Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Devolution, subsidiarity and national influence

The European Union has a doctrine of subsidiarity. This holds that in order to be well informed and appropriate in their application, all political decisions should be taken at the lowest practicable level. For example, it should not be the business of the Union to regulate local taste in beer; on the other hand since pollution recognises no local boundaries the environment has to be tackled collectively.

In the remorseless drive towards ever closer union, seemingly defined in Brussels as centralised authority, this principle of subsidiarity is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. It is particularly frustrating when combined with majority rule. For example, island states such as the UK have a good deal more to lose from a badly designed common fisheries policy than landlocked central European countries.

The corollary however is that the more we demand local control, the less influence we have with those at the centre who exercise powers collectively.

When we examine the political future of Scotland, we should not lose sight of the fact that Scotland has supplied two prime ministers and three Chancellors to the UK in the last two decades, which suggests its influence at the national level has significantly exceeded that of England.

The more powers are devolved to Holyrood, the less there is for Scottish MPs at Westminster to do, unless we are to inflate the West Lothian Question to unanswerable proportions. How likely is it that underemployed Scottish MPs in London will be able to hold high public office in future? And whose fault will that be?