Alex Massie

John Wilkes Rises From His Grave

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John Redwood says it is "Time to speak for England" while over at ConservativeHome Paul Goodman argues that this is something which needs to be addressed. As he notes the Tory manifesto does contain a theoretical commitment to answering the West Lothian Question and creating a de facto English parliament.

And in theory there's nothing wrong with that. Quite the contrary in fact. Few people in Scotland, I think, would consider this either unfair or unreasonable. Indeed, if my memory is correct, polling suggests that a majority of Scots think this would be a fair way forward.

Certainly, there are excellent arguments for revisiting the Barnett Formula - though Barnett was actually, remember, created as a means of reducing disparities in public spending. Hence the famous "Barnett Squeeze" - and, more generally, the question of what counts as "English only" legislation is more complicated than some allow.

Meanwhile on twitter and elsewhere, including Spectator comment boxes, one cannot but be aware of English discontent. And in one sense Labour reap what they have sown: the much-hyped "Democratic Deficit" was always an argument for Scottish independence, not devolution. Now the English are complaining of the same thing.

And so you now find folk shouting "Boot the Scots Out!" and demanding that England be given a vote on Scottish independence too.

But it doesn't work like that. Scotland is not a squatter or lodger or tenant in the Union. No, she is a partner and owns part of the freehold herself. The English have neither the right nor the opportunity to evict her. If Scotland chooses to leave that's a matter for her alone*.

Now, sure, the English could behave in such a ghastly fashion that the Scots decide this is the better option but that's a different thing entirely. You may not like it but unless the Scots decide to leave themselves then you'll just have to lump it, just as north-eastern liberals in the United States must thole sharing their country with the great state of Texas.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that the arguments for settling this matter for the next thirty years or so are now compelling. Chalk this up as another reason why, though he'll have plenty on his plate, Cameron should be open to the idea of a referendum in Scotland. Call the SNP's bluff and spike the English Nationalist guns at the same time...

*Techinically, both entities could agree to dissolve the partnership or, of course, either could secede. But these are different matters and would require different questions. Alternatively, an Act of Parliament could dissolve the Union but it might be tough selling that to the public without formal consultation.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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