Posted by: secretperson | September 16, 2008

A West Lothian Answer – English MSPs

OK, this is a bit tongue in cheek, but I am tired of reading anti-English Parliament arguments along the lines of “England has 82% of MPs, it can do whatever it wants and won’t be outvoted”. Well we can point to incidents such as top up fees and foundation hospitals where a majority of English MPs voted against and the measure still passed. But that normally isn’t good enough for those people.

So I thought, well if the de facto English parliament (i.e. the UK parliament) can have a proportion of non-English MPs, why not apply the same reasoning to the Scottish parliament.

So where do I start (details from BBC). There are 646 Westminster MPs elected, of which 529 were elected in England. So an extra 22% of the English representation added on. Applying this to Scotland’s 129 MSPs means we need an extra 28.5 seats for the UK. Call it 28 to round up.

587 non-Scottish Westminster seats, represents 25 English MSPs, 2 for Wales and 1 for NI. By the constituency plus list system I estimate, of those 24 English seats, 15 constituency, 11 list. Breaking constituency down the same as Westminster seats, and list by vote percentage, gives:

England: Constituency: Lab 8 MSPs, Con 5, LD 1
List: Lab 4 Con 4 LD 2 Other 1
Wales: Const: Lab 1
List Lab 1

Obviously I have rounded these numbers to best fit exact numbers of seats. Labour could have lost one in Wales had both been run under list, the Lib Dems might well take the other seat, as the others was added together, but thats not so important.

The Scottish Parliament currently has 47 SNP, 46 Lab, 17 Con, 16 LD, 2 Green, 1 Other.

The West Lothianed Scottish parliament has 60 Lab, 47 SNP, 26 Con, 19 LD, 2 Green, 2 Other, 1 DUP

And if we follow the pattern of the 2003 Scottish election we get a Lab-Lib majority coalition. From a minority SNP administration, to a majority Lib-Lab one.

Now if you can find me one person who would argue that was just on the grounds Scotland has 82% of the seats and could do whatever it wants, I’ll admit they are atleast consistent. But still wrong.



  1. I would agree that those arguing that with an 82% share of seats means absolute rule are wrong, but the important thing you are forgetting here is that the Scottish Parliament doesn’t pretend to be British like the Westminster one. The clue’s in the title. The Scottish people campaigned for many years to have seperate representation and we will continue campaigning to be recognised as an independent state. Maybe after a few more years your campaign will also bear fruit.

    PS The SNP abstain from voting on English-only matters so you should be criticising the London-based “UK” parties for this problem rather than coming up with figures that oust the Scottish Government from power.

  2. You are competely correct Fay, this post only addresses that one issue. I have in the past criticised UK parties (Labour in particular, I believe the Scottish Tories also abstain?).

    The issue is that the Westminster British parliament also acts as the English parliament on devolved matters. It is two parliaments in one.

    I support the SNP, we are on the same side. Good luck with your campaign for independence, it goes hand in hand with my desire for independence.

    And I look forward to a long happy future as good neighbours :-).

  3. The number of MPs is only a small part of the question.

    MPs only enable legislation, they don’t introduce it.
    The Parliamentary agenda and timetable is controlled by a cabinet (and unelected PM) who were not elected by the people their legislation effects.

    We should also look at executive powers, where Ministers decide the English should not have the same rights as the Scots (eg Darling and Sunday shopping: Falconer and an EP).

    This is true in the case of Health, Education, Housing, Sport and Arts, Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Emergency Services, Planning, Social Work, Heritage, Transport and Tourism.

  4. You are correct Terry, I think that is sometimes referred to as the English Question, as opposed to the West Lothian Question which just concerns accountability of MPs.

    My ‘proposal’ was more of a rebuttal to those who don’t see a problem in England but no doubt would with my Scottish example. Obviously the issue of executive power goes even further.

  5. Secret person,
    You’re right of course. I don’t think Scotland would be happy with non-Scottish constituency members voting on Scottish matters. (BTW The SNP has 7 English-born MSPs representating Scottish constituencies, thats not an issue.)

    (With the probable exception of the Labour Party as your example indicates – how they’d love to be in power in Scotland by any means necessary!)

    So how to solve the West Lothian Question?

    Solutions like English pauses for English clauses would only accelerate Scottish independence; I don’t think Scots would like Westminster if they thought that through legislative tinkering it was unlikely that there would ever again be a Scottish Prime Minister of the UK. If that was to be the case then what’s the point of Westminster representation of Scotland? Its not a democratic solution.

    The other solution bandied about is to reduce the number of Scottish MPs to 45. That always makes me smile.

    45 MPs is the number guaranteed to Scotland by the Treaty of the Union. To go any lower would break the Treaty.

    Once the number is reduced to 45 and people still complain then where do we go?

    The two most logical solutions are

    1. An English Parliament
    2. Independence

    Independence is the far neatest solution.

  6. And of course how many ‘English’ MP’s are English?, I hear quite a few Scots, Welsh and ‘British’ accents from ‘English’ MP’s on the telly!

  7. Tommy I am with North Britain on this, the issue is which constituencies they represent. If English voters want to vote in someone Scottish that is there choice, they can vote them out again if they favour Scotland over the constituents who elected them.

    The problem is Scottish constituency MPs passing laws over England with no responsibility to the electorate.

  8. The West Lothian Question isnt as scary or as complex as a lot of people seem to think it is. For a thorough and totally lucid answer, see this link

    Best of luck with your campaign for a democratic island for all of us to share amicably.

  9. hi secretperson,
    The West Lothian question has, to my mind, been blown out of all proportion really. To paraphrase it, Q. Should Westminster MP’s elected from the devolved parts of the UK vote on matters which do not concern their own areas.

    A. No.

    It is that simple. However, all the constitutional baggage has been dragged along with it. There is a complete solution. End the union. It is redundant and no longer serves the interests of the constituent parts. All the nations would then have the democratic institutions they want, elected freely with no possibility of the “neighbours” having any undue influence. From a Scottish perspective, Alex Salmond said recently that he felt that England, “would rather have a good neighbour than a surly tenant.”

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