Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Alex Salmond is nudging the English towards independence without them realising it

Fraser Nelson reviews the week in politics

Before the campaign for an English parliament has time to gather critical mass, its goal may already be achieved. The first vote David Cameron’s government holds on health will be a unique constitutional event: all Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs will be banned from the voting lobbies. There is likely to be no fanfare, no regal presence, no Red Arrows as there were in the modern Scottish Parliament’s first sitting. But the Parliament of England — adjourned in October 1707 — will, in effect, be reconvened.

Little attention has been paid to the emerging English Question which is the flip-side of Scotland’s loosening of its ties with Westminster. There is no particular clamour over it, but there does not need to be. It is Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, who is making the running. The more success he has prosecuting the next stages of his separatist mission, the sooner the flag of St George will fly over Westminster.

The revived sense of Englishness is combined with a sense of injustice. Why should Scottish MPs vote on whether English students pay university top-up fees if English MPs have no say over what happens on Scottish campuses? This is the West Lothian Question in action, an old conundrum that would be resolved by the Tory proposal of ‘English votes for English laws’.

This would change the landscape of Westminster. A small Cameron majority in the Commons would be converted to a safe majority for England alone — encouraging him, naturally, to have an England-focused first term. This would raise the bar for a Labour comeback. Even at the last election, Tory voters outnumbered their Labour counterparts in England. It is the Celtic fringe (and Westminster’s notoriously unfair voting system) which gives Gordon Brown his majority.

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