Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis (Letters, 25 September) offers a partial solution to the confusions surrounding the West Lothian Question, with his proposal that the present House of Commons should revert back to its original role as the Parliament of England. But that only clears up part of the confusion.
The British state needs its own capital city with its own distinct parliament, nearer to the centre of the country, possibly in Manchester or York, for instance.
London is naturally England’s capital city, but it has become far too large and expensive a capital for the new, medium-sized, democratic Northern European country which is at last evolving from the extravagances of the British Empire’s imperial past.
At the same time, the financial and other confusions created by London’s dual role as capital of England and also capital of Britain have dogged relationships on these islands for the past 300 years. Longer even than the West Lothian Question. I suspect that if there is indeed going to be a workable solution, the basis of it will have to come out of Scotland, but whether England wants a solution hard enough to embrace any kind of change is another question.
The two contributors who offered their words of wisdom on the West Lothian Question (Letters, 25 September) did not provide answers to the question.
The proposition is that Westminster MPs for Scottish constituencies should not vote on English matters. Paradoxically, both mentioned tuition fees without getting to the root of the problem.
When the Labour government could not summon sufficient support from their English MPS on top-up fees, they brigaded the Scottish Labour MPs through the lobby to pass the legislation.
The significance of that can be demonstrated by assuming they needed £100 million more to spend on education. If they had found that from tax-borne resources, the Barnett formula would have applied and we would have received our 10 per cent population share.
However, the vote was about fees, which are charges, and therefore outwith the scope of Barnett, so these Scottish Labour MPs, in their ignorance of the consequences, deprived Holyrood of its £10m of funding.
The principle has a direct correlation with the NHS. Alex Salmond claimed, rightly, that we would be susceptible to privatisation measures introduced in England. If the charging example were replicated in the English NHS, for example, with a fee to see a doctor, again we would not receive the £10m that would have come had taxation been involved.
Regarding the practice of the Scottish Government buying services from the private sector, using tax-borne resources to pay for it, Labour incandescence is misplaced. They might as well claim that the supply of food for patients bought from the private sector is privatisation.
Surely they can’t be so determined to score political points, no matter how bogus, for the sole purpose of targeting Alex Salmond!
Douglas R Mayer
That Scottish MPs should no longer vote on English matters offers a reasonable solution to the West Lothian Question, but in the event of further devolution, would threaten to leave Scottish MPs embarrassingly underemployed.
There is a simple and cost-effective solution: we should combine the role of MP and MSP, with the business of the parliaments being appropriately divided to facilitate this.
No longer would we have a “Westminster establishment” remote in its deliberations from the bread and butter concerns of the Scottish Parliament. No longer would there be a dilution of political talent, which is an inevitable consequence of politicians being divided between the two parliaments.
The revising chamber, whether elected or nominated, might be devolved in a similar manner.
When one compares the number of MSPs with the number of Scottish MPs attending Westminster, Holyrood seems overpopulated, with similar arithmetic pertaining in the other devolved assemblies.
The reduction in elected members that such a formulation would produce is therefore unlikely to be popular with politicians in those nations which currently have devolved parliaments, whatever party they represent or chamber they sit in.
The electorate, however, may more easily be persuaded that this could be made to work.