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William Davie

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Maybe It's Time We Just Went Federal

Posted: 15/07/2013 00:00

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It's not often that a sitting government's attempt to massively change the way the UK's political system works just passes everybody by without so much as ruffling a few feathers, especially when it's a change that will only benefit the party proposing it.

This week the Coalition introduced a proposal designed to solve once and for all the curious issue of the West Lothian Question - that strange quirk of British politics that allows Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs to vote on issues that only concern England whereas English MPs cannot vote on issues that only concern Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Coalition's solution? Ban Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs from voting on issues on English bills. Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs, otherwise known as half the parliamentary Labour Party.

Now I'm not saying that the West Lothian Question doesn't need solving - though we have managed to get along without solving it for a very long time - but this isn't so much a solution as a partisan attempt by the Conservative party to behead the Labour party and prevent it from being able to form an effective government ever again. Under this bill, a Scottish Labour Prime Minister would have been unable to vote on half the legislation of his own government, as would half his party, basically rendering his government powerless. You can see who this benefits can't you?

If the Conservatives are serious about dealing with the problem of the West Lothian Question, then there is a solution that would not only solve it, but benefit them in perpetuity. Set up a devolved English Parliament. This is an idea that has been floated before, but dismissed on the grounds that we have already have a parliament at Westminster and have no need for two. But the success of the devolved parliament in Scotland and the devolved assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland have proved that individual national assemblies or parliaments can work within the wider Westminster framework.

In fact, I would go one step further and suggest that we need to follow Germany's example. Maybe the time has come for the United Kingdom to become the Federated Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Germany, much like the US, is made up of sixteen federal states, each with their own leader and their government, overseen by the Federal Government in Berlin. Maybe this is what we should do. Strip Westminster of everything bar foreign policy, tax raising powers and the ability to create legislative guidelines for the federal assemblies to operate. Everything else relating to the day to day running of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would be handed over to the federal assemblies.

This would solve the West Lothian Question once and for all, and would also serve to pull the need for independence out from under Scotland's feet. If they already have all the powers they need to run themselves, why become an independent country? It would also potentially allow us to reduce the number of MPs sent to Westminster; though that is something we'd have to look at in more detail.

Westminster would never go for it, being overly keen on keeping as much power for itself as possible. But in the face of an overtly partisan attempt by the Tories to keep themselves in power, maybe this is an idea that needs to be seriously considered.

 

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