Saturday, 27 September 2014

The West Lothian Question Is A Mirage

The West Lothian Question is a mirage. It assumes that the defining division between Scotland, Wales and England is nationality. In so far as the issue at hand, in relation to the devolution of powers that is not the case.

Its true that devolution, as it exists is based upon a devolution of powers to Scotland and Wales, and both of these are nations. But, powers are also devolved to Northern Ireland, which is not a nation, as well as to London, which is not a nation. The basis of the devolution, here is not some form of national autonomy, but merely the establishment of administrative arrangements on a regional basis. Even the Scottish referendum demonstrated that point. Those entitled to vote in the referendum were those who currently lived in Scotland. In terms of nationality, many of those would not conform to any notion of “Scottishness”, but reflect the fact that Scotland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, is composed of people from a variety of ethnicities, cultures, and nationalities. Similarly, many people who do conform to some notion of "Scottishness", whose culture, language and so on, derives from their roots in Scotland, did not get to vote, because they do not live in Scotland.

In that case, the West Lothian question disappears. It is not a matter of why should Scottish MP's get to vote on all issues, discussed in a United Kingdom Parliament, whilst English MP's do not get to vote on issues, discussed in a Scottish Parliament, but that all MP's get to vote, in a United Kingdom Parliament, whilst some powers are also devolved to a range of regional governments. The only question then becomes what powers should be devolved, and to which regional governments should they be devolved.

As we already have powers devolved to London, and we also already have a range of economic powers devolved to unelected Local Enterprise Partnerships, the question then seems to become a trivial one of only deciding on these administrative arrangements. What is clear is that this situation does not require as Cameron, UKIP and others have suggested, that there must be an English Parliament, in which only English MP's get to vote.

As a Marxist, I believe that it is, in any case, a mistake to fragment the unity of the state, by measures of devolution, where such a unified and centralised state has existed for centuries. If Cameron and UKIP insist on trying to play politics with the issue, by tying the promised additional powers for Scotland to the idea of an English Parliament, they must be opposed, but we should take the opportunity of demanding a completion of the British bourgeois revolution started nearly four hundred years ago, as I have suggested previously.

Finally, the issue of Scottish independence has now also become inextricably linked to the question of UK independence from the EU. The real solution to many of these problems, and the same is true for the situation in Ukraine, is the establishment of a United States of Europe, including Russia. On that basis, of a centralised European State, even one at first established on a federal basis, these administrative divisions could be settled within the context of this single state, and could be done so on the basis of a united working-class struggle for consistent democracy within it.

The potential for the United Kingdom to have been broken apart, and the fact that sections of the Left, as has happened in the past, allowed themselves to be drawn along by the reactionary bandwagon of nationalism, shows the danger when the Tories seek to mobilise populist support for an anti EU referendum. Its shows the need for real Marxists and internationalists to take this issue seriously now, and to begin the struggle to move forward to a United State of Europe, and not be dragged backwards by Little Englanderism.

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