Angus Robertson, SNP MP, caused a bit of a stir recently when he called for a postponement of the 2015 UK General Election in the event of a Yes vote in the referendum. Thomas Widman has a good summary of the arguments for this here. I do not agree with this idea of postponing these elections. Delaying elections is rarely, if ever, a good idea. I also think there would be outrage all over the rest of the UK if this were to be seriously proposed. However Robertson’s suggestion does rais the very important issue of what happens to MPs from Scottish constituencies after a Yes vote. I offer my own suggestion below.
First of all though the key point to note is that though Scotland will not become legally independent, de jure, until 2016 at the earliest, it will will be de facto independent immediately after a Yes vote. During the period between a Yes vote and the the actuality of independence the Scottish and Westminster governments will be in pretty constant negotiation over the details of the independence settlement. This means that in effect Westminster ceases to be the government of the whole of the UK and becomes instead the government of the rest of the UK. In turn this will meant that any legislation on reserved matters which affect Scotland, welfare for example, could only be enacted for Scotland with the approval of the Scottish government. The alternative is just chaos and plain daft. Whatever the rUK government might think in private, there will be enormous pressure from everyone else, the EU, NATO, not to mention the business community, for a swift, smooth and successful transition. Needlessly alienating the Scottish government makes no sense for the rUK. After a Yes vote everyone will want to see close, friendly and co-operative relations between rUK and Scotland, just as there is today between UK and Ireland.
What then does this mean for the role of MPs from Scottish constituencies. Basically it means they will have no role whatsoever. All the negotiations and decisions will be taken jointly by the Scottish and rUK governments. Scottish MPs will have no input whatsoever. In the first instance this would make the positions of Danny Alexander and Jo Swinton pretty much untenable as government ministers. Then there would be the matter of what to do with the Scotland Office and Alistair Carmichael. However the key decision will be what to do about MPs from Scotland in 2015. Delaying the election is not in my view an option. I can only see one solution, and that is to exclude Scotland from the 2015 election. Given that Westminster has by then become the de facto rUK parliament, and in less than a year’s time this will be confirmed de jure, it seems the logical and most practical solution. After a Yes vote Scotland will not need representation in parliament in Westminster as all the decisions will be taken by the two governments. The rUK will not want a bunch of MPs from Scotland lounging about the place, but unable to influence the outcome of any vote. Any government that emerges from the 2015 election has to based on a majority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Legislation to limit the 2015 election to those constituencies that will be part of the rUK would be simple to introduce and pass. It allows the people of the rUK to exercise their democratic right to self-government, saves everyone a bit of money and simply gives recognition to the de facto reality of Scottish independence.