The Restless English
We are picking up quite a lot of material now about the restlessness
of English people with the present constitutional arragements, now
that the Scots are quite clearly fed up with them. This is
particularly true in East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) and the Home
Counties, the heartlands of English England. The early answer to
English concerns, real and imagined, regarding the Barnett formula is
a negotiated deal between Holyrood and Westminster on North Sea Oil
revenues. If Scottish ministers have to go into negotiations on this
in the early future they must remember the political slogan which Jim
Mather MSP, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism who is just
back from an official Canadian visit, tells us is dominating politics
in Alberta. It is 'Albertan oil for the Albertans'. The Albertan
government has just sent out a cheque for $400 to every man, woman and
child in the province. 90% of oil revenues go to Alberta. We demand no
less. Mediawatch would very much like a large and extremely polite
number of responses to this as Graham Dines has invited reponses. He
is at; email@example.com
East Anglian Daily Times
Time for English solution to devolution
31 October 2007 | 09:03
Labour claims Tory plans to solve the West Lothian question could
result in the break up of the United Kingdom. But Political Editor
Graham Dines argues it is no longer defensible for the dice to be
loaded against England.
WHEN Scotland was granted devolution to look after domestic policy and
services north of the border, nobody asked the English if they agreed.
Edinburgh gained its own parliament, and Cardiff and Belfast were also
given devolved powers. Labour's solution for England was the
cack-handed establishment of regional assemblies looking after some
aspects of decision making, but with nothing like the spending powers
enjoyed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
After the plans for England collapsed after rejected in a referendum
in the North East, the Government abandoned the project, leaving
London with its elected mayor and assembly - which have powers over
the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London - as the only
devolved authority in England.
But now the near simultaneous arrival of a Scottish Prime Minister in
No 10 and a Scottish Nationalist administration in Edinburgh has lit a
fuse under the constitutional bonfire that has been quietly
smouldering away since devolution.
English MPs - and by no means are all of them Conservative - have
finally twigged to the gross unfairness to England of devolution.
The conundrum at the heart of the matter - why Scottish MPs can vote
on English matters while English MPs cannot vote on Scottish matters -
has long been known as the West Lothian Question after the
constituency of Tam Dalyell, the MP who had the foresight to recognise
that a problem was looming.
Since Labour swept to power in 1997, the Cabinet has included Scottish
MPs heading Government departments whose writ does not operate in
Scotland. Dr John Reid, the MP for Airdrie and Shotts in Lanarkshire,
was given control over the NHS in England, comfortable in the
knowledge that no matter how unpopular his decisions were, there would
be no political backlash from his own voters.
To make matters worse, England's taxpayers are funding free personal
care for the elderly, free university education, and free bus
transport for pensioners - and soon Scotland will have free
prescription charges - while Scottish MPs vote to deny the same rights
to England that are enjoyed by their own constituents.
Under an arcane measure known as the Barnet formula which was
introduced by James Callaghan's government in the 1970s, Scotland
enjoys an imbalance of public spending per capita compared with
It was Tory Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West, who last
week brought matters to a head.
“Why,” he asked in the Commons, “should my constituents pay more tax
so that the Prime Minister's constituents pay no prescription
A totally fair point, but one which Gordon Brown - who needs the votes
of Labour's Scottish MPs to push legislation on England through the
Commons - cannot, or more likely, will not see. He blustered and as so
often when he replies, tries to spread the blame across all political
“The Welsh Assembly made a decision on prescription charges, and the
Scottish Parliament made a decision. They make decisions within their
own budgets, and their budgets are allocated under a formula agreed by
both parties in this House over the past 30 years,” said the Prime
“No more money goes to Scotland or Wales as a result of their
decisions on prescriptions. That is the Barnett formula that has been
agreed by all parties over the years. If the Conservative Party wishes
to change its policy it should tell us now, but its policy throughout
has been to support this funding formula.”
Labour then ratcheted up its attack on the Tories after senior
backbencher Sir Malcolm Rifkind - who sat for Edinburgh Pentlands
until the Conservatives were all but vanquished in Scotland - unveiled
proposals to strip Scottish MPs of the right to vote on English
matters at Westminster.
Under the Tory proposals, a new English Grand Committee - open only to
English MPs - would be established to deal with legislation, such as
schools, roads and hospitals, relating solely to England. The Speaker
would determine if proposed Bills came under the category “England
MPs from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would continue
to sit together in the Commons to vote on UK wide matters such as
foreign policy, defence, social security, pensions, taxation, revenue,
customs, excise and border controls.
Tory Party chairman Caroline Spelman argues: “Having English MPs
voting on laws that only pertain in England would address that sense
of unfairness that English MPs had when the Labour Government only got
its way on tuition fees and foundation hospitals because Scottish MPs
were able to vote on that, even though those laws would not apply in
But to Labour, the Conservatives' proposals would break-up the United
Kingdom. Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said it was “recognition by
the Conservatives that they are effectively now an English party. I
don't think they see any prospect of building back their base in
Ms Kelly should think twice about being so cavalier. Her majority in
Bolton West is a mere 2,064. It won't take many Lancastrians to be
upset at funding free prescriptions in Scotland to see her turfed out
at the next election.
I'm not a Little Englander. I regard myself as British, ahead of being
English. (The Scots will say they are Scottish first - evidence for
this are the Ecosse car stickers alongside the Saltire on cars rather
than GB recognition plates - and then grudgingly admit they're
It would be a tragedy if the union broke up. We are better united than
divided into a collection of small nations, which has happened
following the collapse of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and
The Tory plans are not perfect. For instance, if a Prime Minister is a
Scottish MP, it is a nonsense that he should be prevented from voting
on his own Government's legislation if it affects only England.
But it is quite clear that the financial chicanery and democratic
deficit facing England is no longer sustainable.
And Quisling Scots
As predicted in Mediawatch yesterday, The Herald phoney poll has been
picked up by the broadcast and print media. This is of course what was
always intended by Fraser and McGhee in order to dampen the
consequences of Conference. In a letter to The Herald Dave Hill makes
it very clear that this so -called poll is cauld kail rehet.This has
all the marks of course of Broon and although he is on the ropes just
now he is still a master media manipulator.As far as every foot
soldier and phone soldier in the SNP is concerned, for McGhee and
Fraser there is a large 'unwelcome' sign on their door.
While Labour howls, the union is busy disintegrating
As globalisation weakens national governments, the break-up of
Britain's homogenised state becomes inevitable
Wednesday October 31, 2007
I cannot understand why any hint of Scots independence reduces the
British establishment to apoplexy. Save the union, cried Margaret
Thatcher and John Major, even as they did their best to undermine it.
Save the union, cried Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as if population
size were a matter of virility. Save the union, cries the London
commentariat, to show its contempt for woad-wearing northerners.
These people have
lately had trouble explaining away Alex Salmond. Since the advent of
his nationalist government in Edinburgh in May he has enjoyed a
honeymoon worthy of Hello! magazine. He is undeniably popular (helping
postpone Gordon Brown's general election) and is therefore dismissed
as a cheeky smile, a wolf in Celt's clothing, a one-man hidden agenda
and a leech on the bum of the English taxpayer. His giveaway promises
have sacrificed Scotland's reputation for prudence and his bid to grab
"Scotland's oil" is nothing but rabble-rousing.
Such truth as may lie in such abuse cannot explain the sea change the
visitor to Scotland has detected over the six years since devolution
and especially since Salmond's apotheosis. He is the first front-rank
Scottish politician who has not emigrated to the bright lights of
London, or at least who has returned not just as a colonial governor.
He embodies Scotland as his Labour predecessors never did.
Today Edinburgh and Glasgow are emphatically no longer "English"
places. As my colleague, Julian Glover, noted on this page yesterday,
newspapers, broadcasts and public debates are Scottish, as are books,
exhibitions, design and architecture. Scottish conversation with the
English is not a long whinge, as once it was. It has confidence. This
year's Edinburgh festival seemed for the first time to be in a country
called Scotland, not in a part of Britain.
Though the powers of the Scottish parliament are limited and its
economic management dependent on London, the very existence of a
parliament has drained accountability from the House of Commons to
Holyrood. Its eccentric home, as it acquires power, even seems to
acquire architectural stature.
What is happening in Scotland is what has been happening throughout
Europe. As globalisation makes national government ever less potent,
sub-national government becomes stronger and more valued. Old
arguments about viability, borders and sovereignties are left behind
as centralist excuses, overwhelmed by both sentiment and realpolitik.
With 5 million people, Scotland is larger in population than New
Zealand and comparable with Norway. The roots of its political union
are historically finite. They lay in defence and commerce,
particularly Scotland's eagerness to participate in England's colonial
and trading empire. There is no reason why its people should not
govern themselves if that is what they want. At present they still
enjoy less autonomy from their "federal" capital than Jersey or the
Isle of Man.
Devolution is not just a constitution - which merited a referendum,
please note - but an attitude of mind. It is an emotional as well as a
political phenomenon. When Blair found the Scots opting for
distinctive policies on health and education he told Paddy Ashdown he
regretted devolution: "You can't have Scotland pursuing policies
different from the rest of Britain." Blair never understood the
concept, regarding it as politically cosmetic. When he saw it take
root in local identity he lost interest, as he did in England's
elected mayors. Blair and Brown were both metro-centralists, Blair by
nature, Brown by acquired Treasury culture.
Salmond does not need an outsider to tell him he is playing with fire.
His subdued performance and gradualist approach to independence were
on display at his party conference in Aviemore at the weekend. He has
made reckless promises based on British subsidies which no appeal to
"Scotland's oil" will realise. The suggestion that Scotland is the
third wealthiest nation in Europe is silly. Oil is a finite resource
whose royalties should go into endowment, not be used to balance
current account budgets. The truth of Scotland's economy is that, like
most of Salmond's voters, it depends on London money and must be
weaned off it.
This is not a clincher against independence. It merely means that each
move to greater autonomy will involve time and pain. Many newly
independent states have seen economic surges after taking control of
their affairs. But Salmond is spending already. He wants to build
roads, cut prescription charges, splurge on universities and employ
more police, and he has not even activated his modest income-taxing
powers. He may one day hack a deal with London, exchanging his annual
subvention (27% more per citizen than in England) for a share of oil
revenue. But it is home-grown private-sector enterprise that Scotland
needs, not manna from heaven or the sea.
What Salmond has proved is that devolved democracy works. There is a
real political accountability in Edinburgh (and to a lesser degree in
Cardiff and Belfast). When proper power is delegated, the franchise
bites. This suggests that were Gordon Brown to honour his pledge to
restore civic autonomy to England, new political juices would start to
run there too - which may explain his reluctance.
If England's cities and counties enjoyed the powers of the Scottish
parliament, as they did until the second half of the 20th century,
they would offer Brown a home-grown answer to the "West Lothian"
conundrum. Scottish MPs would no longer be voting on England's health,
education and social care policies because they would have been
delegated to Cornwall, Yorkshire, Manchester and London - as they are
to local government in most of Europe. Powers reserved to the "union
parliament" would no longer be so contentious. They would embrace
foreign policy and minimum welfare standards.
Even diehard unionists are finding ways of turning devolution to their
advantage. The Tories, in the shape of Malcolm Rifkind, want to
delegate domestic legislation not to local government but to an
English grand committee where Scottish MPs would have no vote, as
English MPs have no vote in Edinburgh. If this confused the
accountability of the British cabinet, so be it. Blair depended on
Tory votes for his education reforms last year. The sovereignty of
parliament cannot be defined as the convenience of Her Majesty's
In whatever direction devolution now moves, a process is under way,
the disintegration of Britain's homogenised state into its
geographical components. Labour may bang the antique drum, howling,
pleading, insulting and niggling, but the ball is rolling. It is
rolling in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Tomorrow it might
even roll in England.
The Fib Dems - fibbing as Ever
Lib Dems in favour of excluding Scots MPs
By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:23am GMT 30/10/2007
Pressure on Gordon Brown to cut the power of his fellow Scottish MPs
grew last night as one of the contenders to lead the Liberal Democrats
backed a policy of "English votes for English laws".
Chris Huhne called for England's 'unfair' position within the UK to be
Chris Huhne did not back Tory proposals for an English Grand Committee
at Westminster. However, he insisted that the "anomaly" that allows
Scots MPs to vote on English matters — but not Scottish issues
devolved to the Scottish Parliament — must be resolved.
Mr Huhne, the MP for Eastleigh, called for England's "unfair" position
within the United Kingdom to be addressed as part of a wider
"It is an anomaly that Scots MPs vote on matters that affect England,
but English MPs do not have similar influence over Scots law because
it has been devolved to Holyrood.
"You cannot reform the UK constitution piece-meal. We need a
constitutional convention reflecting not just the political class but
civil society to come up with proposals fit for a modern,
Mr Brown is facing growing political unease about the advantages his
homeland enjoys at the expense of English taxpayers. Yesterday, it
emerged that the Prime Minister's decision to authorise the
£16?billion Crossrail scheme will deliver a £500?million windfall to
Under the Barnett Formula, the complex Treasury arrangement for
allocating public money around the United Kingdom, Scotland receives a
proportionate share of money spent in London.
The Crossrail project, to run mainline trains across the city, will
therefore have the side effect of boosting the budget of the Scottish
National Party administration in Edinburgh.
Yesterday's revelation came after David Cameron, the Conservative
leader, signalled a review of the controversial formula, which was
devised as a temporary measure in the 1970s but has remained in use.
Mr Brown has repeatedly refused to allow a review or a recalculation
of the formula. According to the Treasury's figures, £1,500 more is
spent per capita on public services in Scotland than in England.
The extra money that is available to Scotland's devolved rulers has
allowed successive administrations in Edinburgh to be far more
generous with services than those available to people in England.
Scotland now enjoys free personal care for the elderly and its
students do not pay the same tuition fees as those from England.
The Treasury insisted the extra money for Scotland was simply a
function of the funding formula. "The Barnett formula means that there
is an automatic consequential expenditure for Scotland," said a
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The need for a limited amount of Council house building is obvious.
There are dangers however. The perception in the 80s and 90s that
Council house occupancy was being subsidised by domestic rates was
widespread. It led to Thatcher making the disastrous error of judgment
of the Poll Tax. To be handled with circumspection this one.
Government to scrap right to buy
The right of council housing tenants in Scotland to buy their homes is
to end, BBC Scotland understands.
Deputy First Minister
Nicola Sturgeon is also expected to tell MSPs that a new generation of
council houses will tackle Scotland's housing crisis.
A number of local authorities have already been given permission to
suspend right to buy amid shortages.
Ms Sturgeon will say that the government intends to see new house
building rise by almost 50%.
This would take the figure to 35,000 a year by 2015.
At the centre of the strategy will be the reversal of 30 years of
"running down the role of local authorities", with new incentives to
encourage the construction of a new generation of council houses.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament later, Ms Sturgeon is expected to
unveil a range of measures aimed at assisting first time buyers,
including government grants, while laying down a challenge to housing
associations to improve their operations.
She will also say that the government intends to press ahead with the
controversial single survey plan for house sales, which was backed by
the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration despite its low take-up
during a pilot scheme.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/10/31 01:08:43 GMT
© BBC MMVII
Feedback and Comment
From Craig Munro,Glasgow SNP
Top article from Macwhirter in the Guardian today that you may wish to
Don't drive Scotland away, Cameron
Alex Salmond is emerging as an unlikely consensus builder in Scotland,
while the Conservatives appear to be turning their backs on the union.
October 31, 2007 3:30 PM
Now here's a funny thing. According to the Scottish Centre for Social
Research (SCSR), support for independence has actually gone down in
Scotland since the SNP won power in May. Professor John Curtice's
unit, which interviewed 1300 voters between June and August, says that
support for independence is down to 23% - a ten year low. The
popularity of the first minister, Alex Salmond, however, has never
been higher, with 44% of respondents giving him seven out of ten or
This is the latest illustration of what could be called the Great
Caledonian Paradox: that support for separation has declined as
support for the party advocating it has risen. The SCSR numbers
confirm what we have been seeing in opinion polls over the last five
years. It is one of the reasons why the SNP conference in Aviemore at
the weekend - its first ever as a governing party - was rather less
triumphalist than many expected. Kilts were conspicuously absent, as
were claymores - and far from declaring UDI, Alex Salmond called for a
cross-party coalition of those willing to seek further constitutional
Incredibly, the nationalist first minister has invited the opposition
parties to back a referendum in which independence would only be one
of several options, along with the status quo and federalism, or
"devolution max" in which the Scottish parliament would remain in the
UK with enhanced tax powers. On the face of it, this is political
suicide. John Curtice's research indicates that federalism is
overwhelmingly the favoured option of Scottish voters, with 55%
advocating it, against 8% for the status quo and 23% for independence.
Would Alex Salmond really want to mark his first term in office by
inviting a colossal popular rejection of his own political creed?
I must say I am amazed at the open minded and consensual way the SNP
is approaching the constitutional issue, which is making Labour look
positively negligent. He really means it too, having faced down the
independence fundamentalists in his own party who believe the SNP
should be provoking conflict with England. Why on earth, you might
ask, has Labour not leapt at this opportunity to resolve the question
of independence for a generation? Alex Salmond has himself promised
that he would not expect another referendum for fifteen years or so,
which means that the risk of a Quebec-style neverendum is not on the
I'm afraid this is just another illustration of the extraordinary
political dexterity of Alex Salmond. He has realised that his own
party's policy is currently unsellable in Scotland. The Scottish
people are intensely conservative and unwilling to embark on risky
revolutionary ventures. They don't want to appear anti-English either,
despite what Kelvin Mackenzie says, and loathe the idea of setting
"family against family" by provoking cross-border antagonisms. There
may be no need for Scottish independence to lead to customs posts at
the border - but Scots just don't want to take the risk.
So, seeing a gap in the market, Salmond has decided to trade in his
policy for what should the opposition's. He has aligned himself with
the Liberal Democrats' policy of federalism which was elegantly laid
out in the report on the constitution by Lord Steel two years ago.
This seminal document has gathered dust on the shelves as the Lib Dems
sought to play bottom to Scottish Labour's pantomime horse. It is a
blueprint for a Scottish parliament with full autonomy and a range of
fiscal powers. Ironically, the new leader of the Scottish Labour
party, Wendy Alexander, has implicitly endorsed similar ideas in the
past, but has been struck dumb since she took office in August.
Now, what this means is that the whole constitutional debate has been
turned upside down. It is the SNP which is behaving like a unionist
party right now, seeking to meet its manifesto pledges within the
powers of the Scottish parliament and within extremely tight budgetary
constraints. Meanwhile the party of the union - the Conservative and
Unionist Party as it is known in Scotland - is advocating a form of
independence. David Cameron has reportedly agreed with Malcolm
Rifkind's suggestion to create an English grand committee in
Westminster which would effectively have legislative powers for
England. Scottish MPs would become second-class members of parliament.
But worse, he has called for the Barnett formula on Scottish spending
to be reviewed to cut supposed subsidies to Scotland. The argument
that Scotland is featherbedded by the English taxpayers was always
dubious, but it is now patently ridiculous. Scotland's budget will go
up 0.5% next year, down from 11.5% in 2003/4. Scottish oil,
approaching $90 a barrel, is pumping billions into the UK treasury at
a time when the Barnett Formula is actually causing fiscal convergence
between Scotland and England.
By adopting a punitive unionism, at the moment when Alex Salmond is
adopting moderate and consensual home rule, David Cameron risks
preparing the ground for a "velvet divorce" of the kind experienced in
the 1990s by the former Czechoslovakia. It is hardly surprising that
the most enthusiastic advocates of an English parliament in the UK are
the SNP, or that Alex Salmond also wants the Barnett formula to be
scrapped. The first minister is a first-rate politician playing a
brilliant political game, which the unionist parties seem unable to
understand. And the supreme irony is that it is the Salmond who is
playing by the rules while the supposed defenders of the union cry
From Gus Abraham
Copies of Bella Caledonia, Scotland's new paper for the republican
libertarian socialist left, are available from Wordpower Bookshop in
Edinburgh (http://www.word-power.co.uk/) and the DCA in Dundee from
today and will be available in Glasgow, Aberdeen and elsewhere later
The paper is pro-independence pro-referendum and wants to expand the
idea of self-determination. It has an initial print run of 10,000.
# 1 features Brian Quail on our history of violence, Kevin Williamson
on Scotland's Libertarian Left, an interview with historian James
Young, Lesley Riddoch on women in the Western Isles and the Brigid
Bride lore, and Muhammad Idress Ahmad on an ethical foreign policy for
More distribution points, and news of the web launch to follow or for
hard copies more information or to support distribution, email:
It would be great to feature this in your Mediawatch.
yours in solidarity
on behalf of Mike Small, Kevin Wiliamson
Herald Poll Wasn't as bad as the BBC Coverage
Would it affect the Herald sales figures significantly if we boycotted
it.... In the Herald article the SNP were allowed to point out that a
more recent poll showed support for independence had increased by 12%
up from the low of 23% quoted in the Herald Poll. The BBC were
trumpeting this poll all morninig, However they didn't managed to pick
up on the SNP statement.
So you could argue that the Heralds reporting was more balanced than
Last week the Record did a reasonable article on Alex Salmond. The
only reason it was reasonable was they must think it's a long time to
go before the next election.
News coverage in Scotland, is in my opinion becoming more biased
against the SNP & independence since the election.
All to often we hear how well the Scottish government have started.
However if you relied on the existing Scottish media for your
information I doubt you'd share that opinion.