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« Elsewhere on | Main | Hustings Report (6): Perth »


James Hellyer

"David Cameron and David Davis both support the Scottish party's freedom to offer income tax cuts."

I'm sure it's nice of them to support using the annual £26bn block grant to fund tax cuts. It's not that nice for those of is who will fund that grant though...


If any Scottish MP votes on a Bill in the Commons it should be deemed to apply to Scotland also and override any powers the Scottish Assembly might have

Tom Ainsworth

Though the English-MP-votes-only-on-English-laws policy looks superficially attractive, it's hard to see how it would work if one party had a majority of English MPs while another had an overall British majority (which I believe has happened in the past?). Would you end up with two governments in the same parliament?

Barbara Villiers

Agreed on both counts!

Simon C

Tom is right. The party hasn't thought this though properly yet & this solution could rapidly cause more problems than it solves.

As unionists, Conservatives should be very wary about any policy that will exacerbate tension and stress between the different countries. This "English votes on English laws" policy will do just that. We could easily end with a situation in which Labour was the majority party in Britain, whilst the Conservatives held a majority in England. The result would be chaotic, and quite possibly damaging not only the Westminster Parliament, but also the Conservative Party if it was perceived as causing constitutional deadlock for party ends.

This is (yet) another reason for the Party to focus on a meaningful localism agenda instead. This would entail serious devolution of power to locally-elected and accountable bodies in England and Wales, be it to police sherrifs, hospital boards, or to existing councils, and would include devolution of the power to set and raise local taxes.

There are all sorts of advantages to genuine localism. In this case, the key point is that it would restore power and accountability to local communities, and make the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assemby look like archaic, unaccountable, bureaucratic, over-centralised talking-shops ripe for localist reform.

We should not look at the problems caused by Labour's unconsidered and incomplete devolution reforms as a cause of English grievance (although it has brought real unfairness into the system). We should instead try to create a localised system that excites envy in Scotland and Wales, leading to a similar local government reform within those two countries.


James, you're being just a little casual.

While Westminster does give the Scottish Parliament a block grant, the people who fund it are, overwhelmingly, Scottish taxpayers. Tax is collected by the UK Treasury from all parts of the UK, and the Scottish Parliament is given its share.

Of course, the formula that calculates Scotland's share creates a level of subsidy. Way too much, in my view, but it's not uncommon for the various regions and nations within the UK to be net contributors or beneficiaries. In any case, the block grant is not a freebie, at least not for the Scottish taxpayer. It is for Scottish politicians, though. See below.

Anyway, if the Scottish Parliament were to use its tax-cutting powers, the grant would be decreased accordingly, and the Scottish Executive would have less money to spend. (If the Parliament increased taxes, the grant would be increased.)

And if any part of the UK needs lower taxes and less government, it's Scotland.

But I have long taken the view that the way the devolution model works just now, makes for bad government in Scotland. The politicians that spend the money are not responsible for raising it. This makes for profligacy, and creates the kind of tensions you describe.

I think the Scottish Parliament should have unlimited tax-varying powers, but should be responsible for raising every penny it spends. Westminster should still raise the taxes that Scots pay towards reserved matters, like defence.

This would force Scotland to live within its means, but I'm fine with that. As a Scot, I gain no pride from being subsidised by our English partners.


I agree to the principle of English votes only for English legislation - and it could work even with UK government holding a minority of English seats. It means constructive opposition from the English majority Party - an English Grand Committee rather than a Scots one. As Simon points out increased devolution to local bodies - not fake regions but counties, boroughs, districts - would support this approach and lessen the fear of English nationalism among the other constituent countries of the UK.

However shouldn't this also mean Northern Irish votes only for N Ireland issues - not fiats from the vice-regal powers? A certain turncoat imposing no smoking ban comes to mind as an example.

James Hellyer

"Of course, the formula that calculates Scotland's share creates a level of subsidy."

Which is the point. It's simply wrong to use subsidies to cut taxes for the Scots. If they want tax cuts, they should fund them through controling their own taxation and expenditure, not with subsidies from the rest of the Union.

All following the path Davis and Cameron endorse will achieve is heightening tensions between England and Scotland. That's hardly a good policy goal for a unionist party.

Rather than accepting the devolution settlement, we need to be arguing for a settlement that works. Personally I think regional parliaments should be responsible for their own tax and spend. If they aren't, then they won't be accountable.

Richard Allen

While I fully understand the appeal of "English votes for English laws" and deplore the current situation I cannot back the position of either candidate on this matter.

Firstly as a Unionist I stand against any move that further weakens the Union. Secondly I believe that all MP's should remain equal. Creating two tier's of MP's would be a mistake.


A very difficult question this.At first glance I would be minded to support David Davis.After all what he proposes is fair and it would remove some of the grievances which have developed in England during the last few years.
And yet,I do fear for the Union and would be deeply apprehensive of anything my party does that could put that union in jeopardy.
I agree with what Simon proposes but it would take years to implement properly.Do we have the time? I don't think so.
Is it too much to ask that we can have a rational and cool headed debate about the way the Barnett formula is calculated and look to get rid of any obvious unfairness?
That would be a first step in making the Scots aware of the depth of English subsidy and hopefully remove some of the grievance felt by the English currently.Perhaps it is naive suggestion but I think worth a try,what do others think?


"We could easily end with a situation in which Labour was the majority party in Britain, whilst the Conservatives held a majority in England."

Like the last election, where the Conservatives got the most votes in England?

Daniel Vince-Archer

I admit that I'm not really all that familiar with the subsidising Scotland situation but IIRC the justification that Salmond and co wheel out all the time is that Scottish fuel powers English industry.

With regards the infamous 'West Lothian Question', I applaud both candidates for signalling that they would take measures to resolve the democratic deficit that exists at the moment.

Yet another Anon

>>>>>>If any Scottish MP votes on a Bill in the Commons it should be deemed to apply to Scotland also and override any powers the Scottish Assembly might have<<<<<<
If that is the case it woudl be simpler to abolish the Scottish Parliament, personally I think that there should be a single set of councillors for the UK who could sit on multiple committees realting to the areas they were in thus District Councillors would also be County Councillors but only get one salary, County Councils collectively in a region along with business representatives and appointees of government departments could then act as a Regional Authority which would have similar powers to those that the Scottish parliament now has.

Much of government could be transferred to Private Companies Limited by Guarantee with much more run on a commercial basis than currently, equally I think that parliament could get by with just a couple of hundred Mp's.

Why not have a single 100 member one party executive elected in a single national all UK constituency as well to run the country, the same people could be allowed to be entered more than once on the listing and there could be a £100,000 deposit per entry - this could allow for example the Conservative Party to put down an entry with all 100 entries being conservatives and also ones that involved splitting the seats with other partys. With a system in which people listed which option they wanted in order of preference then if people wanted to vote for a Hung executive of a One Party executive or majority for one party then they could do - if no one option got over 50% in first preference votes then the lowest entry would be removed and their preferences redistributed and so on until one entry had 50% or over which would be the situation, then the executive could choose the PM and vote on legislation. The parliament could be elected on a mixed statutory appointee and Alternative Vote multiple constituency system and then the executive could only be over-ruled by 80% of the members of the parliament voting against them.

Some kind of recall procedure would be good too - maybe an 80% vote by parliament in favour to trigger early elections which otherwise would be fixed term.

Yet another Anon

The Barnett formula discriminates against the North East of England and needs to be scrapped, money spent by local authorities or by regions\nations of the UK should be directly funded by the bodies responsible for that area and raised from those areas.

Simon C

"I agree with what Simon proposes but it would take years to implement properly.Do we have the time? I don't think so."

Malcolm, the localism I suggest is likely to be a central part of our next manifesto (at least in very large part if not entirely). Elected sherrifs were part of the 2005 manifesto I think. Decentralisation, and the creation of strong locally-accountable structures to deliver public services, are consistent with the stances taken by both candidates, as well as the self-styled "new localists" at

It will take a certain amount of time to implement these reforms and bed them down properly. However I would hope that by the end of our first parliament we would be well on the way.

In any event, once we are in power, the problem diminishes. Unlike Labour, it is inconceiveable that the Conservatives could form a government without a majority of English MPs.


James, I agree with the thrust of what you're saying. I was just pointing out that the money in the block grant is raised in Scotland, sent to London, and then sent back to the Scottish Parliament. And if the Scottish Parliament cuts tax, it has less money to spend.

On top of that, there's the subsidy. But that was there before the Parliament was. Other parts of the UK are subsidised too.

You object to the subsidy being used for tax cuts. Firstly, since the grant would be reduced accordingly, the subsidy wouldn't really be funding the tax cuts. Secondly, is it really morally better to spend the subsidy on the panoply of wealth-destroying big-government initiatives the Executive seems to generate at almost industrial rates?

In any case, I think you're spot on that devolved government should always be responsible for raising the money it spends. It is, as you say, about accountability.

And we'd have better government in Scotland if we didn't have a bunch of politicians who, if they're not spending our money, have almost literally nothing to do.

Yet another Anon

In any event, once we are in power, the problem diminishes. Unlike Labour, it is inconceiveable that the Conservatives could form a government without a majority of English MPs.
There are 646 seats, the Speaker by convention gives his casting vote to the government, Sein Fein can be assumed to get at least 4 seats at the next election and they don't takeup their seats so that reduces the neccessary number to 319. The DUP and UUP normally support the government of whichever party in confidence motions so really either Labour or Conservative can be pretty sure of forming a one party government with that figure.

The Liberal Democrats currently are pledged not to form a coalition with either main party but probably in the event of a Hung Parliament would either abstain on principle in which case if they get 50 seats say then that reduces the number for a party to form a one party government to 294. The SDLP usually supports Labour which reduces the neccessary number for Labour themselves to get to 291 or so. If the Liberal Democrats make confidence motions a free vote then there would be some abstaining and some voting for and some against whichever party was in government - it might be even that one party could form a government in a Hung Parliament on their own with 250 seats or so, indeed in 1923 Labour formed it's first administration with only 191 seats in a Commons of a similar number of MP's to that now (The Conservatives were short of a majority and didn't want to form another coalition and so decided that it would be more convenient to allow Labour to govern and bring them down at the time of their choice, however it was the springboard for the 1929-31 and 1945-51 Labour governments showing that they could govern without the country collapsing).

The fact is that the Conservative Party at most will get 6 seats in Wales next time and 5 at the most in Scotland which for them to have an overall majority would leave them still needing at least 312 of the 525 English seats and to form a minority government at least 239 seats in England and probably more like 280 depending on how favorable MP's of other party's are towards them.


money spent by local authorities or by regions\nations of the UK should be directly funded by the bodies responsible for that area and raised from those areas.

Ribald amusement. In Texas school districts are funded locally, some have access to oil wells, some don't. Thus in some counties schools are well-resourced, in others they cannot afford books, desks, teachers.

It would be interesting in Brixton and Peckham to see the street lighting turned off, social security ended, and policing reduced as they ran out of money. Likewise to see areas of Bradford as the benefits and public spending is cut off to Bangladeshis and Kashmiris and to see their healthcare needs no longer funded.

I suppose this kind of policy is what makes Pakistan such a vibrant democracy, and I doubt it would have any law and order implications if the Tories proposed such an idea. If Yet Another Anon could publicise his views more widely I am sure the Labour Party would be most appreciative.


Even Joel Barnett is surprised that his back of the envelope calculation survived 30 years.....even more surprised that during 18 years of Conservative rule they were afraid to touch it.


Of course, it may be time for the Conservative Party in Scotland to start looking at a very difficult question - is it time to support independence? Full tax raising powers, full control over oil revenue, and the ability to tell England where to shove its nuclear weapons.

Many Scots are (small c) conservative, but the Conservative Party is a completely unattractive option which gives the impression that it is more concerned with the people of South East England than Scotland. I also know that I'm sick of Conservatives coming to Scotland whenever they want to speak about depravation and drug addiction.

It may be that a truly radical approach is what the Conservative Party needs.

Richard Allen

[i]the Speaker by convention gives his casting vote to the government[/i]

This isn't actually true.

By convention the speaker should use his casting vote to

1. Continue discussion where possible (for example he would vote in favour of a second reading)

2. Vote against an ammendment.

3. Vote to defeat a measue if no further discussion is possible (such as third reading)

Kevin Davis

The cry of the Scot Nats always use to be that they would prefer the Barnet(t) formula being scrapped in exchange for all the oil revenues from the North Sea.

I have never found the truth but I was once told that the territorial boundaries at sea follow the boundaries on land and that if you applied this principle to the Scottish border most of the oil fields would end up back in England.

I have always presumed this is not the case but it would certainly stop the Scot Nats blathering on were it so.


Written into legislation on Northern Ireland in E Heath's time was a provision to hold a referendum every decade - the same could be done in Scotland.



Not all the oil, but yes the territorial lines tend to follow the land boundaries or are at right angles to the land. The English strategic capture of Berwick on Tweed means that following these rules much of the southern parts of "Scottish" oil are in English territorial waters.

However administratively the English/Scots borders are horizontal - following latitude.

Another impact would be if Orkney and/or Shetlands decided they didn't want to be part of an independent Scotland (as they discussed before devolution)


Re - whose oil?

The sea boundary will be a continuation of the land boundary. One quirk of the capture of Berwick upon Tweed is that the English/Scottish border makes a jerk northward before hitting the beach, and continuing this makes most of the North Sea oilfields fall into "English waters" - but closer to Scotland, which is why the pipelines run to Aberdeen.

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