The Tories have decided to rush through a measure which they claim is dedicated to ensuring fairness and equality between the constituent parts of this greatest Union of nations the multiverse has ever seen. It’s EVEL, which sounds like a description of the Daily Mail, but which supposedly stands for English votes for English laws. This all sounds just fine and dandy and who could possibly object to it? It’s all terribly fair and British and cricket on the lawnish, after all doesn’t Scotland have its own parliament and English MPs can’t vote on Scottish matters. Why shouldn’t England have its say on things which affect it without those uppity Caledonians interjecting in their incomprehensible accents.
But unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work like that. Scotland’s overall budget is determined by the budget set for England, and when Scotland’s MPs can no longer vote on what are supposedly English only matters, they will lose the ability to have a say on the overall budget for Scotland. It’s like going to a restaurant and being told that you can order anything you like, as long as it doesn’t cost more than what your companion has ordered. They can choose anything they like, and their London transport infrastructure pudding counts as a joint UK national expenditure. And then you get the bill after they’ve decided that they want privatisation pie with austerity chips.
But it’s even worse than that. Scotland doesn’t even get to decide what parts of the menu it chooses its cauld porridge from. That is also decided for us by our dining companion. Fancy something full fat fiscal autonomy? Forget it. Tory and Labour MPs we didn’t vote for have decided it’s bad for us, it will ruin our arteries and give us a sense of independence that’s unhealthy. Scotland must restrict itself to the devolved parts of the menu, but it doesn’t have any say on what the devolved parts are. That gets decided for us. We only get to choose from the cheap end of the menu, the appetisers and the nibbles, the parts that don’t allow a full and satisfying meal. One of those tiny side dishes that has the appearance of a dinner but doesn’t contain any calories. Then they can tell us that we’ve had our chips on our shoulders and we need to stop complaining.
Over 500 non Scottish MPs ganged up to vote down a proposal for full fat fiscal autonomy, the proposal that Scotland voted for at the General Election and which was backed by the overwhelming majority of Scotland’s MPs. At the General Election Scotland resoundingly rejected the Smith Proposals as inadequate and derisory and voted for a party that wanted to go much further. And we did so by a landslide.
But this counts for nothing. Westminster and the Unionist parties are stuck on Smith like a fish bone in their throats, even though it’s choking them to death. The Labour and Tory MPs clapped and cheered when they told Scotland it couldn’t have what it had voted for, like they’d scored a mighty victory. But the only victory is the reminder that England is much larger than Scotland and as long as we remain in this Union we will always be outvoted. Outvoted, unappreciated, unwanted unless we haud oor wheesht like good little North Britons and are grateful for the morsels we’re given.
So here we are in the devolution café. English MPs get to decide what parts of the legal menu Scotland can choose from , and English MPs get to decide the overall budgets which form the basis for determining Scottish spending on those parts of the menu that English MPs allow us to choose from. Scotland currently gets outvoted on these things, but at least our MPs have a say. Once the Tories get their way, Scotland’s MPs won’t even have a vote at all. We’ll be silenced and side lined, marginalised and meaningless.
So it’s clear that the Tories are also in favour of English votes for Scottish laws, and presumably also English votes for Welsh laws and Northern Irish laws. Given the recent behaviour of the Unionist parties, we now know that EVEL really stands for English votes for everyone’s laws. That’s democracy Westminster style.
Remember during the independence referendum that Scotland was told, frequently, that it wasn’t a colony. Unionists scoffed at the minority of independence supporters who compared Scotland to a colony. And by and large supporters of independence agreed. Of course Scotland wasn’t a colony – I agreed with that proposition myself. Scotland was a part of a Union in which we all thought that we had a fair say. A Union not a takeover.
But once Cameron passes his measure to bring in English Votes for Everyone’s Laws that won’t be the case any more. Scotland will be without the means to have any say at all over its overall budget, no say on how much it gets for health, no say on how much it gets for education. England’s MPs will determine the total budget and Scotland will get its budget decided in a vote from which our own representatives have been excluded. Scotland will get a percentage of whatever is decided for England, but won’t be able to have any input into what is decided for England. So if in a fit of Conservative madness Tory MPs for England decide to halve the health budget and introduce rampant privatisation, the part of the Scottish block grant accounting for health services will be proportionately slashed too. And there will be nothing we can say or do about it. This is Labour’s pooling and sharing, this is Better Together’s best of both worlds.
What was that that the Americans once said about no taxation without representation? That’s the position the Colony of Scotland will find itself in once EVEL comes into force. We will be a colony, without a say, without a vote, and staring at a menu of stale crumbs that are well past their sell by date with no choice in the matter, no say, no representation. Our MPs will be second class, just like the country that elects them. Welcome to the Colony of Scotland.
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