Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Daniel Hannan on the West Lothian Question

Daniel Hannan's blog post today led me to an old article of his, which is well worth reading:

I have found it: the philosopher's stone of politics, the elixir of life. There really is an answer to the West Lothian Question. Twenty nine years have passed since Tam Dalyell, the stony Old Etonian who then sat for West Lothian, set the conundrum before Parliament. Scottish devolution, he observed, would lead to a constitutional anomaly, as Westminster MPs with Scottish seats would be able to vote on matters affecting English constituencies, but would have no say over such matters in their own constituencies.

Today, the problem is no longer academic. On two occasions -- over foundation hospitals and again over tuition fees -- the votes of Scottish MPs secured the passage of contentious legislation that did not apply north of the border. And the signs are that the English are becoming miffed. An opinion poll in The Daily Telegraph showed that nearly half of English voters object to the idea of a Scottish Prime Minister -- a finding that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

What, then, is the answer? The only two solutions so far hazarded - a separate English parliament or a wholly independent Scotland - have understandably failed to win widespread support. But there is a third option: localism.

There is no power exercised by the Holyrood legislature under the 1998 Scotland Act that could not, in England, be devolved to a lower level -- either to counties and cities or, better still, to individual citizens.

I recommend the whole article.

As I wrote over at Tim Worstall's blog,

I think the main objection to localism is that councils tend to be even more incompetent than the jokers in Westminster.

I imagine there are two answers to this:

1) As much power as possible would be pushed *below* the level of the county/city councils, ideally to individuals

2) The transfer of power from Westminster to the cities/councils would cause us to choose our representatives in local government more carefully.

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