Sunday, October 28, 2007

The East Lothian Answer

Today's Observer has a non-story (which R4 news bulletins later led with, for some reason) on the long-running saga of how the Conservatives should answer the West Lothian Question. It's a non-story because it was in the Herald on 1 October, and has been floating around for about a year before that. It was in the Edinburgh Evening News in early 2006. Today's Sunday Times has a slightly more sensible take on it.

Anyway, beyond being old news, the Observer report also fundamentally misunderstands what Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Scottish Secretary who's come up with the scheme, is actually proposing. In a nutshell, Riffers proposes that an English Grand Commitee (composed of all English Members) should consider purely English legislation (whatever that is) at the Second Reading and Committee stages, while every MP gets a vote on the final reading with the convention that nothing passed by a majority of English MPs should be overturned by the full floor of the house. The Observer report omits that last detail, which is odd, as it's the only point which separates Rifkind's 'East Lothian Answer' (he has a house in Inveresk) from the daft old English Votes for English Laws plan.

The Observer's crack political team also appear under the impression that the voting rights of Scottish MPs is somehow linked to the Barnett Formula. The architect of the formula that isn't really a formula, Lord (Joel) Barnett, was on R4 this evening saying that (the Observer version of) the Tory plan would lead to the end of the Union.

Apparently, and the Herald also had this line earlier this month, Cameron is looking favourably on the proposal, which has been submitted by Riffers to Ken Clarke's Democracy Taskforce. It is, in my humble and irrelevant opinion, eminently sensible and a more elegant solution to an inelegant problem.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Douglas Alexander apology

BBC Online's Scottish Politics page carries news of former Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander's apology following publication yesterday of the Gould Report into May's elections fiasco. Interesting that Tory Leader David Cameron also chose to lead on this at Prime Minister's Questions today, following an impressive performance by Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell in the Commons yesterday.

Also taking some flak is Sam Younger of the Electoral Commission. Younger - a cousin of the late former Scottish Secretary George Younger - has promised to 'learn the lessons' of Gould's findings. Today's Scotsman has a full account of the fall-out from yesterday's events.

Scottish Office - the India connection

Apologies, this niche blog has been neglected of late. In my defence, I was on holiday in India for a couple of weeks so could not readily update it. It was most enjoyable, and in between fending off beggars and overly-keen rickshaw drivers, I was able to track down a few Scottish political connections.

Two Scottish Secretaries were exiled to India post-Scottish Office: the first was John Sinclair, latterly Lord Pentland, who went to the Madras Presidency in 1912. He left his mark - not only is there a memorial in the splendid St Andrew's Church, but also a badly-restored painting in the 'contemporary' section of the Pantheon museum complex (both pictured). Lord Pentland is buried in Edinburgh's Dean Cemetery.

The second was Sir John Colville, latterly Lord Clydesmuir, who became governor of Bombay during the Second World War, banished by Churchill for bad behaviour. There didn't seem to be any memorials in Mumbai's more modest St Andrew's Kirk, although I did see Lord Clydesmuir's old official residence on Malabar Hill.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The East Lothian Answer

The former Scottish Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has resurrected his articulate case for what he calls an 'East Lothian Answer' (he lives in Inveresk) to the long-standing West Lothian Question, chiefly an English Grand Committee. Alan Cochrane has an account of Sir Malcolm's fringe speech in today's Daily Telegraph.

Sir Malcolm first raised this solution more than a year ago when he circulated it as a paper to Tory MPs. I remember then that both the Conservative leader, David Cameron, and the Shadow Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, were minded to accept it over the cruder and divisive English Votes for English Laws solution.