Government urged to attend to English democratic need in tackling West Lothian question

By staff writers
September 9, 2011

A leading UK campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms has welcomed the launch of a government commission to investigate the so-called West Lothian Question.

But Unlock Democracy has warned that the issue of the place of England in a changing Britain is the one that cannot and should not be overlooked in the process of evening out democratic procedures.

The West Lothian Question revolves around the apparent anomaly that, because of devolution of powers to all the nations except England, a Scottish MP at Westminster can vote on English legislation impacting Blackburn in Lancashire, while an English MP cannot vote on Scottish legislation impacting Blackburn in West Lothian.

It was made famous by the retired anti-devolution MP Tam Dalyell, who famously posed the dilemma in these terms.

Director of Unlock Democracy Peter Facey commented: "We welcome the government’s decision to establish a commission to look into the so-called West Lothian question. This is a long overdue investigation into a very serious anomaly in UK constitutional law.

"In looking at the problem however, we do hope that the commission begins at first principles. This anomaly in UK law arose for the noblest of reasons: to bring power closer to the people in a way that reflects their identities. Sadly, while this has been of great benefit for the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the English have been left out of the equation," he added.

"Any solution that deals only with the constitutional anomaly, but does not address the need to devolve real power from Westminster to the people and communities of England may be a worthy tidying up exercise but will not address the fundamental problem.

"We will therefore be urging the commission to recognise the right of the English people themselves to self-govern and decide what works best for them. This could take a similar form to the right for nations and regions to self-government entrenched in the Spanish constitution," concluded Facey.

Unlock Democracy ( was formed in 2007. It is the successor organisation to Charter 88 and the New Politics Network.


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