A major issue in the continuing discussion over devolution
in the United Kingdom
. Asked by Tam Dalyell
, Labour MP
for the constituency of West Lothian
, in the late 1970s
. The question is this: "After devolution, why should Scottish
MPs at Westminster
be allowed to vote on English
domestic matters while they would not be allowed to vote on Scottish domestic matters, which would be dealt with by the Scottish Assembly
The question is problematic because it shows a flaw in devolution. If you give the Scots their own Parliament, but not full independence then there is no point to Scottish MP's sitting at Westminster and being able to control policy for England (which, don't forget, is separate from Scotland yet both are in the UK), and further, a Scottish MP representing Scotland in a devolved UK would have no votes over Scottish matters but votes over English matters.
The fear was that the only way to answer the West Lothian Question's solution would lead either to a more radical restructuring of the British constitution than was intended or to abandon devolution, which its supporters would be loath to do.
This question is irrelevant to anyone supporting Scottish independence, i.e. the SNP, or to Tories who resist devolution. Despite the quandary it poses, the Labour government under Tony Blair pushed through devolution in 1997. Evidently William Hague, current leader of the Conservative Party, has proposed an English Parliament, along the lines of either the one for Scotland or the one for Wales. Yet this does not solve the question unless you make the House of Commons a body that rules for all the UK, not just one nation.
And once you've done that, you've essentially turned the UK into the United States with a federal system and turned the House of Commons into the US Congress. All of which was much more than ever intended, and why the West Lothian Question was raised in the first place.