English.

That of course would stop Gordon Brown from voting on schools and hospitals. It might also mean in future that a prime minister wouldn't have a majority in Parliament for much of his party's election manifesto.

That is why a committee led by Ken Clarke has today suggested watering down the idea saying that the government must be allowed to control its own agenda and its own budget, but that English MPs should be able to control the details of what is done in England in their name.

It's an idea that's been rejected by government ministers but also by another senior Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who argued that if English MPs only control amendments to new laws, tuition fees would still have been able to go through Parliament thanks to Scottish MPs' votes.

Ken Clarke's hope is that governments in future will be forced to do deals, to bargain as they do now with The House of Lords, with English MPs. What today demonstrates though is how hard it is to design something that deals with an English grievance and is actually workable and doesn't risk destroying the union which the Tories say they want to protect.


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  • Comment number 1.

    The Tories don't get it do they? The only viable solution to solving the lack of democracy in England, i.e the West Lothian question is an English parliament. If Scotland, Wales nor I.N aren't prepared to dissolve their parliaments it is time for the English to be given equality. The UK should be turned into a federal system whereby Westminster deals with the reserved powers of defence, environment etc whereas the local parliaments would deal with the devolved 'bread and butter' issues such as education and health. End the Barnet formula immediately, either give each citizen the exact amount of cash per head or devolve tax raising powers. This solution is the only one that will stop the fast growing resentment being felt by the English because of the unfairness of our constitution, produced by Scottish Labour and Beany Brown. They created a two teir Scottish MP, on the one hand they are in full control of their constituency when it comes to issues such as war and defence but are completely powerless when it comes to the domestic agenda, however, they have equal rights, just as an English MP to vote on English only issues, such as top-up-fees. The lastest proposals on the NHS, Beany Brown failed once again to mention the word England, the proposals only apply to England but he can't seem to grasp that. I want an English MP in charge of the English health service, just as it's the case in Scotland. I just want fairness.

    Labour created this mess and Tories have only thought of one pathetic 'solution' that would not sort the problem out. Scottish MPs would still have a right to vote on English only legislation. I therefore demand an English parliament, a federal UK or else the resentment will continue.

    I currently resent the fact that Scottish students do not pay tuition fees, yet I am paying in excess of £3,145 next year for my education. I feel resentful of the Scottish, I don't want to but the system is making me feel like this.

  • Comment number 2.

    "It might also mean in future that a prime minister wouldn't have a majority in Parliament for much of his party's election manifesto."

    If a UK government doesn't have a majority of English MPs, tough.

    Isn't that the whole point? If they don't have a mandate, they shouldn't be able to force through bills that affect England only.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ken Clarke was a great chancellor, the strong economy that Gordon Brown inherited and then squandered was established by him, but this idea is not one of his finest moments. Take the university fees, I now have to find a minimum of £10000 in fees to put my daughter through university. The Scottish MP's, whose votes enabled this, will not have to pay for their children if they go to a Scottish university. It cannot go on; as an MP if you are not accountable to the electorate who voted you into Westminster you cannot vote on that issue. Please explain to me what is difficult to understand about this concept.

  • Comment number 4.


    New Labour set a huge boulder careering down a steep hill with their devolution programme.

    Hard to steer, hard to stop.

  • Comment number 5.


    The reference to 'destroying the union' in your piece is very common when anybody reviews how to solve the West Lothian question. I think it is a nonsense though. The only thing that might possibly 'destroy the union' is not solving the West Lothian question.

  • Comment number 6.

    In 2005 the English subsidised the Scots by 2200 per head (Doubled since 1997)

    Browns spending means Scotlands budget is at Scandinavian levels at a time when Scotlands tax burden is below that of Poland.

    In 2003-4 the Government spent 45 billion, putting Scotland in the rare position where state spending is more than half of GDP.

    Only 34 billion was generated in tax.

    The remaining 11.3 billion was subsidised by English taxpayers.

    Anyone see a connection between voting patterns and spending

  • Comment number 7.

    Ken Clarke's proposals simply don't go far enough.

    It can't be right that Scotland has its own parliament while England does not.

    Labour has wrecked the United Kingdom and I am very sorry that so many Scots want full independence.

    The fact is, there are as many people in London alone as Scotland and Wales put together.

    At the moment, we have the tail wagging the dog. This democratic deficit created by Labour is wholly unacceptable.

  • Comment number 8.

    This again demonstrates the stupidity of Labour legislation. The issues were never thought through. We now have those in Berwick thinking they would be better off in 'Scotland' for some things.

    The Scottish assembly was set up to create jobs for the labour boys when they were voted out of Westminster. They had forgotten that the conservatives were the majority in Scotland in the fifties, and that the Nats would probably beat them. The Welsh assembly was created for the same reason. It would have continued with the English regions until the voters suddenly woke up to the fact that the voters have to pay for all the bureaucracy.

    Does it give better government? Absolutely not. You do not even get the B team. Just local councillors with a salary and a lot of hangers on. Just look at the incompetent people that have been in power over the last decade in Scotland. Scotland has implemented even worse legislation than Westminster. There is no second chamber to scrutinise.

    So instead of uniting the Kingdom, the seeds of discord are being fed. Why should prescription charges be different in England, Wales and Scotland. Why should University education charges be different?

    So Nick what is the cost of governing the Scots – just 10% of the UK population? I would really like to see FOI being used for that one. Cost in 1995 and cost in 2005.

    From a Brit in Scotland

  • Comment number 9.

    Ken Clarke's proposals are weak.

  • Comment number 10.

    eblogger123 - I couldn't agree more. Now that we've got devolution, the West Lothian question has to be solved if grievances are to be preventing from festering into the break-up of the Union.

    I currently don't know whether I am more in favour of the Union or of its constituent parts going their own way. But it is evident to everyone that it cannot go on the way it is - somehow the fact that it is a flaw of government rather than a failing in a private sector company has allowed an amazing inequality to slip into the system almost unnoticed.

    (I find it interesting, mind you, that Scottish MPs also can't really influence the matters that are decided in Holyrood. They certainly can't vote on them. Isn't that in itself a bit dumb?)

  • Comment number 11.

    What politicians of both major parties wish to avoid is addressing the issue that it is the electoral system that is institutionally rigged to its core and is the root cause of unfair representation. Labour voters were 36% of the electorate in 2005 and yet currently have 54% of the representation. That this charade of democracy is skewed even further geographical and ethnic factors seems minor by comparison. Unless one addresses the primary imbalance first and ensure that each vote has a roughly equal share of representation then all these other daft ideas to correct an unfair share of voice cynically avoid the bigger picture so that the two largest minorities can continue their pretense of democracy and take Buggins at No 10.

    Playing to jingoistic nationalism isn't giving a result that is actually democratically fairer all round with an equal share of voice for each vote wherever you live or whatever your political persuasion.

  • Comment number 12.

    There is a political timetable and an associated momentum that nothing Ken Clarke can do will stop.

    It is too little, too late now for this sort of half-cocked English 'devolution'.

    English people will not be fobbed off any more.

    Even the politically apathetic English have seen the light, thanks mainly to native Scots.

    Those people, including the media, inside the Westminster bubble had better get used to the idea that the United Kingdom is rapidly approaching the end game.

    Around 2010/11, the whole political framework is due to be recast, thanks to native Scots, who are summoning up the courage to take back full control of their own country.

    Leaving us English to sort out our own place.

    We English had better start thinking about it.

  • Comment number 13.

    #3 jaydkay: "Take the university fees, I now have to find a minimum of ?10000 in fees to put my daughter through university"

    Like Ken Clarke I find the problem too difficult to think of a straightforward solution.

    However, this statement is wrong. Your daughter, not you, will have a debt of several thousands, unless you choose to take it on. Your daughter would then repay the debt when she starts to earn a decent salary. This assumes that you are sufficiently well off not to qualify for fee reductions, or your daughter doesn't get a grant to pay her fees from her university.

  • Comment number 14.

    At 9:01pm on 01 Jul 2008, jimbrant,

    in response to your post, does it matter if the child or the parent pays the tuition fee? I am a student and I pay the full amount of tuition fee, well I will do after I have graduated. The issue here is that if Scottish MPs had been exempted from the vote, the bill would of been defeated. A majority of English MPs voted against the bill, therefore why should Scottish MPs be imposing tuition fees on the English when they are not accountable to us? They can't even vote for tuition fees in their own back yard even if they wanted to. What sort of system is that?

  • Comment number 15.

    There are only two practical solutions.

    First: set up a small English parliament elected by PR; dissolve the UK; and let each of the four separate countries have a referendum on whether they wish to apply for EU membership (or, in the case of Northern Ireland, join the Irish Republic).

    Secondly: set up a separate, small English parliament elected by PR; let the Celtic countries remain together as a United Kingdom; and have an English referendum on whether it wants to apply for EU membership.

  • Comment number 16.

    Why is there all this emphasis on the West Lothian question, when another - I think much greater - inequity exists?

    I refer to the fact that in England an MP represents approximately 20% more voters than those in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland - resulting in fewer MPs per head of population.

    The original intention (many years ago) was to make sure non-English voters weren't marginalised. But surely this is irrelevant now where every country but England has its own local Parliament?

    At the moment the number of MPs in the UK parliament is:

    England 529
    Wales 40
    Scotland 59
    N Ireland 18

    If MPs were elected strictly in proportion to number of voters the numbers would change to

    England 538
    Wales 34
    Scotland 50
    N Ireland 15

    Such a change would really alter British politics !

  • Comment number 17.

    Much as I would like to see every Scot in Westminster kicked back over the border, why have the Tories brought this up just before a Westminster by-election in Scotland? I can't see that Scottish turkeys will vote for an English Christmas.

  • Comment number 18.

    #14 lukeshuk: I think you are confusing two issues.

    1) it does matter who pays. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask students to pay a relatively small part of the cost of their university education, since they are the ones who will most directly benefit. I say this knowing that I got my education and didn't have to pay anything (but then only a few went to university - if you want more generous access there is a greater cost), and that society also benefits (and it's therefore reasonable that it still picks up most of the bill).

    2) the issue of whether it was fair for Scottish MPs to vote on this purely English issue is precisely the one I confessed was too difficult for me.

  • Comment number 19.

    The one place none of this should be debated is in the Westminster bubble. There is an assumption in what you say that all the rest of us want the union. One thing that devolution has shown us English is what we may be missing.

    As for the politicians most seem to be more concerned with their powers and rights on this issue than neccessarily ours. If they weren't the Scottish MP's for example would have absented themselves from the university fees issue on moral grounds alone and the party leaders would have supported that!

    The union will survive if that is what we all decide we want. It will not survive because someone in a westminster bubble just tells us that it is good for us wihtout answering all the obvious questions !

  • Comment number 20.

    As a Scottish Nationalist I would opt for a Federal State.

    I feel that each country should be given full powers and then at Westminister, which would remain the British Parliament, our cabinets could discuss and vote on our policies for the wider world.

    Each country should be represented equally and then each country should be allowed to raise her own revenue and spend her own revenue.

    This would completely stop the cross border tension that exists where Scotland and Wales are able to get cheaper perscriptions for example. It would also stop the other countries being angry that the overwhelming majority of English MP's (English MP's alone could control the Parliament despite the rest of the UK in opposition) etc etc


  • Comment number 21.

    RE: 18. At 9:28pm on 01 Jul 2008, jimbrant

    I agree with your first point, I am from one of the poorest families in the country, I receive lots of help from the government and I have to fund my own education, I will be paying £3.145 for my next year’s tuition.
    The point here is though, Scottish MPs who none of us in England voted for, taking part in implementing and forcing the English to pay so much a ear to go to university. Yes, it is a privilege and not a right to go to university but my argument is that Scottish MPs should not have been allowed to take part in this vote since the issue does not affect their constituent’s one eye outer. Education is in fact a devolved issue; MSPs are the elected representatives who deal with this.

    Why should I be paying over 3 grand a year when my fellow citizens i.e. Scottish students are getting away with it scot’ free? I understand that the Scottish parliament chose not to implant the policy but why do we have Scottish MPs forcing it on the English? They should be ashamed of themselves!

    As for your second point, it is not fair for a representative in this stage of our constitution to vote on an issue that will not affect their constituents. Simple as that.

  • Comment number 22.

    9. Agree with Sceptic Max.

    Lets face it the days when Ken Clarke was a "Big Beast", in the tory party (except to certain journalists), are long past. He was never a convinced Thatcherite; indeed he hasn't held a hard and fast ideology of the Right in all the time he has been an M.P.

    This proposal re scottish M.Ps. is farcical. The solution is surely an English parliament, and all that entails.

  • Comment number 23.

    #21 lukeshuk: "As for your second point, it is not fair for a representative in this stage of our constitution to vote on an issue that will not affect their constituents. Simple as that."

    Yes, it is unfair. The problem is how you avoid the unfairness while keeping the Union. For example , we now have a Scottish PM. How could you have a situation where his government decides on its education policy, and then say he can't vote on it?

    More fundamentally, the fact is that the H of C is overwhelmingly English, and it takes decisions which affect Scotland (eg on overall amount of money to be given to Scotland, or to be spent in Scotland, or on where the future aircraft carriers are to be built. That is also unfair.

    So the problem that Ken Clarke and others before him have failed to solve is that all arrangements involving devolution of powers involve a level of unfairness. You just have to go for what works in the end.

  • Comment number 24.

    Sorry, Lukeshuk but whilst as outraged and resentful on the West Lothian unfairness as anyone else, lots of us simply *don't* want an English Parliament.

    We have a Parliament in England, we have Members of that Parliament, and the last thing we want is another tier of feather-bedded over-expensed bureaucrats desperately passing ever-more regulations in order to make themselves seem gainfully occupied. Therein, we can at least learn something from the disaster that was the Scottish parliament.

    If necessary, have an English first minister and cabinet at Westminster as well as a British PM and cabinet, leaving as you say the reserved powers to the upper cabinet and leaving English matters to English MPs.

    (And before anyone says there are almost no "English" bills, how come there are apparently enough Scottish ones to justify a Parliament?)

  • Comment number 25.

    As usual,English posters have neglected to include Oil and Gas Revenues in their estimate of Scotland's contribution to the UK Economy.

    The reason Scottish MP's are alowed to vote on English matters is because Labour realised they would probably never have a majority in the UK Parliament without their Scottish contingent.It is cynical and very wrong that they may do so.

    I for one will be happy to solve the West Lothian Problem by voting for Scottish Independence in the 2010 Referendum.
    I am sorry for English voters that they still have Labour in power while we have kicked them out.The Nationalist Government is hugely popular here.

  • Comment number 26.

    RE: 23. At 10:01pm on 01 Jul 2008, jimbrant

    I want to keep the Union, in fairness there is a lot to be proud of but in it’s current constitutional stage, it is driving me to hate feeling British, I currently don’t feel proud of be British, I’m English only. In order to preserve the Union, the only solution is federalism. This allows each nation within the state of the UK to a local form of government, all members of those parliaments would have the same voting rights. Regarding tax issues, if taxes were to stay at Westminster, then each citizen in each respected nation should receive exactly the same spending per person. Or the issue could be devolved and the own nations would be able to insert their own tax and spending plans but to not complicate things, I believe Westminster should be able to tax, and for the local parliaments to reform local income tax – if they would like to.
    Domestic issues such as Education and Health would be devolved and a reserve power would remain in Westminster which would deal with our national issues such as the environment which clearly needs a more national solution and of course issues such as war and defence. This way we get to keep our UN Security Council seat and stay within a United Kingdom. This solution allows for fairness, we are all equal citizens but respect that some of us are English, Scottish etc.

    This is exactly what Ken Clarke should of proposed, not some shabby piece of work which would further complicate the problem that we face.

  • Comment number 27.

    The Clarke proposals would appear to be a recipe for at the very least further constitutional complexity. The post-devolution UK constitution is already too complex and cumbersome, not to mention illogical, for its own good. At most these proposals, if implemented, will foul things up sufficiently to accelerate the process of disintegration which is already farther advanced than an English perspective would allow you to perceive.

    If by any chance there is anybody down there in the general population who cares any longer about whether the Union survives, do not let the Tories reform the constitution in this hopelessly unworkable manner. Then sit down and consider if it is at all possible for the UK constitution to be radically overhauled, and I do mean radically, because nothing less will save the Union.

    One hears increasingly a demand for an English parliament. Fine. If you want one, of course you should have one. Take Westminster (or Westmonster as it is increasingly referred to in Scotland). Like the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly, the English parliament could exist within a federal UK state even though the population of England would not be of a comparable size to the populations of the other components of the federation. A small federal parliament should be created to deal with residual matters such as defence and foreign affairs, allocating most powers to the other legislatures and their governments.

    All of this is old hat to us in Scotland, because we worked out long ago that in the long term the UK has no future unless the constitution is reformed along federal lines. This is indeed the policy of the Liberal Democrats, although they do not shout it from the rooftops. I am afraid that merely tinkering with the existing muddled arrangements, which few people in England are much aware of or fully understand, will not save the Union.

    Rather than continue in this clapped-out state, the equilibrium of which has been substantially disturbed by the ill-conceived devolution settlement, which has plainly failed, Scotland seems from my Scottish perspective to be highly likely to go its own way. We have waited a long time for the English to take an interest in a federal UK. I personally do not believe that you are capable of getting there in time any more than I believe that you are capable of taking a realistic or balanced view on the subject of just which partner in the Union is subsidising whom.

  • Comment number 28.

    13 You may think it acceptable that university graduates should start making their way in the world with typical debts of £10000-£30000 if living costs are included-I don't. I am not a rich or well off person but the government now forces parents to make even more sacrifices to send their children to university or let them start their working life burdened with debt. In fact many people view tuition fees as yet another stealth tax. The main point is Scottish MP's ensured the imposition of this tax but neither they nor their children have to pay it.

  • Comment number 29.


  • Comment number 30.

    RE: 24. At 10:15pm on 01 Jul 2008, RachelBlackburn

    I do not favour more tier of government either but if it means fairness within the United Kingdom then that is a price worth paying. If an English parliament was set up the amount of MPs at Westminster should be cut and I also believe that the Scottish parliament has far too many MSPs considering the population. If we are to keep the Scottish parliament, then England needs its equivalent, it can not be done in Westminster as how are these elected? How is an English minister chosen? It would be too chaotic and complex; therefore, an English parliament is the most viable solution.
    If you’re not still convinced, then maybe we should implement your solution but also rid the Scottish parliament and other devolved government, let it all take place in Westminster. But in reality, that would not work.

  • Comment number 31.


    I am a Scot living and working in England for the last 30 years with a Scottish wife, son and daughter. Son and daughter are each married to an English partner - with kids of mixed Anglo/Scottish parentage.

    I have never been in favour of independence for Scotland - not when I was living there and not now. I agree with Gordon Brown that a split would be bad for Scotland and bad for the UK. Unlike him, I was not a leading architect of the situation which has made that much more likely to happen, if not inevitable.

    It is very hard to envisage a workable formula which will resolve the West Lothian question and leave the UK intact. Trying to work back from where we are now is a bit like trying to put the toothepaste back in the tube - after you have brushed your teeth.

    Having set the scene, I would like to comment on some of the averments which have been made about spending in Scotland and the degree to which she is subsidised by England.

    On the first point, the size of the public funds cake in Scotland was not increased to allow for the post-devolution spending decisions on education, health etc. Where arrangements more favourable than in England have been made, it has meant diverting expediture from elsewhere in Scotland. There are already signs that these decisions have put big strain on other spending areas. As yet, cuts elsewhere has been the preferred option, rather than to utilise the power granted under the devolution arrangements whereby the Scottish parliament could raise income tax within set limits.

    On the subsidy point, there is no consensus as to the true position - even if one puts aside some of the SNP's bolder assertions. If the split comes, I fear the divorce proceedings will make Paul and Heather look positively amicable litigants by comparison.

    If anybody is interested in an article which expresses ultra reasonable views, compared to some others from a Scotttish perspective, Google "Back off Jock baiters" to find a piece from the Guardian.

    Another thing that saddens and worries me is the tone of this and other blogs when this topic comes up. More Balkan than British and that's before things turn nasty - which I fear they might.

  • Comment number 32.

    When one considers that the drug bill is so much higher in Scotland, and yet basically the average length of life is shorter than in the UK, one must assume that poor diet and smoking are to blame. Despite the wonderful beef and lamb (if one eats meat), smoked fishes and other delicious traditional foods, I have heard that Mars bars are actually fried in batter and eaten north of the border, This alone is a good reason for devolution!

  • Comment number 33.

    post No 1
    At 7:48pm on 01 Jul 2008, lukeshuk wrote:
    I could not be bothered to repeat
    Nulab have, in the blink of an eye and the time to write a post, already stolen the policy as a Nu Lab minister accepts that this should be adopted.

    Enough said. Election NOW.

  • Comment number 34.

    I really don't see why this is a difficult problem.

    Devolution for Scotland meant that only MSPs could decide policies on a wide range of public life; education, health, transport, etc.

    I do not believe there is anything to prevent MSPs being MPs. (After all we have had some MPs who were also MEPs.)

    The general principle should be that if, as an MP, you cannot vote for policies that concern your own constituents, you should NOT be allowed to vote on equivalent issues that affect other parts of the Union, when your own constituents have no interest.

    How is it reasonable for an MP with a Scotitsh constituency to vote in favour of university fees in England, when his constituents agree to limited costs in Scotland?

  • Comment number 35.


    Why does another layer of government always seem to be the solution.

    The Scotish parliment is set to cost 430 Mil this year to run this year and they are asking for a big increase.

    The building cost about the same budget 50 mil final cost 414 Mil

    Anyone got an idea that involves us employing less politicians

  • Comment number 36.


    You miss a major point when you talk about a UK government potentially not having a majority to implement its manifesto commitments.

    What place do England only commitments have in a UK general election manifesto anyway?

    Are you suggesting that scots, welsh and irish would vote for a party based on what they will do only to the English?

    As often seems to be the case, Ken Clarke is diligently following the correct evidence to the entirely wrong conclusion.

    The options are clearly either to disolve the devolved administrations or to establish an English parliament (with an appropriate reduction of size and pay for those who who remains part of the rump UK parliament).

  • Comment number 37.


    "If you?re not still convinced, then maybe we should implement your solution but also rid the Scottish parliament and other devolved government."

    It simply can not be done. 75% of the Scottish public were in favour of a Scottish Parliament. If Westminister was see to disban the Scottish Parliament, who do you think will gain from the move?

    You are handing to much opportunites to the Scottish Nationalists.

    If you are Pro-Union than as a Scottish Nationalist then I would advise that you think again.


    Yes. Battered Mars bars are tasty. You can ask your local chipper for one. You can get other sweets fried if you ask.

  • Comment number 38.


    It's too late.

    I don't think the United Kingdom can now survive as it is, and Ken Clarke must know he is just tinkering.

    Labour opened Pandora's Box by setting up the means for the Scots and Welsh to opt for self government, without thinking through the implications and on the assumption that it would work to their political advantage.


    It's a long term disaster for them and for anyone who wants to keep the Union.

    Personally I don't care much about the UK staying together - it all seems irrelevant to me in the 21st century where countries are splitting up all over the world, and I would rather do without the Monarchy - but the status quo is not tenable.

    Defence, foreign policy and a few other things best done together can be done by all four parliaments meeting once a month or so.

    For the rest, especially transport, health and education, let us all have devolution.

    And since it's impossible to put Scottish and Welsh devolution back in the box, even if the Scots and Welsh wanted to, the only answer is an English parliament with roughly the same powers as those of Scotland.

    GOK where that leaves Northern Ireland, better minds than mine will have to work that out.

    I'm sure the EU would find a way of accommodating all four nations - after all, Luxembourg has a population of under half a million.

    What price there still being an UK in 10 years' time?

  • Comment number 39.

    My post #37

    I accidently said fried when it should battered.

  • Comment number 40.

    #37 Thomas Porter

    Fascinating! Would they fry my After Eight Mints and Chocolate Liquors?

  • Comment number 41.


    Quite possibly.

    I've heard of some having their cream eggs battered to.

  • Comment number 42.

    25: Ah yes oil and gas revenues. This sums up the Nats. Happy to go 300 years taking from England, then when a bonanza occurs they say thanks we go our separate ways. Well maybe Shetland and Orkney might like that too? After all Isle of Man can survive, why do The Isles need the central belt?

    Labour out of a desire to create jobs for themselves have opened up a real problem: English nationalism. The Scots need to take care. The separative vote may not be in Scotland, it may well occur in England - just when the oil runs out.

  • Comment number 43.

    I don’t understand this English grievance that they are being done over by the Scots, Welsh and Irish. Surely it is only in the last few years that these countries have had more of a say in their own destiny and for centuries it’s been the other way.
    If the English are starting to feel hard done by and it is time to go it on their own then so be it.
    Once on their own are they going to enjoy lower taxes, free university education for all, better health facilities and better roads etc. I don’t think so. But will it make them happy that it is their own English parliament who is failing to deliver? You would think so because after all they will be English. To draw an analogy Sven Goran Erikson Vs Steve McClaren.
    Anyway after we have divided up into our own little English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh utopias what’s next? I think the Orkney Isles have voiced an opinion that they see themselves more as scandinavian and would like to be part of Norway. I don’t think the north of England is going to be too happy at being governed by the south. I think Cornwall would like to go it alone as well and so on. So after we have broken up into our own little enclaves what’s next? I know (Wild gardener # 17) after we have kicked the Westminster Scots over the border we should have a look at some of these big asian communities that are established in England. Are you going to allow them to have a say in English politics. I think there is some research that shows Leicester will be the first British city to have a white minority in the near future if it hasn’t already.
    I don’t think this is the kind of future everybody wants. It just starts to get ludicrous
    What we need is a democracy that is modern and able to cope with all the differing factions and views. As voiced earlier a quick way to move in this direction would be proportional representation. It’s a no brainer it is the only way forward to avoid the break up of the union.
    I appreciate that some people want the break up no matter what and if that’s the majority view then so be it.
    Taking how Scotland has reacted since the election of new labour people shouldn’t be surprised at the policies implemented north of the border.
    Look at the voting patterns of Scotland. It is naturally a socialist country.
    It will obviously install socialist policies. That is why they have never voted for complete independence because no matter the SNP promises of riches if they go independent the Scots are not motivated by greed.
    Of course if the Scottish labour party were to say they were going to go it alone you might then see a move towards total independence

  • Comment number 44.

    "a move towards total independence"

    What does that actually mean? If Scotland became independent, they say they would get all the revenue of the North Sea Oil and Gas. Say you did - what happens in 20+ years when its all gone?

    All the Scots in the Briish Armed Forces, well they would have to become part of a Scottish army - that increases the budget that an indendent Scotland would need.

    All the Civil Servants in Scotland (my Tax office for London is based near Edinburgh), Most of those would have to be moved south - you cannot have English taxes being dealt with in another indendent country! That will reduce the tax revenue raised in an independent scotland.

    I'm English, living in England - but I do not want to see Scotland become "totally independent" - even though it would reduce the tax burden for England.

    As for the West Lothian question, in reality just how many times has it caused a problem. Top up fees and ?????

    I cannot really see what the fuss is all about - so every now and then, the English public will get "shafted" by the votes of a few scottish MP's. Well the majority of the time, we all get "shafted" by the votes of English MP's e.g. 10% tax abolition and 42 days detention

  • Comment number 45.

    Cameron has his mind to make up here.
    He either believes in devolution or not. He either believes in the Westminster Parliament or not.

    What he cannot do is to turn the Scots and Welsh into second rate citizens and this is what he is after.

    Every MP that is voted into Westminster have the right to vote on every issue. Not just the selective ones. here is my reasoning.

    Scotland and Wales are given the money to run their own affairs and they vote for people to carry that out,in their own devolved ways.
    They would have that same ammount of money if they were devolved or not. The only difference is they decide their priorities not Westminster.

    And if those that the Scots and Welsh vote in are not fit to represent the UK Parliament in Westminster as he sees it, then the answer is a simple one for him.
    Break the Union and allow them to go their separate ways. This is his end game after all as he knows the Conservatives will never win these people over, as they suffered too badly under the Conservative and will never forget the experience, nor should they.

    The Westminster MP's Parliament votes for the way parties will carry out their policies by the whole of the UK.
    Now as the whole of the UK have to pay money into the Treasury every MP who is voted into Westminster regardless of Nationality has the right to vote on all measures.

    Everybody contributes one way or another to the Treasury, so all should have a say.

    If Cameron is not careful he will drive the Scots and Welsh to voting for independence, then our troubles will really start.

    I do not think he has fully thought out the dire consequences for us if he were to split this Union.

    There is a lot more to our Union than is taken at face value that people fully realise.

    In fact far too many to go into for one posting, however here is just a starter for ten.

    Has anybody stopped to think just how much clout we would have in the EU if England was there just being England?

    The Germans and French would love it. Little England and little Englanders trying to play in the big league.

    We are stronger united than divided. We should concentrate on that which unites us not that which divides.

    If Cameron just for the sake of winning an election plays hardball with this Union, I hope he is prepared to live with the consequences.
    This requires a lot of debate.
    We should be staying with that which unites us not that which divides. It has served us well for over 400 years and will after Cameron is long gone.

    We have not got the best set up with the Status Quo as it is at present. What Clarke is suggesting though is not the answer, it is good for middle England and this is where the core Tory vote lies.
    That is what he is gambling on, to create enough unrest that people vote with a grievance not with their head. It is politics at it's worst, playing the base instinct card. It is as bad as playing a race card it ammounts to the same thing.
    What Calrke and Cameron are suggesting is not good for the North of England Scotland and Wales who would be reduced to becoming second class citizens.

    Cameron is going to be Salmonds new best friend as he is doing Salmonds bidding for him. The fool does not realise it and only will when it is far too late.

    This is what happend when a wet behind the ear politicians rises too fast, does not understand what is happening outside of his own social class and never will.

    This man Cameron is a danger to himself and a bigger danger to this Country in his quest to be elected at any price.

    "Say Anything Do Anything get Elected at any price Dave"
    And he is prepared to abandon all his principles if he had any to start with to do it.
    And if one takes a closer look at his voting record, one will see he is well on his way to abandoning everything the true Blue Conservative ever held dear just to get elected.

  • Comment number 46.

    As I live in Wales I presume I should declare interest but only have one home, so I hope MPs with second or first homes and all the population of England with second homes in Scotland and Wales to think very carefully.

    Development of selective power is fine if it is equal, currently it is not. This begs the question are the English more disenfranchised then the Welsh and are they likewise over the Scots. The answer has to be Yes.

    Is the Committee's review a sop to the English and it looks like it is, then it is not the answer.

    What is needed is a total review of the current imbalance and massive bureaucracy that has grown up within the UK political systems.

    Recommendations should be made to all UK citizens and a referendum voted on by all.

    I am proud to be Welsh but also proud to be a citizen of the United Kingdom.

  • Comment number 47.

    606 Trudi_Victoria

    Nice to see you up at this time of the morning.

  • Comment number 48.

    So they want to avoid English votes for English laws... why? If we can have Scottish votes for Scottish laws and Welsh Votes for Welsh laws the only problem is one of political expediency and the risk of not obtaining a majority on these matters.

    In which case I echo the other posts, if a majority cannot be achieved then there's no mandate to put laws onto the statute books, whereas at the moment all MPs are equal, just some are more equal than others.

  • Comment number 49.

    You say dire consequences about the breakup of the UK agree with you but you are putting the onus on Cameron with respect it was your Labour party that gave in to the SNP to save themselves in Scotland

    Wales was a fudge, and remember the Prescott's fiasco in the North East.

  • Comment number 50.

    this little piece of proposed legislation could be expanded on.Any MP who claims council tax,road tax,food,travel expenses or any of the other things on their expenses and allowances should not be allowed to vote on any subject they have claimed for on the grounds it does not affect them.

  • Comment number 51.

    I agree with Ken Clarke re English MPs voting for English legislation.

    I don't see a problem providing they only vote on things that are being decided in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Foreign policy, taxation, etc would be decided UK wide.

    What I would really like to see, however, is only English MPs in English constituencies just as the mjority of Welsh, Irish and Scottish constituencies have their own nationals.

    That would get rid of lots of the Scots in parliament.

    I really do object to Brown, Darling, etc, having no prescription charges, better college fees, and better care for the elderly in their constituencies when they refuse, point blank, to have them here in England, saying we can't afford them. The majority of taxes come from England and we have to subsidise the others.

  • Comment number 52.

    13 jimbrant.
    "This assumes that you are sufficiently well off not to qualify for fee reductions, or your daughter doesn't get a grant to pay her fees from her university."
    Jim, I am struggling to see why person "A" leaves University with a huge debt because his parents are perceived by the Government to be "well off" and person "B" leaves with little or nothing because his parents are perceived to be "poor".
    They could go on to earn vastly different salaries and the less well off pays far more back. That isn't fair it is vindictive.

    Devolution and Democracy.
    We are supposed to live in a democracy. I really cannot see the issue of not being able to implement a manifesto if a party didn't have a majority in England but had a majority in the UK. If power has be devolved to Scotland and Wales, those people will vote on a separate manifesto for what they want in their country. At the last General Election the most votes cast in England was for the Conservatives not Labour but we have had Labour policies implemented in England. (Yes they have more Labour MP's but that is another issue).

    There can only one solution and that is for the United Kingdom to become a Federation State just like Canada and Australia. We can all then implement devolved powers in our own countries then come together for foreign and defence issues. We don't need more MP's they can do both jobs at the same time so it would be more simple than at present.

    The crux of the issue is that the current situation where Scottish MP's at Westminster are Second Class because they have been disenfranchised for Health Education and Transport in their own Country, while voting on the same issue in England is not democracy it is colonialization.

    All the issues that were current now were predicted before the passing of the Scotland Act 1998. One of the people who had the clearest view of the problems was Margaret Thatcher whose speeches can be read at

    I want to live in a democratic country; at the present time I don't.

    And just a thought. Am I right in thinking that political parties are "spinning" on this blog, some people seem to come up very quickly with all the "facts" and spend their whole day here!

  • Comment number 53.

    #6 RussellHolmstoel

    For the first time Russell I would have to disagree with your findings. Not your fault, you have based your figures on data that has been flawed.

    For 16 years since Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) was instigated by the Conservatives, the annual exercise has put Scotland firmly in the red.

    But the stats have now been subject to a rigorous review - by officials, not ministers. This review was first prompted in January 2007 - before the Holyrood election - at the instigation of the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee.

    After prolonged negotiations with the Treasury, it has been concluded that Scotland's share of spending has been consistently overstated - and Scottish revenues underestimated.

    lt looks to me as though this is the card NuLabour in Scotland have been pedalling the electorate for years in order to keep their stranglehold on not only that country but ours.

    If you look at the following blog it may give you some insight into the real economic picture of Scotland.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Is it with little wonder that NuLabour north of our borders are starting to unwind.

    By officials not ministers. Tha in itself says a lot really.

  • Comment number 54.

    Continuation of 51

    I have only just found out that the expensive NHS dental fees I have had to pay recently don't apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    No wonder the recent dental contracts and charges have been criticised by the parliamentary Committee (Majority of Labour MPs).

    The comment from the ministry is

    "We have invested over £200m in NHS dentistry this year, over and above increases in the last three years. This takes our total investment to over £2bn."

    Yet again a case of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  • Comment number 55.


    Mikethe biscuit, what you are forgetting is, Scotland almost had the doomsday Scenario ,plus if you take a look at the number of English (and I mean by nationality only) that sit in Wesminster they by far outweigh the voting power on the Scots. Plus the fact a lot of Conservatives voted quite willingly for devolution also.

    That should be telling you something..

    Last but not least, Labour had promised the people of Scotland a chance to have devolved powers.

    Labour won the election by a landslide, so it is rather disengenuous of you now to turn around and say it was Labour who gave them the opportunity.

    This was the settled will of the people of Scotland which had been denied them for years under the Conservative.

    We visit Scotland quite frequently, we have friends there.

    Scotland has come on in leaps and bound since being freed from the shackles of the a Conservative Party who for years had there placemen of Rifkind and Forsyth, both who ended up being detested by a good many from one end of Scotland to the other.

    As for Wales I know less about Wales than I do about Scotland and I do not know a lot about Scotland, only what I hear first hand from our Scots friends.

  • Comment number 56.

    If you knew a bit more about politics you would know that Brown, Darling etc have no say as the what happens in the Scottish parliament, nor should they. They are not voted in under devolved powers.

    They are voted into the UK Parliament by the people of the UK who happen to be Scots as they are.
    They are not voted in by the Scottish electorate on devolved matters.
    And as Scotland has the right to choose how they spend their cash, that is what been devolved means.
    It is not up to Darling or Brown to tell them how to spend that money.
    Sort out the different type of MP's before hazarding your uninformed take on the answer.

  • Comment number 57.

    #6 RussellHolmstoel

    For the first time Russell I would have to disagree with your findings. Not your fault, you have based your figures on data that has been flawed.

    For 16 years since Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) was instigated by the Conservatives, the annual exercise has put Scotland firmly in the red.

    But the stats have now been subject to a rigorous review - by officials, not ministers. This review was first prompted in January 2007 - before the Holyrood election - at the instigation of the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee.

    After prolonged negotiations with the Treasury, it has been concluded that Scotland's share of spending has been consistently overstated - and Scottish revenues underestimated.

    lt looks to me as though this is the card NuLabour in Scotland have been pedalling the electorate for years in order to keep their stranglehold on not only that country but ours.

    If you look at the equivalent BBC Scottish, Brian Taylor blog “Working through the figures” it may give you some insight into the real economic picture of Scotland.

    It is with little wonder that NuLabour north of our borders are starting to unwind.

    By officials not ministers. That in itself says a lot really.

  • Comment number 58.

    Labour rushed into devolution without due regard to the UK wide consequences and by not resolving the West Lothian question they didn't complete the job. This should come as no surprise as one of their first acts was to start to dismantle the House of Lords without any clear vision as to how to complete the task.

    The fact that Westminster is now at war with Holyrood and that the Scottish Labour Party cannot handle being in opposition in a Parliament, which they set up thinking they would rule for ever, has raised some serious questions. Anyone could foresee that devolution in Scotland was bound to be a half way house to independance or at least give the SNP a very good platform to achieve the same.

  • Comment number 59.

    I do not think it would be a bad idea for people to read this.
    Then ask themselves if it is any wonder that Scotland wished to become devolved. They were driven to it.

    McCrone's paper, written for Ted Heath's Tory Government and only just released under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed how North Sea oil could have made an independent Scotland as rich as Switzerland.

    Earlier this week, Chancellor Gordon Brown underlined the vital revenue stream that North Sea oil still is in the context of British politics.

    In his pre-Budget report, Brown extracted an extra £6.5 billion (NZ$16 billion) in tax from North Sea oil and gas producers, to be taken over the next three years. Imagine then, what the oil could have done for a Scotland which chose independence in the mid-1970s and claimed ownership.

    Thirty years ago, McCrone's conclusions shocked his political masters. An independent Scotland's Budget surpluses, wrote McCrone, would be so large as to be "embarrassing". Scotland's currency "would become the hardest in Europe with the exception of the Norwegian kronor".

    Scotland would be in a position to lend heavily to England, a situation that could last "for a very long time".

    The study was judged incendiary by London and classified secret. The mandarins demanded that McCrone's analysis be given "only a most restricted circulation in the Scottish Office because of extreme sensitivity".

    It was the comparison with Norway that particularly worried. In the mid 1970s, Norway was fully independent and about to take advantage of an oil boom that has generated huge prosperity to the present day.

    In Scotland, however, heavy manufacturing was in deep trouble. Between 1970 and 1974 the number of coal mines in Scotland slumped by a third, while steel production fell by a fifth.

    The Government refused to bail out four shipyards in Upper Clyde in 1971, leading to a work-in by unionists and a march by 70,000 people.

    And so the call for independence became louder. The 1970 general election saw the Scottish Nationalist Party poll just 11.4 per cent of the vote and one seat. By the 1974 election their support had risen to the all-time high of 30.4 per cent of the vote, and 11 seats.

    American firms became nervous that a Scottish breakaway, socialist in outlook, was threatening their interests. Would-be "direct action" cells began to emerge across Scotland.

    McCrone's report, in such volatile circumstances, would almost certainly have provoked a turning point.

    Billy Wolfe, who was leader of the SNP at the time, is in no doubt of what the findings could have meant - "winning" Scotland in the 1974 election.

    Such was the fear of Scottish nationalism that the study remained secret under Callaghan, Thatcher, Major and even Blair.

    Alex Salmond, the current SNP leader, said McClone's papers would form a central part of their campaigning for the future.

    "It would have had great influence. I was appalled at the extent of what has been hidden from the people.

    "The impact would have been dynamite. This is hugely important. But it was not just important then. It is important now. Gordon Brown's black hole is being filled by black oil."

  • Comment number 60.

    It isn't just English and Scotish MPs who vote in Parliment you know. There are MPs from Wales as well as from Northen Ireland though the BBC always seems to conveniently forget about the wonderful country of Wales. There again, I suppose the Welsh Labour MPs are not realy worth bothering about any way. But please remember our Country we have got feelings.

  • Comment number 61.

    Labour have trashed our democracy.

    New Labour was only ever a PR and Election fighting machine. They had no idea on how to actually govern. Hence Labours instinct was to stick to what it knows - fighting elections - we got Scottish, Welsh, Irish and a London assemblies / parliaments.

    This obsession with fighting elections has been displacement activity - it would have been better if they had fixed the nations problems - schools, hospitals, police etc...

    The Scottish voting issue is just the tip of New Labours disastorous iceberg, their fiddling and meddling with 'parliament' has left us with:

    1. More powers ceded to unelected politicans in Europe

    2. A fragmented UK

    3. Unreformed house of Lords

    4. Larger layers of expensive government with no value for money return

  • Comment number 62.

    Just as a matter of interest, if English Mp's cannot see off the Scots when it comes to a vote. I would ask what the hell they are playing at.
    Take a look at these figures then ask your MP's why they are not carrying out the will of the English people.
    This has nothing at all to do with the English/Scots/Welsh didive.
    More to do with voting patterns.

    1. English MPs Total 529
    2. Scottish MPs Total 59

    What are English MPs playing at when 529 cannot defeat 59 "Jocks"?

    I think constituents have a right to know and should be asking their MP's where they were when they should have been voting.

    Not blame devolution for every ill under the sun that befalls us.

  • Comment number 63.


    Yes you are correct in what you are saying.

    How many times did you hear us in England screaming and shouting when your Countrymen were loosing jobs hand over fist..not once.

    How many times did you hear us screaming that the Englishman had no right to vote on Scottish or Welsh matters..not once

    How many times did you hear us scream that the people of Wales and Scotland were not getting a fair crack at the whip..not once.

    Now the boot is on the other foot, we suddenly realise that there is a difference which we chose to ignore for all of the last Century.

    Shame a lot are just wakening up to it now. And sqealing about it.

  • Comment number 64.

    I’ve just realised what’s so funny about Ken Clarke’s surprisingly modest to resolve the West Lothian problem. The changes he recommends are supposed to protect English people from colonial rule by technicality (the deliciously hyperbolic “Scottish Raj”) and Parliament from the criticism that it is illegitimate. But what they do instead is protect Scottish MPs from boring, humbrum committee work.

    Clarke’s proposals will create the “dreaded” two classes of MP, but not in the way that the constitutional lawyers have been worried about. We won’t have MP’s and demi-MPs, but rather sweated English MPs bearing the whole weight of Parliamentary tedium upon their shoulders and leisured Scottish MPs living upon the expropriated surplus of their colleagues labour. If the lumpen Parliamentariat becomes sufficiently downtrodden, if the Scots MPs exploit them with sufficient vigour, then – who knows? – we might even end up with a revolution.

    To read more on this, search my blog - Just who the hell are we? - on

  • Comment number 65.

    The Tories like Labour are the problem.

    They both know at Westminster if they bide their time their turn will come. Its like the SPL - two teams can only ever win and they keep the playing field set up so it will always be that way.

    No matter who is in power they care more about being a World power, send troops to far off places and saving Africa than they do about running the UK.

    Scotland has improved dramitically since Devolution despite of Scottish Labour being in power.

    We were only ever an after thought to Westminster - like the North of England, Wales and NI. This is why the Uk is slowly breaking up.

    It need never have happened this way but greedy self centred politicians have neglected huge parts of the UK and its coming back to bite them.

    On the subsidy not - its very unlikely Scotland is subisdised as quite a few reports have stated recently. Even without the Oil Scotland is close to paying its own way.

    I dont want independance but its looking likely as neither the Tories or Labour will every have the correct answer to the UK only one that suits them.

  • Comment number 66.


    I am not sure that you have much interest in this topic. It seems to me that your interest is in setting a hare running whereby those with groans and gripes get to sound off.

    You refer to 'an English grievance' but you don't attempt to put it in any context. As I recall it, it was the UK Parliament that established devolution. That means there was a vast number of English MPs voting in favour of the current arrangement. If they got it wrong, then it can hardly be viewed as an English grievance. There were also plenty of Scots who predicted that the inherent contradictions would rise to the surface, yet those English MPs failed to listen (who do you think coined the West Lothian question?).

    So there we have it. English MPs in government supported a flawed constitutional arrangment and then complain that the Scots are having their cake and eat it.

    It is wholly within the power of the UK Parliament to make alternative arrangements, but this is likely to fall into the hands of the SNP. So in reality, those misinformed MPs who took a political gamble for political advantage are now in the situation where they have lost control. If it leads to separation so be it. Alex Salmond has been able to sit back and watch the votes roll in.

    Although the English appear ignorant of the problem, the Scots would welcome the opportunity not to be bombarded by English bias over the airwaves via the EBC.


  • Comment number 67.

    #41 Thomas Porter

    Thanks, but this is the last message on such a sweet subject. Getting addicted!
    Do they batter butterscotch?

  • Comment number 68.

    It makes amusing reading - reading how downtrodden the English feel and how "unfair" it is that Scots MP's vote on English affairs. In Scotland we have only had more than 300 years of the English telling us what to do.

    And now that Europe is being handed more and more powers the screams of "We are losing our independence!" ring out. It's not nice, is it?

  • Comment number 69.

    The English majority at Westminster, as has been pointed out, is responsible for the present devolution settlement and the unintended consequences which you were warned about at the time. You have created an unstable constitution. If you tinker with it unwisely instead of reforming it fundamentally, you will have no one to blame but yourselves for what happens next.

    "Experience keeps a dear school, yet Fools will learn in no other." (Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1743)

  • Comment number 70.

    "It might also mean in future that a prime minister wouldn't have a majority in Parliament for much of his party's election manifesto."

    Heaven forbid that MPs might have to persuade their colleagues to vote for legislation by pointing out its merits, and how well designed it is - surely its better that they're able to force through any half-cocked ideas they thought up in the pub without debate!!!

  • Comment number 71.

    Not content with being Eurosceptic, the right whingers of the south of England are now becoming UK sceptic. Mostly conservatives who are bitter that they can't win in Scotland anymore.
    Who's fault is that?

    The Scottish have democratically decided that the Conservatives have treated them as a colony to do with as they please. Like the poll tax experiment so have decided they don't want to vote for them anymore. Very wise decision. Lets hope they dont get even more fed up and leave the UK.

    A Similar situation in the the North of England , although we can't leave. The Conservatives serve only the south of England. We await the decision of the voting elite of the south as to who will be our next government.

    My choices are Labour, lib dem or not voting. Which ever I choose will have no impact on the result at all. A Labour win is guaranteed. and my vote discarded. That is why most people aren't concerned about the unfairness to the South of England of the west lothian question. They are concerned about the lack of any impact of democracy in general and are not bothering to vote.

  • Comment number 72.

    The Union is dead. It's not resting sleeping hibernating or in meditation.

    Dead. No longer alive . Deceased.

    The genie is out of the lamp in Scotland and we want to go our own way regardless scaremongering and obfuscation from the unionist press and politicians. There has been a tectonic shift in Scotland created in no small part by an antiquated and corrupt form of governance.
    Tinkering round the edges only brings more deficiencies to light.
    It bumbled and stumbled along for 2 centuries which is no little achievement and benefits did arise from in its' day.

    Now it's time for a new order.

  • Comment number 73.

    dhw wrote:
    'The Conservatives serve only the South of England. We await the decision of the voting elite of the south as to who will be our next government.'

    I'm glad someone's looking after our interests down here. Look at the way that The Government has consistently weighted Council Funding by taking from the hand of the South to feed the North. Many Southern Councils are struggling to make ends meet because of this unfair distribution. That puts great upward pressure on rent and rates hitting hardest the very people who can least afford it. It's little wonder that the majority of The Northern voters stay within The Labour fold. I probably would myself if I lived up there.

  • Comment number 74.

    Devolution as introduced by Tony Blair and his team is a dog's breakfast, and a very expensive one at that. The obvious solution, if devolution there had to be, was to have used the MPs already at Westminster to seperate on specific days to govern their own nations on domestic, devoled issues. No extra pay, no extra pensions. Instead we get two more tiers of political classes in Edinburgh and Cardiff that the UK taxpayer has to fund.

    We have to start, however, from where we are; the present unfair and lopsided constitutional settlement urgently needs amendment.

    I see no reason why MPs whose constituents are not to be affected by legislation should have any say in the matter, at any stage in the process. The Scottish nationalists would have us believe that there was a time before devolution when the reverse of the present situation was true - it was not. There has never been a time since the union was formed when Scottish MPs were denied the right to vote on English affairs. They may have been outvoted on Scottish matters by the weight of English votes, that happens when you join a club with a larger neighbour, but that is not at all the same thing. The Scots now have control of their own affairs in total, the English do not. What we have now is absurd and unfair. It is, more importantly, undemocratic.

    The Tory proposals do not go far enough to assuage the resentment now rightly felt by the English. What they are seeking is not supriority over, but parity with the Scots (and to a lesser extent the Welsh). That can only be achieved by full devolution for England (and Wales) like that given to Scotland. That, of course, will mean that Bown, Alexander, Darling and all the rest will lose the right to vote on domestic matters anywhere in the United Kingdom, which on the face of it seems nonsense, but it is a bed that they made and in which they must now lie.

    And for Jack Straw to claim that preventing such Scottish members voting on purely English domestic matters will endanger the union is hypocrisy of the highest order. He voted through these lop-sided and flawed constitutional changes with insufficient consideration of the inevitable consequences, despite the fact that I can clearly remember John Major warning Labour of the dangers. The only thing that will truly guarantee the breakup of the union is trying to fob off the increasingly embittered English with half-baked measures which do not properly and fairly address the present constitutional imbalance. Scotland has absolutely nothing to lose, and no right to complain, if MPs sitting for seats north of the border are prevented from having any say in English domestic affairs.

  • Comment number 75.

    #66. smfcbuddie wrote:
    "You refer to 'an English grievance' but you don't attempt to put it in any context. As I recall it, it was the UK Parliament that established devolution. That means there was a vast number of English MPs voting in favour of the current arrangement."

    Almost all of whom were ScotsNats, PC or NuLabour folowing a party whip

    Those who are complaining now aer actually the ones who voted against it

    You can accuse the complainers of many things, but inconsistency is not one of them

  • Comment number 76.

    'It was the votes of Scottish MPs which insured that students at'
    Don't you mean
    It was the votes of Scottish MPs which ensured that students at
    Y caren't U tawk proper lik wot I doo?? :-)

  • Comment number 77.

    re: 6 RussellHolmstoel

    "Anyone see a connection between voting patterns and spending"

    Council tax anyone?! our tory-controlled council had its enforced costs increased by central government, at the same time as having its absolute (not just real-terms) budget slashed by central government.

    This happens virtually every year to us; our council (not being a labour one) can, luckily, work out how to save money by making things more efficient (or plundering their savings) but without substantially damaging the services, so despite being landed with what could have been a 30% increase in council tax, we actually only get an increase of around 5% to 10%.

    People who live here seem to understand what's really going on, and they don't blame the council.

    However, I think that a lot of people here are starting to think that perhaps they should vote labour so that our council then gets properly funded from central government, ie some people think that they'd rather have a more wasteful/incompetent council if it means lower council taxes in our own area.

    I think this kind of election bribing/threatening/punishing (whether it's real/intended or just perceived) is going on at all levels in labour, from councils to MP's constituencies to the individual nations.

  • Comment number 78.

    I have always been an admirer of Ken Clarke - he steered the economy so well that Tony Blair was able to live off the inheritance for 10 years; on his views about Europe: even on the Iraq war, where, alone among senior Conservatives at the time (or so it seemed) he cautioned agaisnt entering the war without an express UN mandate.

    No surprise then, that it is Ken rather than David Cameron, who is willing to tackle the urgent question of the restoring democracy for England.

    Trouble is, these proposals simply do not go far enough. If there is to be any hope of the Union surviving, there needs to be a separate parliament for England, and a proper federal structure. It is that or full independence.

    This subject of tuition fees is especially close to my heart, with one child about to start University, and another to follow. I have told them both that I will pay their fees for an English University. I am damned if I will pay a penny to a Scottish one, after the way the mean way the Scots MPs and MSPs have treated us English over this.

  • Comment number 79.

    What I should have said was Conservative serve only the South of England and Labour mainly serve only the South of England. Because satisfying the southern voting elite is the only way they can stay in power. This area votes for them anyway. So they have little need to bother with us.

    As for your council tax point. We have a lib dem council. Maybe things are changing. I was mainly talking about national government. Maybe keeping your council tax too low in the past has led your councils to have problems with your services.

    Its not our fault the South of England is wealthier and therefore has a higher cost of living. You have all the economic advantages of being South of Watford and yet you still whinge more than anywhere else.

  • Comment number 80.

    I don't have the numbers, but isn't it disingenuous to say "It was the votes of Scottish MPs which ensured ..."? Presumably, there were a large number of English MPs who also voted for fees? If the English MPs had felt strongly about this, they could have abstained or voted against it, far outnumbering the MPS from Scotland. Your wording is mischevious to say the least!

  • Comment number 81.

    re: 79 dhwilkinson

    "You have all the economic advantages of being South of Watford and yet you still whinge more than anywhere else"

    Tell that to a pensioner who lives in a one bedroom bungalow in a poor area of town who's just been saddled with a 1500 quid council tax bill, because that's the level we're talking about here thanks to labour stripping our funding.

    In all the stuff that comes through the post with the council tax bills we get the detailed breakdown of where they money goes and where it comes from, and every year it's the same; massive amounts taken away from the central government funding, and massive costs added due to central government "initiatives".

  • Comment number 82.

    Most Conservatives never realised that there was life North of the Watford gap and to the West of it. So Wales, the East and West Midlands, the North of England East and West plus Scotland all suffered to make sure there were plenty of jobs going to the South.
    That is the reason all those area are receiving special help now to address the balance and the discrepancies that existed before Nulabour came into power.

    These regions are now only being brought up to the same standards as London the Home Counties, the South East and West have enjoyed for years.
    it is called the North South divide.
    The South got the meat the rest got the left overs.

  • Comment number 83.


    The problem lies with the Council tax and the higher value of property in the South of England. I dont think the council tax is fair. So do not need to defend myself.

    What kind of initiatives do you disapprove of ? LOCAL COUNCIL initiatives that is.

  • Comment number 84.

    It really is a bit rich having the colonials telling us what to do for eleven years then complaining when they get some stick for completely screwing up government in England.

    In my humble opinion, Kenneth Clarke's suggestion is right. However, I would qualify it.

    Rather than having an English parliament that would cost lots to set up and operate, MPs from English constituencies could earn their money by acting as English MPs.

    It would work like this

    1 The UK Parliament as a whole would look after national areas such as foreign policy and TAX, and allocate total budgets for the other areas such as the NHS. Also set the parameters such as improving the education system.

    2 The English MPs would look after England, rather like a council.

    3 The budgets would comprise two parts: a core operating budget governed by Parliament and a second part where the English MPs could make their own allocations to things such as prescription charges, university fees, etc.

    Lets face it, MPs have a pretty cushy life and really should work harder. Perhaps only 25 days holiday a year would be a good start. Then I might be a bit more flexible over expenses.

    The best governments are those that interfere least, so less national legislation and more sensible "local" government wopuld be the way ahead.


  • Comment number 85.

    I suspect that Labour's 2010 General Election rallying cry will be :

    Vote Labour and Save the Union.

    The response will probably be :

    No and Goodbye.

  • Comment number 86.

    re: 83 dhwilkinson

    "What kind of initiatives do you disapprove of ?"

    This year the increase seemed to mostly stem from the Police budget being slashed from central funds, so I guess you can take your pick on that one as to which of the countless central government schemes/red-tape applies to the extra police costs that we've had to pay for.

    Remember that council tax doesn't just fund things like new road signs, it also funds a large proportion of the local police and schools budgets, fire departments etc etc, so "council initiatives" aren't really relevant here, because they're central government initiatives being forced on the local councils but not funded by central government.

    I assume that our local council initiative at the moment is to work out how they can save our most important services without bankrupting its people, given the double-whammy of an increase in costs and a reduction in funding.

  • Comment number 87.

    I think you need a reality check, just go further up on this thread to #62.

    I did go into rather a lot of detail about the number of Scots MP's and English.

    Now if you take those figures. Can you explain to me why the small number of Scots MP's can outvote a much larger majority of English MP's because I am baffled.

    How you arrive at the conclusion there is no democracy beats me.
    if the English MP's were doing what they should be doing they could out vote the Scots by a mile any day of the week.

    So this has nothing to do with restoring democracy it has more to do with getting English MP's of their lazy butts and voting for things that we the English want.

    Nothing at all to do with the Scots, devolution or any other excuse you care to come up with.

    And definately nothing to do with the West Lothian question which if you look at the nationalities of all the MP's in Parliament is just a White Elephant, put about by a very honourable, misguided politician Tam Dalziell.

    He never did have both feet on this planet.
    he is another, along with the World's dreamers like Tony Benn.

    They both mean well and that is the kindest thing I will say about both and I will rest it at that.

  • Comment number 88.

    John Constable, you seem perfectly happy and content to break the Union.

    Let's run this by you and hear how we would tackle this, as it appears that the Union is such a trivialty to you, I have no doubt you have all the answers of how to overcome all of the following issues.

    Firstly I will state, I would be sorry to see the Union ended, however if that is what people want—so be it.

    The consequences are in my opinion only, others have got to state theirs is as follows:

    British Army-split pro-rata
    Royal Navy-Split pro-rata
    Royal Air force –split pro rata.
    No seat on the G8
    No seat on the Security Council

    How much clout are we going to have in the EU?

    All pensions etc for the UK are dealt with in Newcastle

    All tax for UK dealt with in Liverpool
    How long would we expect the Scots to keep those services there?

    How do we make up the impending job loss if these services go to Edinburgh?

    Barnett Formula Scots are paid less from this than their tax contribution to the exchequer.

    Where do we find the shortfall?

    I did post earlier on about the oil money I suggest you take a good look before and if you reply.

    What services have to be cut?

    Nuclear submarines based in Scotland.
    How long do we think the Scots will put up with that, especially free of charge?

    Now that is just skimming the problems, but I am sure in your Conservative wisdom you have all of the answers to them.

    I really would like to hear them and I expect a few others would also.

  • Comment number 89.

    # 88

    I am an independent and do not support any political party.

    Indeed, I believe that political parties have outlived their usefulness, rather like the political 'United Kingdom' .

    You have raised a number of points, unfortunately I am not yet retired so my time is precious.

    Nevertheless, when I get a spare moment I will answer your queries.

  • Comment number 90.


    Mikepo, who are these colonials you refer to?

    If you mean Scotland how long has Scotland been a Colony?

    Can I draw your attention to the fact that it was the Union of the Crowns where a Scottish King united both the thrones.

    James the sixth of Scotland and the first of England .

    Scotland has had it's own legal system in place long before England did and also it is a much older Country than England.

    You insult the Scots by calling them Colonials and whatsmore the oldest Regiment in the British Isle was the Royal Scots who had the honour to be first of the line, first of foot.
    Or Pontious Pilates body guards.

    But then I expect you did not mean them.

  • Comment number 91.

    And while I am at it Mikpo, perhaps you could enlighten us on the question as to that I asked of John Constable @ #88

    Can you tell us in your wisdom how we cope if we loose the "Colonials" as you like to call them.

    Last but not least these "Colonials" as you call them have stood shoulder to shoulder with us since the time of the Iron Duke and Waterloo and never been found wanting ONCE!!!.

  • Comment number 92.

    There is only one answer to the English Question.

    An English Parliament.

    And if the union falls apart as a result? Well that's just tough 'taters. This should all have been thought about in 1998 when Blair rolled out the devolution bill. The unbelievable arrogance in his and the rest of Zanu Labour's belief that somehow, the English would either not notice or not care that they were being democratically worked over just astounds me.

    And when that happened it ensured that this Labour voter of over 30 years would never, ever vote for them again.

    One thing's for certain, Nick. This pathetic statement by Westminster politicians
    that the current status quo is a price worth paying to preserve the union is simply outrageous.

    I value my and 50 million other people in England's democratic rights above selfish self serving Westminster politicians ever eager to keep their largesse, their pensions and their perks at the expense of my God given rights.

    And when they get up and start to lecture some African state about the need to introduce true democracy into their country I want to chuck something through the telly screen. Instead of lecturing others, they need to look closer to home and the absolute imperative to give England her own parliament and bring to an end the outrage that England is the ONLY country in Europe without a national legislature.

    Absolutely shameful.

  • Comment number 93.

    #87 and 88 Trudy_Victoria:

    I think you are missing the point. 59 Scots MPs can easily turn an English majority, say against the imposition of tuition fees, into a majority in favour of them, and there is nothing that the majority of the people of England can then do to prevent the minority of English people getting their way.

    This problem will become really come to a head when we have, say, a Labour majority elected to Westminster from across the whole UK, but a Conservative majority in England. This will occur one day, as they tend to be the natural governing party of England, while Labour tend to be the natural governing party of both Wales and Scotland.

    In those circumstances, a Labour UK Prime Minister will be leading a Government passing laws affecting only England, using the votes of MPs from another nation to get its programme of legislation through. That is not only clearly undemocratic, but will ultimately breed resentment of the Union in England.

    In fact this is already growing, over issues such as tuition fees.

    The fact that as well as being UK Prime Minister for cross-UK legislation, Gordon Brown acts as DE FACTO First Minister for England, even though he is elected in Scotland (and even though that post does not yet officially exist) on England-only matters. For this type of legislation he has no more democratic legitimacy in the role than an MP elected in the Republic of Ireland or in the Netherlands would have. That is also untenable in the long term.

    My view remains that the ONLY way to save the Union is to have a proper parliament for England, with similar powers to Holyrood, an English-elected First Minister and a proper federal Constitution.

    The other option is independence, at least for Scotland. Czechoslovakia managed a peaceful de-merger a few years ago into its two constituent nations and so can we. None of the problems you list are insurmountable, and, as for Trident, the easiest solution is for a 25 year lease from the Scottish Goverment to the English/Welsh/NI Government to allow it to remain. I believe something similar was negotiated with the Irish on their independence for naval bases.

    Passports, tax collection, DVLC etc could be split after a transitional period and some bodies could still work as one under contract.

    The EU guarantees free movement of people, capital, goods and most services, so commercial life would continue much as before. The SNP have already said that they would keep the Queen as Head of State. With a Schengen style arrangement (as exists already between Northern Ireland and the Republic) no passport controls on the border with Scotland would be necessary either.

    A continuation of the Union in its current form is just causing a break down in the relationship between the constituent countries of the UK which will lead to a very acrimonious divorce eventually.

  • Comment number 94.

    93 #

    Good lord the only person I know of that could have pefomed a fete like that was the late Houdini

    I think I need to hear an explanation in greater detail and depth to accept that explanation at face value. It ceratinly taked some swallowing to say the least.
    Please explain.

  • Comment number 95.

    #44 banburyg:

    And how many of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's several thousand civil servants are based in Scotland?

  • Comment number 96.


    "My view remains that the ONLY way to save the Union is to have a proper parliament for England, with similar powers to Holyrood, an English-elected First Minister and a proper federal Constitution."

    Will the people of England accept a Federal option?

    The Scottish Nationalists would never agree on a Federal option unless the option includes our right to raise, set and spend our own tax revenues.

    The Scottish Nationalists would also expect that each of the four countries within the United Kingdom(s)?? to be represented equally. Would you agree that England, allthough has over 85% of the population, is to have the same number of representatives for dicussions with the rest of the United Kingdom(s)?

  • Comment number 97.

    My opinion is when the government wishes to bring legislation in via green paper.
    It should consult a committee of their peers to find what the English would find acceptable.

    I hardly think it is worth setting up a Parliament just because of University fees or Prescription charges.
    We have enough tiers of government already, without adding any more.
    A much simpler solution is require and nothing beats concensus of opinion.

  • Comment number 98.


    #93 gave a reasonable response.

    I would just add that the Armed Forces, would, as is very slowly starting to happen, eventually be subsumed into an EU military force.

    Finally, there is a common misconception that if we English have an English Parliament, then this adds yet another layer of bureaucracy.

    Not so!

    When we have a situation where there is are English and Scottish Parliaments and the Welsh Assembly, then the 'British' layer becomes redundant and can be dispensed with.

    The EU can, and rightly should, take up the vacant British seat at the G8 and UN Security Council.

  • Comment number 99.


    You have touched on one single part of what I asked. You still have not given me a credible answer how so few Scots MP's can overturn the majority of English MP's and until you do I still do not find it possible.

    Why would you wish to dispense with the Westminster set up?

    After all it is known throught the world as the "Mother of all Parliaments"

    And the envy of all.

  • Comment number 100.


    Ultimately, it is up to the Scottish people themselves to decide how they wish to live, politically speaking.

    Nobody else.

    I believe that in 2010, the Scottish people will vote for full independence in the referendum promised by the SNP.

    I do not wish to be pedantic but I understand that the Manx Parliament pre-dates Westminster.

    Furthermore, if you read Jonathon Freedland's excellent book 'Bring Home the Revolution' you will come to understand, as I did, that the Westminster Parliament is an utter disgrace, degraded even more since the book was published, by Blair's 'reforms' to the HoL.

    We have very little to proud of in that department, I am sorry to say.

    Once we English get our England back, politically speaking, we can then sort it out.

    Roll on 2010.


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