England to dance to Scotland's tune, predicts Alex Salmond at his SNP conference in Inverness, and Westminster will dangle from a Scottish rope, Well. we will see, replies the Campaign for an English Parliament.
Giving a battle-rousing Leader's speech at the conclusion of the SNP conference in Inverness last Saturday, October 17th, Alex Salmond gleefully rattled off the prizes he would be looking for from the next UK government in the event of a General Election result in May, which handed the SNP enough MPs to hold the balance of power. He spoke of Westminster dangling from a Scottish rope. He described how he and his party's MPs would influence legislation and financial measures to Scotland's advantage. To Sky News he shamelessly stated that he would use his and his members' voting power exclusively in Scotland interests.
Well, we will see, says Scilla Cullen chairman of the CEP in an email to the Campaign membership. What Mr Salmond fails to realise is that there should be in all human relationships, both individual and collective, a thing called justice. All talk of England dancing to Scotland's tune and dangling from a Scottish rope is not just silly but unwise and unjust. It is silly because England with ten times the population of Scotland is just too big to push around. His is the language and the posturing of the petty bully who really does not know what he is dealing with, who only sees a little part of the playground, and will only learn the facts of life when he has made a complete fool of himself.
But the issue really is much more one of justice. England got nothing out of devolution. Gordon Brown, Salmond's fellow Scot, who navigated the 1998 devolution through the UK Parliament, saw to that. England got nothing except to pay for it all. Each English taxpayer pays an extra £281 per annum towards keeping Scotland solvent. Scotland does not pay its way. Its tax revenue is routinely short of its expenditure by £11billion per annum. Its land-owning and merchant class came cap in hand in 1707 to Westminster to ask England to bail it out when it was bankrupt. Thanks to devolution and both the block grant and Barnett Formula every single Scottish man, woman and child now receives £1600 more per annum than anyone in England on social expenditure. The Scottish Parliament is able thanks to English largesse -because it is England that provides 90% of the UK revenue- to fund Scottish university students who do not play tuition fees, which our students have to, to provide free personal care for the elderly, to put a freeze on water rates and council tax, and to be planning for free prescriptions and an end to hospital parting charges.
Salmond might well be hoping to goad the English to anger by his demands if his party holds the balance of power come the General Election. He might well be hoping we will then be glad to see the back of Scotland. That is as may be. But the deeper issues are justice and fairness. As long as we have a United Kingdom, the population of each member nation should be treated equally. None should get preferential treatment. And any talk like that of Salmond to use his party's voting power exclusively in the interests of Scotland is morally indefensible. Interestingly, that was however precisely what Gordon Brown himself committed himself to when in March 1989 he signed the Scottish Claim of Right -to make the interests of the people of Scotland paramount in everything we say and do.