There is no such thing as an ‘England-only’ issue..

Much talk continues in the media of the ‘inevitability’ and supposed fairness of ‘English devolution’ – which is nothing more than a cynical Tory attempt to neutralise the 58 out of 59 Scottish MPs who are not Tories, preventing them from hindering the Right’s plans to further strip away vital supports from vulnerable and ordinary people and making it far harder for a Labour government to achieve good in government or resist Tory predations in opposition.

The purported logic behind this effective coup is that, if the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the right to decide issues such as health and education spending and (in the case of Scotland) to raise revenues, ‘then it’s only right’ that English people have the ‘freedom’ to decide on so-called ‘England only’ matters.

But this is a complete red herring, because there is no such thing as an ‘England only’ issue.

This was highlighted and elaborated by an excellent comment by a reader called ‘Pete’, who runs another blog:

The false premise behind all these comparisons between England and Scotland (and Wales and NI) is the assumption that they are in some way comparable: they’re not. England has 80-odd percent of the UK population, London alone has more people than Scotland and Wales combined. Scotland’s GVA per capita looks good – ranking it 3rd behind London and the SE in English regions – however is only the 6th UK region by gross GVA – behind 5 English ones. Those disparities mean there is *no* change to English tax, public services, inflation, employment legislation, company law, trade union law … that *does not* affect Scotland. A reduction in English VAT, for example, would instantly have an adverse affect on Scottish manufacturing, retailing, pay rates and more. Because of its relatively very small population and economic activity, the reverse is not true to any meaningful extent. England is 80-odd percent of the UK changes there will always affect the other 15/17 percent – i.e. Scotland, Wales, and NI.

(emphasis mine)

The media, from the BBC to the vast majority of the written press, appears to be completely (deliberately?) ignoring this very obvious fact in their coverage of this issue and are giving free rein to various right-wing politicians to voice this ‘obvious truth’.

They are also giving excessive weight to a handful of ‘blue’ Labour MPs who are shamefully supporting the right, such as Kate Hoey, who claimed that Labour should back the moves ‘even if in the short term it looks that it might be a disadvantage to our party‘, describing a few dissenters as ‘serious pressure’ on Ed Miliband.

Any such idiocy would not nerely be a disadvantage for the Labour Party. It would be an unmitigated disaster for ordinary or disadvantaged people in this country.

Before the Tories, with the collusion of their media accomplices, succeed in irreversibly framing the issue in completely false terms, Labour needs to start saying that in the most unambiguous terms in every media appearance and starting with their conference in Manchester now.


  1. Bizarre, is it not, that the Tories – who claim to be the Unionist party – are busily trying to destroy the United Kingdom after only just having campaigned to keep it?
    This latest stunt reveals to all Scots who voted “No” just how cynical the Tories truly are.
    It may now also show up Labour and the Libs as being somewhat naive by comparison.
    No wonder most people are confused and possibly sickened by the sheer arrogant ruthlessness with which the Tories try to pursue electoral advantage.
    They are so damned juvenile – are they not?
    Just as well UKIP will keep them out of office in 2015, I say !!!

    1. Labour were/are the Unionist party of the establishment in Scotland. The Tories are an irrelevance – in electoral terms – here. Labour and the Libdems don’t come across as naive. They come across as every bit as cynical as the Tories – and then some, as they are ‘expected’ to be ‘better’ than the nasty party.

  2. You don’t seem to understand the arguments that the pro-Union parties ran up here in Scotland. When the Yes campaign made any link between English budget ‘choices’ and both a) the amount of money Scotland received (Barnett consequentials) and b) the increasingly squeezed range of choices that a devolved Scottish Government could make as a consequence of the drop in funding, they were boo-ed off the park; ridiculed and rubbished. According to Labour (and the Tories and Lib Dems) there was no inevitability about choices that would require to be made here as a consequence of choices that were made in rUK. In fact, It’s a bit like telling me that I’ll suffer a 50% reduction in wages but can still ‘choose’ to live in the same house. Sophistry, Labour et al liked to assert for instance that a) there was no threat to the NHS in England and b) even if there were, Scotland controlled the NHS in Scotland so what happened in the rUK was completely irrelevant to Scotland – the same went (so the pro-Unionist argument proceeded) for every other policy decision in rUK – it had no impact on Scotland. Now you claim that, in fact, every decision in rUK impacts or is linked to Scotland… which is it? As a former Labour activist (for 30 + years of my life) I am utterly sickened by the dis-ingenuity and lack of political integrity that would have a political party face two ways. It is an either/or situation here. Either there were lies told to the Scottish people during the Indyref OR someone is lying now about the ‘no such thing as English laws’ issue. This is part of the reason that Labour will suffer in Scotland. The ‘power at all costs’, ‘all things to all men’ strategy that has informed its every move over the last decade at least is finally catching up with it. I feel deep deep grief watching its death throes here.

  3. The answer – I think – is simple for people in Scotland: elect enough SNP MPs tp hold the balance of power in Westminster in order to ensure that Scotland – and Wales and Northern Ireland – get enough devolved powers to break the central stranglehold of London and Westminster over the rest of the UK.

    1. Agreed, John. Which is why I’ll be voting SNP. As will my close and extended family and (amazingly, given the referendum result should imply that some of them voted No) all of my work colleagues (it’s a small office).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: