West Lothian question

From Academic Kids

The West Lothian question is a question posed by Tam Dalyell, MP for the Scottish constituency of West Lothian during the debate over Scottish devolution in the 1970s, and which is still relevant after the 1999 establishment of the Scottish Parliament. The name was coined in 1977 by Enoch Powell.

The question is :

If power over Scottish affairs is devolved to a Scottish Parliament, how can it be right that MPs representing Scottish constituencies in the Parliament of the United Kingdom still have the power to vote on equivalent issues affecting England and other parts of the UK, but not Scotland?

This could potentially be seen as an injustice, and was of particular significance as the Labour Party was (at the time) proposing devolution while reliant on Scottish MPs for its majority at Westminster.

With the creation of the Scottish Parliament, this anomaly has come into existence, though without initial great protest in England. While it seems unlikely that Scottish MPs will be prevented from voting on English domestic affairs, the number of MPs to which Scotland is entitled (which is disproportionately high for its population) was reduced at the United Kingdom general election, 2005, from 72 to 59.

Protests have been growing recently, especially after legislation for the creation of foundation hospitals in England, an extremely controversial policy, was passed due to the votes of Scottish MPs when a majority of English MPs had voted against. A key vote of proposals to introduce university top-up fees also passed only due to Scottish MPs voting and this has generated further calls for reform, especially as the policy would not affect Scottish universities, which are under the jurisdiction of, and have had a different funding formula passed by, the Scottish Parliament.

There are calls by some for a Devolved English Parliament. If this (and the existing Welsh Assembly) had full legislative powers, this would resolve the question. But so far there is little sign of this being wanted by the English. Others propose barring Scottish MPs from voting on matters that do not affect Scotland or cutting the number of Scottish MPs even further to about 40 (following the precedent of the creation of the Northern Ireland Parliament when the number of MPs at Westminster was dramatically cut to a number below the standard ratio of electorate to MPs for the rest of the country). They believe that the compromise of a reduced voice for Scotland in exchange for Scottish MPs being able to vote on English matters would be the most acceptable solution. The alternative could result in one party having the majority for UK affairs and another for English affairs, effectively resulting in an English Parliament.

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