UKIP's Plan to Abolish the Scottish and Welsh Assembly Governments
Recently UKIP officials have been on the telly making dicks of themselves. Here's Nigel Farage explaining how UKIP will abolish the Welsh Assembly Government (a few weeks after the Welsh nation voted to extend the powers of that Government), and here's Lord Monckton explaining how UKIP will abolish the Scottish Government.
Now of course UKIP don't quite put it in those terms, they don't say that they will abolish the Scottish and Welsh Governments, merely that they will abolish MSPs and AMs. They also disingenuously suggest that they will retain the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. This is what they tell Scottish voters in their 2011 Scottish manifesto:
We will -
- Retain the Scottish Parliament
- Replace MSPs with Scottish Westminster MPs
Curiously the Welsh manifesto has noticably different wording:
We will -
- Renew the Welsh Assembly, but in a far less costly form
- Remove the Assembly Members, who are overpaid and underemployed
- Replace them with Welsh Westminster MPs meeting a week a month in Wales
If you replace MSPs with MPs you no longer have a Scottish Parliament, instead you have a Scottish Grand Committee of 59 Westminster MPs who sit in what used to be the Scottish Parliament building for one week a month. And a Scottish Grand Committee is, as you may remember, what Scotland had before it voted for its own Scottish Parliament. And the Scottish people voted for a Scottish parliament because (and here I quote the UKIP manifesto):
We want our.... Scottish nation.... to run [its] own affairs without interference from distant, unelected bureaucrats with no understanding of our nation or of the Scottish people’s needs and hopes.
I cannot for the life of me understand UKIP's devolution policy. I suppose it might appeal on a very superficial "anti-politics mood" level to certain people, and given that the three main parties are now all pro-devolution to Scotland and Wales it may be that UKIP see reactionary unitary-statism as the only niche available to them. It's a shame because they could differentiate themselves from the big three parties by advocating an English parliament. I suggested this a few weeks back when I wrote to Lord Monckton, head of UKIP's Policy Unit, to offer my opinion that an English parliament elected under a form of proportional representation would be a better policy for UKIP than their current dog's dinner. His reply follows.
Dear Mr. Young, - Thank you very much for your comments on the possibility of an English Parliament. The difficulty that we have with this is the staggering cost of layer upon layer of government. We have MEPs, MPs, national-assembly MPs and local councillors. We are the most over-governed nation on Earth. I am not convinced that the voters in any of the four pillars of the kingdom would be in the least concerned if their national-assembly MPs were swept away and their elected MPs met in the various assemblies one week a month to decide on those matters devolved from Westminster to the four regions. It is the fact, not the modality, of devolution that people are keen on.
At the moment, therefore, UKIP's clear policy is that regional assemblies (with the possible exception of Northern Ireland) should be formed from Westminster MPs meeting one week a month. This would save a fortune and would actually strengthen the devolution of powers to the four nations, because MPs serving in both assemblies would be more inclined to cede powers from Westminster to themselves than to altogether separately-elected bodies. - Monckton of Brenchley
The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley
Dear Lord Mockton,
I fear that you are out of touch with public opinion in Wales, and extremely out of touch with public opinion in Scotland. Make no mistake, your current policy makes UKIP practically unelectable in Scotland.
An English parliament does not necessarily mean more politicians. The House of Lords might soon be elected by proportional representation, which fact has led some Lords to suggest that the upper house might become viewed by the public as the more democratic and more representative of the two chambers. Paddy Tipping went further and said:
"Let us consider what would happen if there were two classes of Members of Parliament, and certain MPs could not vote and, in particular, speak on certain issues. If there were a rival Chamber up the Corridor, where Members from across the United Kingdom, however they were elected or selected, were able to speak, there would be a case for people to say, "We are the legitimate Chamber of the United Kingdom, and you Commoners down there are a de facto Parliament for England." That is the threat. I do not say that that situation will arise, but we need to explore the issue."
Impose English votes on English Laws, or turn the Commons into an English Grand Committee, and you're heading for a situation whereby the upper house, proportionally elected, becomes viewed as the more British of the two chambers - non English MPs will be marginalised in the Commons, and will consequently be marginalised in the Government. Divide the Commons along national lines at your peril
It makes far more sense to make the Lords a British parliament (with far fewer numbers than it has at the moment), members of which will form the British government, and have powers of scrutiny over the devolved national parliaments, and to allow the Commons to be an English parliament by removing non-English MPs and cutting it in size.
To which Monckton replied:
Since I live in Scotland and have travelled and spoken widely north of the Border, I ken fine that though the voters want a Scottish Parliament they don't necessarily want the cost and duplication of having separately-elected MSPs. The political class wants that, because it's more jobs for the boys, but the people who pay for it don't. There was vast dismay at the cost of the Numptorium Building, and it was widely (and correctly) assumed that MSPs simply didn't have the experience or maturity between them to execute a project on that scale properly. What the people of Scotland want is a Scottish Parliament with people of experience and ability in it, and they don't care whether the people in it are MPs or MSPs as long as the powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
I can't speak for Wales, but the recent vote on more powers for the Assembly indicates that it's the powers that people are keen about, and the constitution of the Assembly is a secondary consideration - but one which greatly concerns UKIP because we're looking for ways of bringing the monumental cost of government in the UK under some sort of control before national bankruptcy overtakes us.
Nigel Farage's view on this is quite clear: the people want assemblies in all four nations of the UK, and ought to have them, but the assemblies should be manned by MPs from the nations concerned.
The question of whether a House of Lords elected by proportional representation has more democratic legitimacy than a House of Commons elected by first-past-the-post or AV is entirely separate from the question whether, one week a month, the House of Commons would be the home of the English Parliament.
Everyone has his favourite policies, and no doubt having an English Parliament separately elected from the Westminster Parliament is one of yours. However, the leadership strongly disagrees, chiefly on ground of cost and useless duplication. For the reasons in my previous note, which you do not acknowledge or address, devolution would be more likely to happen, and would be more likely to be effective, if MPs were in effect devolving powers from themselves at Westminster to themselves in their regional assemblies. There it is, I'm afraid: at some point the policy has to be decided upon, and this one has been decided upon, for good reasons. - M of B
The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley
Thank you for your response. It would appear that we will have to disagree.
I lived in Scotland myself until recently and I never met a Scot who shares your views, though I suspect we mix in different circles. The question of whether grand committees are a better form of devolution was a valid question back in the 1990s, read the speeches of Malcolm Rifkind or Michael Forsyth, or the minutes of Thatcher's government - they all ask that very question, repeatedly.
The valid question now is "why are UKIP still asking that question?"
You'll never get to scrap the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, just ask James Gray http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4563591.stm
Regrettably UKIP will pay an electoral price for continuing to ask the question, which will set you back in your efforts to win a referendum on the EU. I for one will not be sitting by the radio excitedly awaiting news of the abolishment of the Scottish Parliament and Government because that news will never come, but don't let my hard-nosed realism dampen your enthusiasm for flogging a dead horse.
I hope that the Scottish and Welsh voters make UKIP realise that their devolution policy is unpopular, and that UKIP go back to the drawing board to devise a policy on an English parliament. However, judging by Monckton's admission that UKIP don't expect to win any seats, I suspect that UKIP already know that their policy on devolution is unpopular in Scotland and Wales but don't give a shit because they know they're essentially an English party and they're too lazy and intellectually vapid to consider the alternative.
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