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Lord Kirkhill: My Lords, with almost 70 speakers on the list for today and tomorrow, it behoves most of us who will take part in this Second Reading debate to be reasonably brief--and I intend to follow my own injunction in that regard.
However, before I make a few comments about the Bill, perhaps I may claim your Lordships' indulgence for a moment to engage in a measure of personal reminiscence. It was 20 years ago, when the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey--whose name is on the Speakers' List but who I note has not yet arrived--and I were, if I may put it like this, the Lords Sewel and Hardie of our generation. We are now, of course, 20 years older, but not a lot wiser. I recall that there was then vigorous opposition to the provisions, led by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, with very strong support from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy; the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, and the noble Lord, Lord Gray, whom I particularly remember because his skill at threading amendments into the schedules was well noted by the Scottish Office. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, had from time to time in those days to deal with rapier-like legal thrusts from the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. So, some of us are still around 20 years on as we consider a different Bill.
The Bill of 20 years ago was introduced by the then Labour Government, who were in a minority position and who did not have a manifesto commitment to that end but who knew that their support, particularly in
In the Bill of 20 years ago, a serious attempt was made to define each of the functions which stood devolved. It was not an entirely successful procedure, leading to much disputation and considerable legal disagreement--at least in this House. The present Bill, defining as it does in Schedule 5 the reserved powers--all else being within the competence of the devolved parliament--is a construction which should be more readily grasped by most of us.
Perhaps I may point out that this Bill has only eight schedules; the last Bill had 17. One consequence of that--I hope that it will not happen this time; indeed, I am sure that it will not--is that a number of breakfasts were held in this House, with people moving about--if not with vigour, then at least with some purpose--half-way through the night. I suspect that there is less chance of that happening on this occasion.
Clause 21 of this Bill, which is linked to Schedule 3, relating to the regulation and content of standing orders, might, with profit, be probed somewhat in Committee. I happen to know that my noble friend Lord Monkswell intends to discuss the matter in Committee. Those of us who live in Scotland would do well to recall that recently the Lord Provost of Glasgow survived an attempt to remove him from his provostship. Glasgow council attempted to change the standing orders to that end. However, the Lord Provost was able to deploy the argument that nothing in standing orders permitted any change to be made to the standing orders and therefore the meeting called was invalid. So, the question of standing orders, as introduced into a new parliament, is important and we must tread with considerable care.
It is important that we notice that Clause 26 will enable the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General to take part in the proceedings of the new parliament, but without the right to vote if they are not members. I believe that Clause 28 should require Committee scrutiny, given the protection afforded under European Community law and rights under the European Convention on Human rights.
I have, however, two reservations. The first concerns the power to vary income tax by 3p in the pound up or down. In my view, it is minimalist in effect. It is mainly cosmetic--or is seen to be so--and such a limited financial freedom allows virtual total control of the supply provision to remain with the other place. That is the present position. The Secretary of State is able to move allocations between departments, although there are limits. Such movement does not occur with great openness at the moment. Presumably, the Scottish parliament would hold Ministers to greater public account than is presently the case. But expectations that an Edinburgh parliament can deliver improved social and infrastructure facilities, properly heightened by the attitudes of the members, which reflect the public
My second reservation is that, although the pre-legislative scrutiny will undoubtedly occur and can be developed, new concepts in a new parliament can be arranged. The lack of provision in the Bill of a revising chamber of any kind is a weakness. I do not need to belabour that point to Members of this House. All noble Lords can recall the many legislative second thoughts that governments of all persuasions have offered to this House for further consideration.
That said, I very much welcome the Bill. It is a new dynamic to Scottish public life and it has been created to that end. A wider cross-section of the public than is usual appears to be willing to contest the election under an entirely new electoral system. It is my fervent hope that the outcome will prove to be more democratic than past results and hence more transparently accountable.
Lord Lang of Monkton: My Lords, I take part in this debate with a real sense of foreboding because I cannot remember a Bill being laid before Parliament that brought with it so much potential for division and damage to the fabric of our nation. Modern cinema is full of action films in which to underline the horrors of some particularly destructive or explosive episode a slow motion technique is often used. Here I sense the opposite: an uncontrolled acceleration towards disaster. We are all blandly assured of the Government's benign and enlightened intentions and invited to join the consensus. They say that it is going to happen and so we should make the best of it.
I am not part of that consensus. Of course we must do what we can to make it work, but let that not be mistaken for acquiescence. I believe this to be a thoroughly bad Bill. It does not even serve the evident self-interest of its promoters, born as it was of appeasement out of panic when nationalism first threatened Labour's Scottish heartland over 20 years ago. Since then Labour politicians have fed and nurtured the very demand to which they now claim to be responding. After all that time their proposals are still half-baked.
Many of us argued for years that a devolved parliament for Scotland within a sovereign state with no federal structure could not remain stable in the long term; that it would unbalance the United Kingdom; that it would lead to friction and conflict; and that with no chance of going back once the process had been started Scotland could only move by fits and starts towards separation. Before this Bill has even completed its passage through Parliament we see that process gathering pace. We used to speak of the slippery slope. There is no slippery slope. If recent opinion polls are to be believed we are now in free fall towards separation. I do not believe that the process will move as fast as the polls suggest, but there is no doubt that it has started.
If the Government wonder why they have so seriously miscalculated, part of the reason is that they have been singing so loudly the song of nationalism. One cannot outbid nationalism. In trying to do so one simply endorses it. It is no good uttering homilies about the Union at the Dispatch Box here or in another place, as the noble Lord the Minister has again done today while his colleagues in Scotland are out proclaiming the nationalist message and we are invited to enact a measure that will create the separatist vehicle.
Devolution of power is not in itself an alien creed. To my party it is a concept with which its philosophy is entirely comfortable. It is a means of defending individual liberty against centralisation and socialism, and it inspired many of our policies when in government. But we have always attached a higher priority to the maintenance of our nation's constitutional integrity. Against that background, and in the light of all that we said on this issue over many years in defence of that fundamental principle, it was incomprehensible that my party, the Conservative and Unionist Party, failed to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill in another place.
I recognise that under the conventions of this House and in the light of the Salisbury doctrine noble Lords cannot oppose a measure that has reached them with such strong endorsement. However, I hope that noble Lords are as deeply suspicious as I am of the cynical and pernicious use of that insidious instrument, the pre-legislative referendum. I accept that we must confine ourselves to warning of the dangers that this legislation poses and seeking to persuade the Government to accept amendments to mitigate them. They are many and they are serious. The Bill contains more flashpoints than the Gaza Strip. It is full of gaps, inconsistencies and contradictions and it ducks and fudges the hard choices. Further, it cheats the people of Scotland who have been promised self-government that this Bill does not deliver. The West Lothian question has not been answered but has simply been ignored, yet it remains central to the viability of the relationship between a devolved parliament within a unitary and sovereign state and the Parliament of that sovereign state.
How can the MP for Dunfermline properly vote at Westminster on housing or health issues that affect Devizes or Doncaster when he cannot vote on them for Dunfermline? How can he as Chancellor of the Exchequer decide on taxation levels in England when a separate parliament decides taxation levels that affect his constituents in Scotland? That is not just unfair but unacceptably unfair, and it will soon be seen as such.
Many of us have warned for years about how Scotland's interests as well as those of the whole of the United Kingdom would be damaged by the measures in this Bill. We were ridiculed. We pointed out that the Cabinet post of Secretary of State for Scotland would wither and die, if it were not actually abolished. We also warned that Scotland's share of MPs at Westminster,
As money will be at the root of many of the conflicts ahead I should like to say a little more about it. The issue here is not the Barnett formula, about which so much has been said and written. The issue is the Scottish block: the overall level of central government spending in Scotland through the Scottish Office. Spending per head in Scotland has historically been higher than in England, as it has also been in Wales and Northern Ireland, to recognise local circumstances and needs. More recently, those greater needs have moderated in relative terms, not least because of the substantial gains that have been made by the Scottish economy over the past two decades. But only the undertaking of a new, thorough needs assessment could measure that accurately and strike a fair new level in relation to England. And who can blame the English now for seeking one?
The Barnett formula, agreed in the late 1970s by the then Chief Secretary and Bruce Millan as Secretary of State for Scotland, already recognised the need for an adjustment. It was a straightforward formula designed to ensure that future increases to the already higher spending levels in Scotland would be at a lower percentage rate per head of the population than in England so that Scottish spending, far from being protected as some have understood it, would be gradually brought down in the direction of the English level.
It was a formula for gradual convergence. But it failed in its objective. It failed because the formula did not apply to all spending. It did not apply to in-year changes; and above all it failed because successive Secretaries of State for Scotland were able to negotiate special deals outside it with the Treasury and win battles in Whitehall that protected Scotland's interests. That, of course, will no longer be possible.
Indeed, in this and in most other respects, the new first minister will have considerably less power to look after Scotland's interests than the Secretary of State for Scotland does at present. And now it will be not the formula for annual increases, but the actual Scottish block itself--the very bone and marrow of the United Kingdom Treasury funds spent in Scotland--that will come under attack; and Scotland will be powerless to influence that reappraisal at the heart of government, powerless to protect those spending levels; and, with its pitiful and peripheral tax-raising powers, the Scottish parliament will be powerless to replace them.
Indeed, what the Bill proposes for taxation is the worst of all worlds, for it concedes the principle without allowing the substance. Sadly, finance is only one of the areas of near certain conflict. There are many others, such as the arrangements for dealing with Europe where Scottish ministers may "assist" the British Government Minister in negotiations but it will be with the British Minister that other countries and the Commission will negotiate. It will be he who will cast the United Kingdom vote; and it will be his party's policies that govern his attitude, not that of the ruling party in Scotland. How will Scotland's farmers, with their distinctively different set of problems, feel as they lose the influence that they have had in European negotiations with Scotland's ministers reduced to the role of observers?
How long will the shared powers between Edinburgh and Westminster in such sensitive areas as industrial assistance survive without a serious rift to the disadvantage of our inward investment policies? Every time the Government are challenged over the handling of disputes between Edinburgh and Westminster, they fall back on the concept of something known as a concordat. We heard about it today from the Minister. This is the new panacea. The dictionary definition of a concordat is an agreement between Church and state. I do not know whether the fact that the Scottish parliament will initially meet on The Mound has gone to its head, or whether it is just hoping to get by on a wing and a prayer. To me a concordat is a second cousin of a compact--something of which we heard much in the 1970s as the cure-all then for Britain's industrial relations problems. The late Sir Nicholas Fairbairn defined a compact then as,
That to me sums up the value of this Government's concordats. How can deals patched, I understand, not by Ministers but by officials in smoke-filled rooms, and without the force of law, possibly form the basis of a stable and durable relationship between the two parliaments?
What of the time bomb in Clause 27 of the Bill when after detailing in grand style how the Scottish parliament may make laws to be known as Scottish Acts of Parliament, it adds at subsection (7) that none of this affects the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to make laws for Scotland?
It has truly been said that power devolved is power retained, but that is not how the Government portray their proposals, and it is not how the people of Scotland understand them. If, after raising expectations of all that the Scottish parliament can do, it were to be overruled and overridden by this clause the whole venture would be doomed overnight. But it is Labour who have been telling us for years of the need for a Scottish parliament, as they claim, to put right the democratic deficit, and to make up for the lack of accountability. Thus are all the special privileges Scotland enjoys in this place dismissed in those two empty glib phrases. I refer to the higher share of MPs; the Scottish Grand Committee; the Scottish Select Committee; the Scottish Standing Committees; the territorial department of state; the Cabinet Minister and his four junior Ministers; the
Nor has there been any lack of accountability. Indeed, the capacity of our constitution to adapt and develop in an organic way within a unitary system to strengthen that accountability was demonstrated not many years ago by the new powers that I was able to secure for the Scottish Grand Committee to hold Question Time sessions, to pass Scottish legislation, to sit in Scotland, to move throughout the whole country of Scotland, and to do almost anything in fact that this new Scottish parliament can do, except raise taxes.
All the parliamentary benefits that have accrued to Scotland over the years will now be lost. There will be fewer MPs. They will soon become second class, part-time, shadowy figures as English Members understandably start to find ways to exclude them from their business. Scotland's funding will come under attack, but its ministers and members will no longer be able to take on the Treasury. Scotland's voice may be loud in Edinburgh but at Westminster and Whitehall it will be reduced to a whimper.
The power of a Secretary of State for Scotland is very considerable, not just in Scotland where he controls a territorial department with just about the most comprehensive range of powers anywhere in government, but, more importantly, at the heart of the United Kingdom's Government where he has a seat in Cabinet and the ear of the Prime Minister. I make this point not in a party sense, still less in a personal one. But Secretaries of State can defend Scottish interests at the centre of government, and with the weight of a major government department behind them they can win battles for Scotland, and over the years they have done so.
Power is easier to measure when it is lost--a matter which some in my party may now have cause to reflect upon at greater leisure. The tragedy is that it is only once the Scottish Office is corralled up in Edinburgh, its civil servants cut off from the mainstream of government, and its Secretary of State reduced to a cross between an errand boy and a ceremonial cypher, that the full extent of the loss of Scotland's power will become more apparent.
But perhaps the worst feature of this whole business--and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill--is that Scotland's parliament will have no second chamber. Bicamerality is, and has been for centuries, a central pillar of our parliamentary democracy. Yet the new Scottish parliament will have no revising chamber, no chance for second thoughts, no pause for reflection. Every piece of legislation for which I had responsibility over my nine years as a Scottish Office Minister benefited from its passage through this House. If the Government wish to speak of democratic deficits, that is where they should look. It is a glaring yet wilful omission that Scotland will come to regret.
Those are only some of the reasons why I feel about this Bill a despondency that is close to despair. Scotland is being diminished. England is being ignored. The United Kingdom is being undermined. The Scottish parliament, after the initial fuss and fireworks, will do Scotland no favours. It will not advance the cause of democracy. But it will weaken all of us. The only ones to benefit will be those whose agenda is the destruction of the United Kingdom. We must hope against hope that the Government will listen and make changes even at this late stage, because as it stands this is a Bill that will break the back of Britain.
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, there are many difficult issues to be resolved in connection with the Bill. I was startled by the apocalyptic tone of the noble Lord, Lord Lang, in relation to the Bill. I found it hard to remember that he was one of the Secretaries of State in a Conservative government which, I suppose, could be regarded as probably the most disastrous in relation to the interests of Scotland during my time in politics. The Bill creates a system of devolution within a Scottish parliament as against the kind of separatism which the noble Lord, Lord Lang, put forward. If any party created a sense of separatism in Scotland it was the Conservative government and their operations. During those years, for example, a Secretary of State for Scotland allowed Scotland to be used as a guinea pig for a poll tax which, as my noble friend Lord Steel mentioned, was imposed on Scotland by the votes of the majority of the English Members of Parliament. The anomalies of running the political system in the United Kingdom are not confined to the difficulties created by the Bill but are inherent in the United Kingdom system.
In one sense I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lang. This is a major constitutional Bill. It will give Scots exciting opportunities for a democratic control over their domestic affairs which is impossible in the crowded timetable of Westminster. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lang, largely glossed over that.
Beyond that, the Bill will have momentous consequences for the United Kingdom as a whole. Speaking as the current chairman--at least for a few more days--of the Scottish Peers Association, I find that the Bill contains a certain irony. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Lang, in saying that our Members from all quarters of the House--life Peers and hereditary Peers alike--will no doubt demonstrate the revising qualities of this second Chamber at its best in seeking to improve a Bill which creates a Scottish parliament without the advantage of a second chamber. If there are not the revising operations of a second chamber after the publication of a Bill, it will make all the more important the proposals in the Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny and, equally, for the new proportional electoral system.
The Government, with their massive majority, deserve great credit for their courage in putting forward electoral arrangements which will prevent any massive Labour majority in the Scottish parliament. It is of course the best protection against the problems of one
The creation or, after 290 years, the recreation of a Scottish parliament throws up many problems and apparent anomalies for us to tackle in the later stages of the Bill; for instance, the West Lothian question, the Scottish role in Brussels, non-statutory concordats, which have been mentioned, and so forth. There are no perfect answers to any of those problems, but I take comfort from the fact that the British pragmatic experience has been that it is unwise to push logic too far in politics. Logic carried to extremes often reduces itself to absurdity. A little untidiness in public affairs is no bad thing. It would be curious for any of your Lordships who are content with the present rather eccentric structures of this House to go too far down the West Lothian road of logical democratic legitimacy.
I regard the Government's proposals in the Bill not only as meeting Scottish popular demand for greater self government but, equally important, as part of the sensible modernisation of the British constitution to meet the changing circumstances in Europe and in the world at large. It is part of the blueprint of a wide range of constitutional changes which we espouse on these Liberal Democrat Benches, recently spelt out by Robert Maclennan, the president of the Liberal Democrats. We are members of a European Community in a world where technology has created a global economy. In the face of such forces, we need the strong countervailing force of democratic devolution, not merely administrative devolution, to drive decision-making downwards wherever practicable to the national, regional or local community level.
I have a deep sense of being Scottish in terms of my national identity. Yet I am proudly British in terms of legal citizenship and strongly European by political conviction. I do not find any contradiction between those three positions. Independent national sovereignty in the 19th century sense of the term either for Britain or for Scotland is an anachronism for the 21st century. The Scottish nationalism of the SNP is dangerously out of date, as is the British nationalism of the Tory Eurosceptics. A look around the world shows that we suffer from too much nationalism, not too little. The United Kingdom is a success story of a rather untidy political, economic and monetary union of three, or three-and-a-half, nations, riddled with its own anomalies. Since political and economic union has not made the Scots noticeably less Scottish or the Welsh less Welsh, it should reassure us about developing a closer European Union without undermining our diverse national characteristics and a proper sense of national pride.
To have resisted the desire of the Scottish people for their own devolved parliament, as the Conservatives sought to do, would have fed the forces of separatism in Scotland, as indeed did their attitude when they were in government. The change in approach which we heard today from the Opposition Front Bench, as distinct from
The way the United Kingdom has evolved has produced a decent, tolerant, civil society and it has given the Scots, the Welsh, the English and those in Ulster a weight and an influence in the European Union and in world affairs generally which none of them could possibly enjoy separately. The best way to preserve that is to make a success of the devolution plans in the Bill.
For all the froth of public opinion polls which we see in the Herald and the Scotsman, I do not believe that the Scottish people will want to slide into the disruption and deep damage of separation. Once the new parliament is in place, what would be best for both Scotland and the United Kingdom is a period of stability while the new and difficult system settles down rather than a fresh round of feverish argument about a further referendum and separation. That would hardly serve the interests of the Scottish people.
It will be a major challenge to the political leadership of all the major parties in both Scotland and Westminster to make the new machinery work well, with its new voting system and untried concordats. However, it will give the Scottish people and members of the Scottish parliament the chance to devote parliamentary time to housing, education, law reform and job creation and to do so in depth, which has never been possible within the Westminster timetable. That is where the real interests of the Scottish people lie, rather than in a fresh round of constitutional turbulence.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, as secretary of the Scottish Peers Association, I am very happy to find myself speaking between my present distinguished chairman for the next six days and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, a previous distinguished chairman of the association.
In common with about 50 other Peers speaking in this debate, I have an interest to declare. I am a Scot and my home is in Scotland. In common with the noble Earl, Lord Buchan, whose speech I enormously enjoyed, I too am about to have my hereditary head cut off.
I have made an attempt to read the Hansard reports of the various stages of the Bill's passage through another place, which is extraordinarily difficult because, unlike in this House, every sensible speech is constantly interrupted by people trying to score cheap, party-political points. At the end of the day, most of the really important issues, or many of them, have not been resolved and will affect the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster. The potential for conflict in many areas is enormous.
I shall not repeat a list of those areas because that has been done already by the noble Lords, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and Lord Lang of Monkton. But there are one or two remarks which I should like to make. There appears to be no agreement or no definite ruling as to whether the Scottish parliament would or would not
That is very important because I envisage that if a referendum were to be organised by the Scottish parliament, it would be because there was a majority of Scottish Nationalists there. Therefore, it would appear to me that if they were going to organise the referendum, they would have the power to load the question in their favour. That matter really needs to be looked into.
But most important--and I make no apology for reiterating it--there is the vagueness with which the question of finance has been treated, because there is nothing in the Bill to ensure that the proportion of the United Kingdom revenue allocated to Scotland will not be reduced or that Scotland's needs will be taken sufficiently into account. Nothing will contribute to the disaffection of the Scots with the Union quicker than finding that they have to make do with a reduced standard of service from both local and national government or that they must pay a lot more in council tax to make up for the shortfall in the Holyrood parliament's grant to local government caused by a reduced block grant from the Treasury.
I know that the Government say that they will not reduce Scotland's funding and I believe them. But some of their English Back-Benchers and their constituents have other views. Also, one must remember that no government can bind a future government. Governments do change. The Scottish National Party is just sitting, waiting happily for that to happen.
There is also the question of the accountability of the Scottish parliament to Westminster as regards how the block grant is spent and there is the question which has already been raised of who will be eligible to pay any extra 3p tax and all the problems which that will cause.
While I am sure that we are all agreed that money is not the only important thing in life, I am sure that we are also all agreed that it is extremely important and that lack of it is a very serious matter.
Those matters are important and they should be written on the face of the Bill and not left to committees, concordats or just to luck. I fear sadly that devolution is not really workable except in a federal context and the opinion polls suggest that the Scots, who are not fools, are well aware of that.
They are also deeply disappointed because they thought that the Government whom they helped to elect, would wave a wand and give them everything they wanted at once. They wanted old Labour as they knew it and they do not really like new Labour at all. There are many disappointed people out there, particularly in relation to such matters as public sector pay and the national minimum wage. Perhaps I may add that most of them do not want a modern parliament building. They wanted the fine, old, dignified High School.
So far in another place, the Government have been extremely deaf and inflexible. Their arrogance in thinking their Bill is perfect and not capable of improvement except by themselves on comparatively trivial matters is likely to prove a very big nail in the coffin of the United Kingdom. We are not trying to wreck the Bill. We accepted the results of the referendum and our only concern is to make this measure work. I hope that in his rather patronising opening speech, the Minister was not implying that anybody in this House has a vested interest in making sure that the Scottish parliament does not work. I am not aware of any such person among your Lordships and I do not believe that there is any. After all, as I have already indicated, the majority of the speakers in this debate live in Scotland and have a strong interest in making sure that it works. But as the Bill stands, I fear that its chances of working are slender unless the Government will open their mind and ears to a number of important amendments.
Lord Hughes: My Lords, when political parties want to make constitutional changes such as are proposed in the Scotland Bill, the first requisite is that they should establish that that is what the people of Scotland want. I suggest that before this Bill was put forward, that was done. The general election returned Members from three political parties in Scotland each of which wanted change of some sort--either devolution or independence. Not a single opponent of change was returned in Scotland.
The Government then went on, having achieved the mandate which they sought in their manifesto, to produce a White Paper. After the White Paper, there was a referendum. There were predictions in this House that perhaps less than 30 per cent. of the people of Scotland would be prepared to vote in favour of the parliament and in particular the tax position. That was proved wrong. There were overwhelming majorities as regards both parts of the referendum.
Therefore, the Bill was produced in the form in which it came before the House of Commons, with complete legitimacy. I was interested to consider the changes at the time that the Scottish Parliament was done away with. Many noble Lords will have watched the play "The Three Estates". The three estates of the Scottish
It is interesting to find that out of 60 nobles who were able to take part in the vote to ratify the treaty, only three-quarters actually took part. Twenty-nine of them voted for ratification and 15 voted against. We talk about percentages being necessary, so I should point out that 45 per cent. of that Scottish Parliament voted for ratification.
I was particularly interested in the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Buchan, especially in his claim to be the rightful King of Scotland. As I said, 29 nobles voted for ratification while 15 voted against. One of the nobles who voted against was the noble Earl's predecessor, the Earl of Buchan. Perhaps he did so because he was afraid that, with the abolition of the Scottish Parliament, his claim to the kingship would be diminished.
I move on now to the points raised by my noble friend and by the noble Lord, Lord Lang, regarding the powers and the composition of the parliament. I have been a Member of your Lordships' House for 37 years. I doubt whether the number of Bills which originated in the House of Commons and which were passed without any amendment accepted from this House would get into double figures for that period. Therefore, I do not think that I am happy about the Scottish parliament being a single chamber. I say that because, if there is no second chamber, it will, with the best will in the world, become a legislative fort which will require subsequent legislation to put right. It will be within the powers of the Scottish parliament to remedy that.
I got in touch with the Norwegian Embassy today to find out exactly how the Storting works there. People are elected to a single chamber. One of the first things that they do is to decide that 25 per cent. of the members should form an upper house and that 75 per cent. should form a lower house. All legislation which goes through the Norwegian Parliament is only passed in the first place if it is approved by both houses. If there are differences between the houses--that is to say, if one house approves legislation but the other does not--they meet together and the majority then decides what to do. I commend that to my noble friends on the Front Bench as a possible way in which they could, within their powers, decide to do something of that nature. I do not necessarily recommend that my noble friends should do so right away because, obviously, the first thing to do is to find out whether single-chamber government works. I do not think that it will be proved to work completely satisfactorily. I suggest that in the second parliament they might perhaps decide to follow the Norwegian example.
I was very disappointed with the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Lang. He obviously speaks as a totally unreconstructed Scottish Tory. Judging by all the evidence from Scotland, I am glad to know that the noble Lord does not represent the views of Tories in Scotland. Indeed, if you want to find out who is
Many people are talking like the noble Lord, Lord Lang, but they are really making themselves propagandists for the Scottish National Party. If they are going out of their way to show that a Scottish devolved parliament cannot work, they are really saying, "You must look for an alternative to the Scottish parliament". But what are the alternatives? They are nationalism or the status quo. The state of the Tory Party in Scotland does not give any guarantee that the people of Scotland will ever want to return to the present situation.
I am glad that the Liberals, the Labour Party and the Scottish Tories will be working for a successful devolved parliament. I agree with one comment that was made from the other side of the House: I believe that an independent Scotland would not be in the interests of Scotland. Much has been said about the opinion polls, especially as regards the Scottish Nationalists doing so well at present. I do not believe that that will be the situation in a year's time. It has been inflated in the first place by the nonsense about the knighthood for a Scottish actor whose name escapes me for a moment. I wonder whether anyone has ever asked him if he would have accepted a knighthood proposed by Michael Forsyth. Indeed, he has never said that he wanted one; it is other people who have said that he has been refused.
I see that I am pretty near my time limit in this debate, but I shall have much to say in Committee. I have in mind in particular Schedule 5 which runs to 20 pages and lists all the things that the Scottish parliament will not be allowed to do. I am afraid that I am not likely to accept that every one of those things should be excepted from the parliament. However, there is one good thing in Schedule 8. Indeed, I was surprised to see among the deletions the words,
Viscount Weir: My Lords, perhaps I may, first, make it clear that I speak as a Scottish Unionist. I define the word "unionism" as the belief that the preservation of the Union is a far greater and more valuable principle than the lesser disagreements which divide our political parties. I voted "No" in the referendum simply and solely because I felt that the consequences of devolution would, in the end, endanger the Union. But, equally, many Scots voted, "Yes" because they sincerely believed--as the Government argued--that, unless we had devolution, the Union would be weakened. Therefore, under my wide definition of unionism, I must class such people as fellow Unionists, even if I totally disagree with their reasons for favouring devolution.
The whole affair was pushed through with undue haste to catch the ongoing tide of the election result. That may have been pragmatic politics, so I suppose it was quite acceptable to those who, unlike myself, are politicians. But it did not really leave enough room for any considered debate as to what was the best solution for our country.
The suppression during the campaign of any dissenting opinion in the Labour Party also showed an unfortunate disdain for democratic debate on what was surely a national rather than a party issue. But most obnoxious, however, was the formal campaign alliance between Labour and the SNP, in spite of the fact that each wanted devolution for totally opposite reasons. In this context some noble Lords may recall the jolly photographs in the Scottish press at the time of a pleasure boat proceeding up the River Forth containing Gordon Brown and Sean Connery. To say this scene brought to mind the biblical reference to the ox lying down with the ass is no harsher a description than the total cynicism that political pact deserves.
But it was not merely a cynical exercise, it was also a poorly judged one, which I believe was important in setting the adversarial tone of the referendum campaign which, for much of the time, seemed little more than the political equivalent of an ill-tempered England/Scotland football match. Believe me, that rather nasty tone--particularly from the SNP--continues to disfigure Scottish politics and will be a feature of the new parliament.
Where, then, is the new parliament likely to lead? I start with the reasonable assumption that the first Edinburgh government is likely to be a Labour-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and that this administration is likely to have an activist outlook towards expenditure. I say this because, on the Labour side, Scotland remains at heart distinctly more old Labour than new. Moreover, the Scottish parliament will be intimately involved in local government issues, and the history of Labour local government control in Scotland has consistently been one of trying to solve problems by enthusiastically throwing public money at them, often in a thoroughly reckless way, as Donald Dewar seems to have discovered only in the past few weeks.
I imagine the attitude of the Liberal Democrats in such a coalition might reflect the fact that it was the only party at the previous election to advocate increased taxation. Just as I foresee a Scottish parliament--or a Scottish administration rather--which will want to spend, so there is certainly no shortage of problems on which to spend. One can, of course, fairly remark that the financial appetite of a worthy social conscience is usually limitless.
We can be quite sure therefore that extra income tax will be levied. Business rates will also go up, although hopefully not to produce the absurd disparity between equivalent businesses in England and Scotland which used to exist--
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