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By Jason Michael
IT BEGGARS BELIEF that Scotland bothers to send MPs to Westminster, that it has ever sent MPs to Westminster. The answer we were always given was that by having Scots MPs in the House of Commons Scotland and Scottish interests were represented at state level. Mr Lawson taught me this in secondary school. Mr Lawson was a moron, or, at least he wasn’t a maths teacher. To think for one solitary moment that Scotland is or has ever been represented at Westminster betrays a truly astonishing lack of basic arithmetic. Mr Lawson taught British State Propaganda – what, in the 90s, we called “Modern Studies.”
Perhaps for the benefit of those who are encountering this for the first time we should do the maths. The House of Commons – the lower house of the British parliament – is a chamber of 650 elected members from every constituency in the United Kingdom. We may reduce this to 649 on account of the Speaker not having voting privileges. The three nations; England, Scotland, and Wales, and the province of Northern Ireland are represented in the Commons. England has 532 voting members, Scotland 59, Wales 40, and Northern Ireland 18 – seven of whom, belonging to Sinn Féin, do not take their seats; seeing Britain as a foreign country.
The Tories are right: Scotland has two governments. But only one was elected by the people who live there, and only one has a mandate.—
Tommy Sheppard MP (@TommySheppard) June 18, 2018
When we take all the present and voting members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together – a total of 110 – we see that they make up but a fraction over 17 per cent of the entire chamber. In the course of any debate it requires only 322 English MPs – that is just over 60 per cent of England’s members – to defeat the combined will of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. When the will of Scotland – making up a mere 9 per cent of the Commons – is at odds with 6 out of 10 English voters, as it frequently is, Scotland is subjected to the will of England.
Unionists object to this mathematical reasoning on the dubious grounds that Westminster is the national parliament of the United Kingdom, of which Scotland is a part. But this is not true. The House of Commons and the unelected House of Lords constitute a state parliament, and that is quite another thing. The UK is not, nor has it ever been, a nation. It is one thing for a region of a nation to be represented at national or state level by disproportionately fewer seats than other regions of the same nation, but it is another thing to have a nation – let alone two nations and a province – represented at such a democratic deficit as Scotland is to England at Westminster.
In the general election campaign immediately following the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the election at which it scooped a phenomenal 56 of the 59 Westminster seats, the SNP ran on a manifesto proclaiming that a vote for the Scottish National Party was “a vote to make Scotland’s voice heard at Westminster more loudly than it has ever been heard before.” What the SNP never said was that this election promise was entirely meaningless.
Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 08, 2015
Had the SNP won all of Scotland’s 59 seats in that election it would have been no closer to increasing our voice by a single decibel than had it also won the 58 seats of Wales and Northern Ireland. Simply put, the House of Commons – the only House at Westminster to where we can elect representatives – is deliberately constituted so as to keep Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland voiceless. Upsetting it may be, but the one unavoidable fact of Westminster is that it is the English parliament – it is only the English parliament. When it pretends to be the union parliament of the UK it is merely demonstrating the fact that the United Kingdom is “Greater England” with attendant hostage-representatives from England’s subject nations.
At those exceptionally rare times when the interests of Scotland and Scots have been successfully represented it has been a by-product of England’s interests – and nothing more. By saying that Scotland is represented at Westminster the defenders of the union are saying that we are dominated by another nation and our interests served only – and rarely – by accident.
We do not need a past pupil of Mr Lawson’s to convince us of the truth of this woeful predicament. The sad reality is that Scotland is not a democracy. Let’s not be fooled into thinking that because we now have a devolved parliament in Edinburgh the situation is any better. In many respects it is worse. Brexit and the EU Withdrawal Bill débâcle in the Commons last week has only highlighted the absolute constitutional powerlessness of Holyrood as a devolved administration within the union. Matters devolved to the Scottish parliament have, in the eyes of the British government, been moved off to an institution that can be muted on a whim.
We told them in March we would protect them.. Tomorrow we will be back at Holyrood no longer shouting about devolu… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Hands Off Our Parliament #dissolvetheunion (@HOOP_hands_off) June 13, 2018
Leaving the question of independence aside for a moment, this brief survey demonstrates beyond doubt that we cannot – as a nation – hope for democracy at Westminster. That our MPs continue to attend the House of Commons – functioning only as witnesses to English democracy – is some sort of sick joke. Our MPs are subjected to a strange kind of unemployment. In terms of what we have elected them to do, they are redundant. In fact, it is not wrong to see Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish MPs as occupants of the highest stratum of the UK’s benefits system, but unlike the Lords and the monarchy they are subject to the sanctions regime.
Devolution, while not being the democracy we deserve, is, however, a step in the right direction. Before even independence, our goal must be full and representative democracy. Independence, remember, doesn’t imply democracy. But, in our case, winning democracy for Scottish people in Scotland demands independence.
Parliamentary democracy has its faults and weaknesses, for sure, and many – myself included – will argue that it is not the best form of democracy, but most democrats will agree that it is the bare minimum the people of every nation deserve. Right now we have our elected representatives sitting in a foreign parliament as nothing more than glorified spectators and in a devolved parliament that, so long as we remain in union with England, has no teeth. There is only one solution to this problem – only one way to give the people of Scotland the democracy and government they deserve – and that is to dissolve the union and become a state with a sovereign parliament of our own.
“Scottish Independence a question of democracy” – Brian Cox