Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The time has come...

"'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.'"


Through The Looking-glass—Lewis Carroll

It is also time to talk about the West Lothian question, as a number of news stories have come together to precipitate a post that I have been mulling over for some days. from Wikipedia:
The question is twofold:
  • How can it be right that MPs elected to Westminster from Scottish constituencies have no ability to affect the issues of their constituents which have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and

  • If power over Scottish affairs is devolved to a Scottish Parliament, how can it be right that MPs representing Scottish constituencies in the Parliament of the United Kingdom will have the power to vote on issues affecting England (including those that don't affect Scotland), but English MPs will not have the power to vote on Scottish issues?

This affair has been debated ever since the devolution of Scotland and is becoming ever more pertinent with the looming prospect of a Scottish MP becoming Prime Minister. Now, a Commons select Committee has weighed into the debate. [Emphasis mine—DK]
Growing anger in England over the power that Scottish MPs wield at Westminster could destroy the 1998 devolution settlement, a powerful Commons committee said yesterday.

The report by the Labour-dominated Scottish affairs committee makes grim reading for Gordon Brown by highlighting how a majority of people in the United Kingdom now oppose a Scot becoming prime minister.

The MPs say that the West Lothian Question - the anomaly giving Scottish MPs a say over English laws but English MPs no similar rights where power has been devolved - is a time bomb that urgently needs to be defused. "It is a matter of concern to us that English discontent is becoming apparent," they said.

They are quite correct; otherwise, why would organisations such as The Campaign For An English Parliament and blogrings such as the Witanegamot Club exist? The select committee proposes four solutions.
The committee appeared to accept that a reduction of the power of Scottish MPs was the only way to go, noting four possible solutions:
  1. dissolution of the United Kingdom;

  2. English devolution;

  3. fewer Scottish MPs;

  4. only English votes on English laws.

It did not express a preference.

I, however, do have a preference, and it is none of the the above (although it is close to the first): make Scotland independent. Let me outline my reasons.
  1. This would instantly solve the West Lothian with no fudges and no voluntary codes to be broken: there would be no Scottish MPs in the House of Commons. Labour would lose its majority but, frankly, tough shit.

  2. The Scots hate the English and so, presumably, do not wish to be part of the union. Fine, fuck them. Let's get these whinging bastards off our backs.

  3. As I amply demonstrated in this post, Scotland is a drain on the economy.

  4. I want to see the look of joy on the faces of the Scots when they realise that they have got "their" oil back, and then the look of disappointment and, eventually, despair as they realise that a good part of it is not actually theirs anyway.
    Among other things the draft opinion took the view that the boundary between "English" and "Scottish" energy reserves would follow the slope of the England/Scotland land border into the North Sea. If you look at a map you will see that the land border is steeply sloped upwards from West to East. Anything South of that extended border "belongs" to England, everything North "belongs" to Scotland. Unfortunately for Scotland a significant part "Scotland's oil" lies south of that notional border.

    Now, that would make me laugh for fucking days.

  5. It would be even funnier watching the Scots trying to stick to their "no tuition and free health care for the elderly" (which they cannot afford even now) without the money that comes from England.

  6. If we kept an open border, then the talented Scots would—as always—move somewhere that is not a total basketcase country. (At this fucking rate, so would anyone who likes a good drink.)

  7. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Don't get me wrong, I am not happy about this decision: I have always been in favour of the union; I think that all of the four countries have benefited from it.

Unfortunately, the Scots seemed to have followed the Braveheart myth, and forgotten that they joined they signed the Act of Union because the country was bankrupt (the main contributing factor being the disastrous Darien Scheme, which cost one third of the total wealth of Scotland).

There is nothing in the political make-up of Scotland that suggests that the Scottish Executive will not continue to pursue the illiberal policies which are utterly screwing its economy; it will continue its profligate public spending (which is now 54% of the economy) and its miliking and screwing of private businesses. The last few multinationals will follow Motorola's lead and leave.

And what will Scotland be left with? Precious little.

Oil is not a sustainable revenue source: it is becoming harder and more expensive to extract. And, besides, if we are looking for a more sustainable way of life and alternative power sources, it will become an even more uncertain revenue source. If the refineries in Aberdeen close down, then what?

Actually, of course, Scotland does have the potential to become a big energy provider but, unfortunately, the government is putting all of its time, money and resources into the useless and ugly wind turbines rather than useful schemes such as LIMPET. And as yet more of the landscape becomes covered in turbines, Scotland's main revenue stream—tourism—will be hit.

The prognosis is not good.

Of course, I would imagine that the Scottish leaders who still harbour dreams of independence hope that they will be able to do what Eire did: lower business taxes massively and see commensurate economic growth, hugely predicated on foreign investment. They will not, of course, be able to afford to do this unless they get money from somewhere to prop them up in the meantime; Eire got their money in the form of massive grants from the EU, and that is what Scotland is hoping for.

This will not happen. With the accession of the Eastern European countries to the EU, the vast majority of money is being diverted towards the former Soviet bloc. There will be no money in the pot for Scotland and, if they think that they have little influence in the EU now, wait until they are the lone voice of a pissy little basketcase country way up north.

You see, in the end, and it may take a while, the Scots will swallow their pride and beg to sign another Act of Union. And England will deliberate long and hard over it and wring concession after concession from the Scots. But it will make me laugh.

Don't get me wrong, I love Scotland and, generally, I like the Scots. What I dislike is that I, who had always called myself British, have had the indentity "English" forced upon me by pusillanimous, parochial bigots who hear only an accent. So fuck them.

I never thought that I would agree with that horrible fish-faced back-stabber Portillo, but I am afraid that this article had me nodding my head in agreement.
THE English have no more need of Scotland or its oil wealth, and should stop letting Scotland "extort" money, says a leading Conservative [Portillo].
...

Tory interests would be better served by splitting England from Scotland, now that Britain is growing more strongly than its large continental rivals, he argued.

"The loss of one-twelfth of our population in a region that drags down our national performance could not harm us. Our hydrocarbons are less of an issue now that they are being exhausted." He added it would be good for Scotland to be separate. "It is a pensioner economy existing on English handouts and consequently its politicians implement centralising policies of a kind abandoned in the former Soviet satellite states," he wrote.
...

Alex Salmond gave a caustic welcome to Mr Portillo's comments, saying "even the most unlikely convert to the cause of independence has to be welcomed, even if it is a rather extreme reaction to Gordon Brown's support for the England football team".

The SNP leader added: "His conclusion that Scotland would benefit from independence is undeniably correct."

Yes, Alex, but I don't think that he means it in the way that you do. In any case, it is time to take the bull by the horns and cut Scotland loose, to sink or swim on its own economic performance rather than bleeding England dry.*

Besides, it's turning into a shit place to live and I intend to get the fuck out as soon as I can...


* I have not included Wales or Northern Ireland in this drive for independence. Primarily because I don't really know enough about them, but I have also not seen so much desire for autonomy. Both know that they are dependent on English money. The Scots won't realise until they are forced to come crawling back, cap in hand.

Of course, it may be that the Scots will, in fact, do well on their own; but it will not be under this type of administration and it won't be by following current policies.

4 comments:

Bill said...

As a Briton (who happens to be Scottish) I share your views as expressed here almost 100 per cent.

One curious thing though - this is almost the first post I have seen in your blog where there does not seem to be even one expletive. What's going on? ;)

PS/ Like you I plan to relocate my UK residence in the next year or so, in my case to the south coast of England - largely to be closer to mainland Europe and to escape the worst of northern Scottish winters, although I don't plan to spend a winter in any part of the UK ever again starting this year. I must admit though that in recent times I have added into this desire to move the subsidiary motive of moving to a place at least potentially not totally dominated by the kind of socialist politics abandoned in most of the rest of the world - except in Scotland and a few other sad holdouts.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Bill,

Nice to know that you feel pretty much the same way. I think that there were so few expletives because I didn't particularly enjoy writing the above: it is just how things are.

But, for the record, the scores are:

"shit" -- 2
"fuck" -- 5
"bastard" -- 1

... but not a "cunt" in sight...

DK

IanLondon said...

We probably need a better map of that "notional border", extending the line out to sea and showing the location of rigs.

Here's a good one, with the border on it too.

http://www.schoolscience.co.uk/content/4/chemistry/petroleum/knowl/4/2index.htm?field.html

Dr Dan H. said...

The first thing that needs doing really is to ditch the Barnett Equation. Cease bankrolling the Scots, the Welsh and Northern Irish, and allow the populations the chance to find out for themselves what an utter bollocks their leaders have made of running their areas. Let the devolved governments try tax raising off their own populations and see what this actually does.

This should have a fairly salutory effect on those two regions, with a somewhat less marked but notably more vocal response from Wales. It should also bring home to everyone what a corrosive effect high taxation has on an economy.

It will also be a very useful softener-up for the next step.

Elect all MPs for all parliaments as normal, but put Scottish only MPs in the Scots parliament, Welsh ones in the Welsh Parliament, and English ones in the main parliament which will become both the English Parliament AND the British one.

When you want regional votes, each parliament votes on its own.

When you want a National vote, ALL MPs vote in the debate, which would probably be conducted via tele-presence, with Scots MPs in their parliament building in Scotland, Welshies in theirs, and the Northern Irish calling in from Stormont. This would be cheaper than shuttling the buggers around the country for each vote, and likely safer for MPs, too.

This also has the great advantage that it drastically cuts the total number of politicians and support staff, and devolves a fair number of this lot out of the expense of London.

It is cheap, effective, and as minimal a scheme as possible.