Alex Massie

When English is actually British

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George Monbiot raises a complaint one has seen several times lately:

Had Heathrow's third runway been debated only by English MPs, the proposal would have been resoundingly defeated; it was approved by 19 votes, after 67 MPs from the other nations were induced to support the government. They can support such measures without any electoral risk, as their constituents are not directly affected.

Except that, in this instance at least, a so-called English issue is actually a British issue. Heathrow's capacity - indeed the capacity of all the London airports - is a matter of interest north of the border. After all, Heathrow is Scotland's most important air connection to London and, by extention, to the rest of the world. Clearly Heathrow's future is a matter of national concern. You might as well say that only MPs from Berkshire and the other Home Counties should have been permitted to vote on Heathrow's future. After all, Monbiot's logic is that MPs from Cumbria or Cornwall aren't "directly" affected by Heathrow's future either. But as Britain's biggest and most important international gateway it is, quite rightly, a matter that interests MPs from all parts of England and all the constituent elements of the United Kingdom.

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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