The Scottish Referendum: A Win for England
by Sean Gabb
Last week, in Bodrum, I wrote my Thoughts on Scottish Independence. In this, I made three points:
- That the issue was a nuisance, and I regretted the need to discuss it;
- That a narrow vote against independence would allow Scottish politicians to continue demanding English money with menaces until they could find an excuse for another referendum;
- That a vote for independence would at least save England from the Labour Party.
Well, the votes are now counted, and the result was rather close. Yet, rather than gloomy, I feel increasingly pleased. The difference between then and now is that I could not be aware of two important facts.
The first of these facts was the promise, made last Monday, that, if the Scottish voted to stay in the United Kingdom, they could have nearly full domestic autonomy and an eternity of English subsidies. I saw this in the newspapers at Gatwick Airport, and it threw me into a rage. That swinish fool Cameron had sold us out, I told myself. He should have told the Scottish to vote for the Union or to get stuffed – preferably the latter.
The second fact, however, was only revealed this morning. David Cameron stood in Downing Street to confirm his promise of greater autonomy. He then added:
“It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of our United Kingdom….
“We have heard the voice of Scotland – and now the millions of voices of England must also be heard.
“The question of English votes for English laws – the so-called West Lothian question -requires a decisive answer.
“So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland….
“We will set up a Cabinet Committee right away and proposals will also be ready to the same timetable”
So, there it is. Letting the northern half of our island fall under the sway of a pack of embittered Anglophobes would have been inconvenient. They might have started a civil war among themselves. They might have opened their borders in the reasonable knowledge that Scotland would only be a corridor into England. They might have done any number of things that required us to build an electric fence at the border, or to hand out endless bribes in Edinburgh. We now have all the benefits of Scottish independence without the costs. The only cost I can identify is the continuing subsidies. But these are petty cash, bearing in mind how much else of our money the Government wastes.
The Scottish seats return 59 members to Parliament. Only one of these is a Conservative. They others are leftists and Anglophobes. Many are in the Labour Party. Cut this number to six, and there will not be another Labour Government. Simply keep all 59, but exclude them from voting on English affairs, and a Labour Government, if conceivable, is not very practicable. It could win confidence votes, but would not be able to get its programme through the Commons.
And this will now be an election issue. The necessary legislation cannot be drafted and put through this Parliament. The Conservatives will go into the 2015 general election, promising English votes on English laws. If Labour and the Liberal Democrats agree, they stand to lose their Scottish strongholds in the election after that. If they disagree, they will lose dozens of their seats in England on account of English indignation. Even if they do agree, they can be credibly accused, on the basis of their most obvious self-interest, of planning to defraud the English.
I therefore predict – and will run off to the nearest betting shop first thing tomorrow morning to stake £50 on it – that the Conservatives will win the next election. On balance, this is a good thing. In the longer term, of course, a neutered Labour Party will allow us to sack the Conservatives, or their present leadership. So, it looks as if the referendum is a win for England.
Was this plotted by Mr Cameron from the beginning? It may have been. Ask them to do something about immigration, or political correctness, or even the law of land registration – certainly, allow them to take us into a war – and these people will make a mess of things. But, since it is all they ever think about, they can often be good at stuffing their opponents. That would explain why Mr Cameron was so willing to give Alex Salmond his referendum when he wanted it, and why he appeared to panic when there was little chance the Scottish would vote to leave. On the other hand, he might have come to his current position only by a process of unfolding revelation. Whatever the case, this may have been an excellent result for England.