January 31, 2007


Scots Guard: How Anti-Scottish sentiment will crush Britain's Labour Party. (Alex Massie, 01.31.07, New Republic)

Like Bute before him, Brown has found himself subject to trial by tabloid in London. And he, too, is being found wanting.

The current tensions have arisen as a result of a Labour government's decision to establish a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh in 1999. This was, as John Smith, Blair's predecessor as Labour leader and another Scot, put it "the settled will of the Scottish people." Unfortunately, no one thought to ask the English what they thought of this disruption to what they had assumed was a great and happy Union. Since devolution, the English have come to suspect they have received the leaner half of the bargain first made in 1707 when the Scots and English parliaments first agreed to unite. And, now that Brown is on the point of succeeding Blair, the English are revolting.

The 59 Scottish MPs who remain at Westminster may (and do) vote on laws affecting England but not Scotland, while English MPs have no reciprocal right to legislate or vote on matters reserved to the new parliament in Edinburgh. Worse, the English look north and see a Scottish parliament that lavishes baubles--such as free university tuition and health care for the elderly--upon Scots that are unavailable in England. Annual identifiable government spending remains approximately $3,000 per capita higher in Scotland than England, providing grounds for English grousing that the Scots are little more than subsidy junkies. And English discontent is granted righteousness when Blair's government relies upon the votes of Scottish Labour MPs to provide its majority for increasing college tuition fees in England.

So these are chilly times for Scots at Westminster. A cry of "English votes for English laws" can be heard whenever the English stir themselves to contemplate the Union. According to a poll for the BBC's "Newsnight" program, 61 percent of them now favor an English Parliament. The programs' host, Jeremy Paxman, has complained that the English are compelled to suffer under a "Scottish Raj." It is time, The Daily Telegraph's Simon Heffer wrote recently, for "English independence from Scotland."

No representation without legislation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 31, 2007 11:49 AM

I have a bunch of distant cousins in Scotland, and they're all sepratists. Nearly got killed once when I referred to the UK as "you guys"--"No, laddie, bite yer tongue, ye've insulted us gravely! We're no' English, we're Scots!"

Posted by: Mike Morley at January 31, 2007 3:41 PM

The true nature of British politics is revealed by the fact that it doesn't much matter what opinions those English people registered in the polls.

Posted by: ZF at January 31, 2007 3:57 PM