A Two-tier Parliament

We have been hearing a lot of bleating from the SNP about the possibility of restricting issues that only affect England to English MPs in some manner. “But,” they cry, affronted, “if Scottish MPs were restricted in any way from partaking in votes on English-only issues, we shall end up with a two-tier parliament.” What hypocrisy!

Until the recent election, SNP MPs routinely abstained from voting on English-only issues, recognising the unfairness of a Scottish MP having a say on English issues while English MPs had no say when it came to English issues, only to ditch their principles in favour of a grotesque scheme to make Scotland, through the antics of their elected representatives, seem so obnoxious that either the English will boot them out or, at least, retaliate by making the Scots suffer in turn and, thus, more likely to vote yes in a future independence referendum.

Complaining about creating a two-tier parliament is ridiculous, for, as the SNP until recently tacitly acknowledged, we already have a two-tier parliament where Scottish (and, to a lesser extent, Welsh) MPs wield power over English laws, while the English MPs have no say over Scottish laws – a situation that is only set to grow worse if more powers are devolved to Scotland.

It is quite fair that Scottish MPs have their say on issues that affect Scotland, which they do, but it is unfair for them to have an influence over issues which have been devolved to the Scottish parliament, especially as this power has been used mendaciously, such as Scottish Labour MPs backing the introduction of tuition fees in England whilst exempting Scottish students from such fees. This particular issues perfectly illustrates how unfair the system can be, for Scottish students are not only exempt from tuition fees at Scottish universities, but also in England; due to EU rules requiring foreign students be treated as locals, students from other EU countries are also exempt from tuition fees in Scotland – all EU students, that is, except the English, who, thanks to a quirk of the rules, are required to pay tuition fees, which, bringing us full circle, were introduced thanks to Scottish votes.

Of course, the simplest way to resolve the issue would be to give England its own parliament (or two or three or four regional parliaments, to reflect that different parts of England have different needs and desires). Instead, we get a lot of waffle about giving major cities similar tax and spending powers to the devolved parliaments, which would leave a sizable chunk of the English population, living in smaller cities, towns and rural areas effectively disenfranchised as MPs representing Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the devolved cities would control their fates – an especially pernicious outcome as the shires are more likely to vote Tory, while Scotland, Wales and major cities are more likely to produce Labour (or Labour-leaning) MPs.

Is it really so difficult to reform the system? No, but nobody in power wants to put in the effort. As long as they can keep their snouts in the trough and have an easy life, they are happy to coast along with the UK’s political landscape transforming into more and more of a mess, regardless of the long-term harm that poses to its political system and its people. But, perhaps they should worry – people are running out of patience and as the SNP have demonstrated in Scotland, the major parties are not guaranteed their votes. Failure to deliver on electoral reform could yet lead to a major upheaval in the political landscape, and those MPs who failed to deliver will be the ones to suffer. We can only hope that reform or the replacement of the complacent political elite comes soon, before the festering issue does irreparable harm…

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