Goldie vows to tackle the UK's democratic imbalance

ANNABEL Goldie, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, warned her party yesterday that the Union would be in jeopardy if the democratic imbalance created by devolution was not addressed soon.

Miss Goldie told representatives at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool that the "mutual respect" between the different parts of the United Kingdom was being eroded by the ability of Scottish and Welsh MPs to decide English domestic matters, while MPs from England had no say over domestic affairs in those other two countries.

The Conservative answer to this so-called "West Lothian Question" is due to be unveiled at the conference tomorrow and the party is expected to back plans to prevent Scottish MPs from voting on English domestic affairs at Westminster.

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The Scottish Tory leader said it was wrong for Scottish MPs to have a say on English domestic matters when English MPs had no say on Scottish domestic issues.

She added: "I think that's provocative, I think it's de-stabilising and it has to be addressed because, if it's not addressed, I think that will fester, I fear that will eat away and corrode the very basis of the mutual respect and the sense of an aggregate benefit which we all feel being part of the United Kingdom."

Miss Goldie also admitted that the Scottish Tories had only selected about five of its 59 candidates for Westminster seats, but she denied there would be a crisis if Gordon Brown called an early election: "We will accelerate this process if we have an early election."