What happens to Scottish MPs after a Yes vote?

vote_yes_for_an_independent_scotland_pin_badge-r88f7278dfebf4603b69ea31f00de40d9_x7j3i_8byvr_512Angus 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.

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9 Comments

Filed under Scotland, UK

9 responses to “What happens to Scottish MPs after a Yes vote?

  1. So if your suggestion gets accepted, what do you expect will happen to the Scottish seats in Westminster? Will they be vacant after May 2015, or will the current MPs continue to sit until independence day?

    Thanks for linking to my blog post, btw!

    • Scottish MPs will remain at Westminster until the 2015 UK election, but unofficially excluded from voting. Thereafter there would be no MPs from Scotland at Westminster.

      • Is that not problematic? What if independence didn’t happen as planned in 2016, but got postponed repeatedly? If could be useful to have Scottish MPs in Westminster to put some pressure on the government down there to speed up matters.

      • Interesting point, but the de factor existence of 2 states plus the pressure from allies and businesses are all more likely to ensure a speedy and agreed settlement by 2016. Scottish MPs have little enough influence at present. They would have none after a Yes vote.

      • I’m not entirely convinced it wouldn’t be safer to keep the MPs there until independence day.

        If the general election cannot be postponed, I think the best course of action would be to postpone it in Scotland only, and to make all the Scottish MPs agree to not taking part in any votes not affecting Scotland. (E.g., they could still vote on participating in a war with immediate effect, but not on holding an EU referendum after Scottish independence day).

      • If I was convinced that Scottish MPs in this scenario would act in the interests of Scotland then your idea has some merit. But I fear some would try to obstruct the negotiations out of self interest.

  2. People often forget this argument when wondering why people like Darling, Alexander (both Danny and Douglas), Carmichael, Swinson et al are so vehemently opposed to independence. There is an entire Scottish political class which stands to lose their highly paid and influential positions in Westminster in the event of of a Yes vote. No bad thing if you ask me!

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