Thursday, April 19, 2007


One of the silliest ideas around in UK politics at the moment is that England should have a devolved parliament of its own just like Scotland has. You can see how silly this is by looking at the chart in this article in the Economist, which shows just how big the English population is compared to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Devolving government to the English regions along the same lines as we have for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland probably makes sense; but having a single English Parliament (covering well over 80% of the UK population] would make a nonsense of having a UK parliament.

Another idea floating around at the moment is that if the Scottish National Party win control of the Scottish Parliament then Scottish independence will inevitably follow. Perhaps, but I very much doubt that the Scots would vote yes to this in a referendum. Once it is realised how much money would be wasted in the process of divorcing from England (who gets which oil fields in the North Sea? how do you divide up the armed forces? who gets the nuclear weapons? how do you divide up the assets of the Bank of England and the national debt?) and once it becomes clear that Scotland would become a very minor European nation, people aren't going to be so keen on it.

From England's point of view, if Scotland left the UK it wouldn't make all that much difference. Indeed, even if the whole union of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England broke up, England would become the 4th most-populous country in the EU as opposed to the UK being the 3rd. Scotland would be 20th (EU member states).

What will happen? I doubt whether Scotland will get as far as choosing independence, but I strongly suspect that some form of regional government will happen in England. At that point people will have to get used to the idea that different parts of the country can choose to do things differently and that's how democracy works.

Personally, I think that devolved regional government like the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the London Major are good things. Politicians are rarely humble enough to admit that they don't have all the answers and the UK's centralised system allows them to impose their prejudices and mad-cap ideas over the whole country with little analysis or experimentation. Regional governments would allow different places to try out different policies, so we could then actually see what works.

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