Scotland’s referendum on Thursday saw Scots reject independence, 55% to 45%. The process of new powers going the Edinburgh is getting underway. In addition to welcoming Scotland’s decision to remain in the union David Cameron also called for measures to restrict Scottish MPs voting on English only issues.
Ed Miliband has refused to say he will support this as it would ‘create two classes of MP’. But the real reason is that a future Labour led government would get a huge chunk of its support from Scottish MPs. Scotland is dominated by Miliband’s party in Westminster, whilst the Conservatives only have one MP.
Meanwhile, Nigel Farage is right. With news that Scotland voted against independence, he tweeted: ‘England needs a voice!’ He later called for Scottish MPs not to vote on English only affairs and soon went out to post letters asking them to commit to this. Full disclosure here: I am a Scot and not a big fan of UKIP, but on this particular issue, Nigel Farage is right.
He has also attacked Ed Miliband, tweeting: ‘If @Ed_Miliband really backs fair devolution for all, will he tell the 41 Scottish Labour MPs to abstain on English only matters.’ He also said: ‘@Ed_Miliband hints at regional devolution but he offers no clear policy. The North East rejected this idea by 77.9% only 10 years ago.’
England does need a voice. We need a fully fledged federal UK with Westminster dealing with defence, foreign affairs pensions and other collective issues.
It is only fair that non-English MPs should be excluded from issues that will not affect their constituents.
David Cameron and Nigel Farage’s solutions of stopping non-English MPs from voting on English only matters is a temporary solution to the problem. Nonetheless, it is a first step.
The argument that this arrangement would create two classes of MPs does however start to become a nuisance. It would also cause problems for a UK government that could not get bills passed in England.
There is however a solution. As said before, we need a federal system, something the Liberal Democrats have supported for years. But what should happen with England? Do we go down the route of having an English Parliament or have regional parliaments? And what about London? A fairly noticeable set of powers has already been handed to the UK’s capital. Chuka Umunna has already highlighted, at the Labour conference, that as a London MP he cannot vote on transport issues in London as that is devolved to the London Assembly, but he can vote on transport issues for the rest of the UK. Would this be counted as a regional parliament, separate from any English Parliament?
Scotland is having its time. More powers are guaranteed in the Scotland Act (2012) in 2016, and more are being currently arranged.
The issue of English devolution has been hidden for far too long.
There needs to be a national conversation about England’s devolution future. Nigel Farage agrees, tweeting: ‘We need a full, proper national debate about the democratic future of England #indyref’.
The Liberal Democrats support a federal Britain. Labour and the Conservatives support further devolution. And now UKIP are weighing in on the debate.
The English Conversation must begin now.