(c) Daily Record
I hadn’t expected the promises made by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to amount to the proverbial hill of beans. I’m talking, of course, about the promises of new powers being devolved to Scotland in the event of a ‘no’ vote in the Scottish-independence referendum on September 18th; which the three Unionist party leaders made a few days before the referendum in a fit of panic when opinion polls suggested the ‘yes’ vote was nudging past the ‘no’ one. What does surprise me is the speed with which, after the referendum returned a result of 45% in favour of independence and 55% against it, the promises of the Three Stooges, or the Three Unwise Men, or whatever you want to call them, have started to be reneged on.
(One reason for not believing any of this – which the Labour-supporting Scottish tabloid the Daily Record rather desperately splashed on its front page as THE VOW – was the involvement of Nick Clegg. Anyone who, over the past few years, has followed the behaviour of the Liberal Party leader / facilitator-of-the-current-Conservative-government-in-London will know that any pledge with his signature on it is not worth the paper it’s written upon. Check the following link for details:
However, barely had the last vote been counted in the referendum and it became clear that the United Kingdom was safe for a little while longer, David Cameron announced that any new powers for Scotland would have to be linked to some new powers for England: namely, an end to the anomaly whereby Scottish MPs are able to vote in the House of Commons on matters pertaining only to England, while English MPs are unable to vote on ones pertaining to Scotland – because most of those decisions are now made 400 miles north in the devolved Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.
Ed Miliband must’ve popped a few blood vessels when he heard Cameron come out with that. If Labour win the 2015 general election, it may well be by only a slim majority, leaving Ed dependent on the 40-odd Labour MPs that are usually returned by Scotland to get his legislation passed in the House of Commons. If those MPs are barred from voting on English matters, Ed could be in the embarrassing position of being a British Prime Minister who’s unable to legislate for 85% of the British population – i.e. the English. (He won’t be able to legislate for Scotland either, because its parliament is currently in the hands of the Scottish National Party and will be at least until 2016.)
Now it looks like those promises are likely to disappear down a hole while the Westminster-based representatives of the Conservative and Labour Parties engage in a kerfuffle about who said what and who promised what. It certainly wasn’t the case – as stated clearly in THE VOW on the Daily Record’s front page – that the Scottish parliament would be “strengthened with extensive new powers, on a timetable beginning September 19th.” The 19th had come and gone and all we’ve seen is Tory-Labour squabbling. Hardly seemly for two parties who, until a few days ago, were assuring us that we were all ‘better together’.
Actually, I expect the issue will finally be kicked into the long grass and forgotten about while the Westminster political and media establishments find other, more reassuringly-familiar things to obsess about, like the upcoming Clacton by-election and the possibility of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) winning its first seat in the House of Commons, and then next year’s general election.
By the way, I can understand English people’s annoyance at the current conundrum. If I were English, I’d be pissed off that Scottish MPs can enjoy a say over my country’s affairs, when my own MPs have no say over theirs. This is the old ‘West Lothian Question’, which was first raised in 1977 by the distinguished Labour Party politician Tam Dalyell and which seems more pertinent than ever today. Old Tam is not just a rare example of a fine Labour mind, he’s also an even rarer example of a fine Scottish Labour mind. Just yesterday, Tam told the BBC’s Kirsty Wark: “I think it would be wrong in principle for a Labour government to impose – because that’s the correct word – legislation in England using a Scottish majority, where those Scottish MPs had absolutely no say in their own place… I think he’s (Miliband’s) got to face up to it that it is deeply wrong to try to pretend that Scottish MPs should vote decisively on English affairs.”
However, the fact remains that Cameron, Miliband and Clegg promised the Scots those powers at a time when there seemed a possibility of the ‘yes’ side winning narrowly. It didn’t in the end, but it would’ve done with a six-percent swing of the vote. Now I’m sure that among the 55% of Scottish voters who ultimately voted ‘no’, there were a lot, probably a majority, who felt British, wanted to stay in the United Kingdom, hated the concept of Scotland becoming independent, didn’t care about extra powers being handed over to Edinburgh and maybe didn’t want a parliament, even a devolved one, in Edinburgh in the first place. But I’m also sure there were a number of folk swithering between voting ‘yes’ and voting ‘no’, who were ultimately swayed to the ‘no’ side by THE VOW. As many as six percent? Quite possibly. Which makes the prevarications happening now in Westminster deeply wrong from a Scottish point of view.
Mind you, a lot of people voted ‘yes’ precisely because they regarded the political hacks of Westminster as a shower of corrupt, untrustworthy sleazebags whom Scotland was better off shot of. What has happened since September 18th has probably not done anything to change that opinion.