Monday, 29 December 2008

Scottish MPs - A Waste of Time and Money?

As I said in a recent post, Livingston MP Jim Devine's recent posturing not only says a lot about his priorities but it also raises a very big question which has implications for representation across the UK and possibly for the current devolution settlement.

The question can be simply put:- "What do Scottish MPs actually do?"

Without going to the bother of reading the Scotland Act (and ignoring the grey areas and stuff on the margins), Holyrood is pretty much responsible for all aspects of Scottish life except Welfare and Benefits, Defence and Foreign Affairs, Macro-economic policy and Immigration. With the exception of Welfare and Benefits, these are not typically the kind of issues that constituents tend to burden their representatives with.

The buck stops with Holyrood and MSPs for just about everything which is of day to day concern to the people of Scotland; Health, Law & Order, Education, Housing, Transport etc etc. So in terms of sorting out our day to day concerns, the answer to the above question is 'not very much'.

Sure, these MPs will act as Westminster lobby fodder too, but just how often are the views of the 59 Scottish MPs influencial in the outcome of any vote? Not very often.

Which brings up two interesting follow on questions;
1) Why do Scottish MPs get paid more than MSPs and why do they get staffing expenses which dwarf those available to MSPs?
2) Why do Scottish MPs get paid the same as English MPs and why do they get the same staffing expenses?

Question 1 reflects what is actually an outrageous situation. MSPs who have to do the majority of the work get scarce resources while MPs can afford to pay people to sit around and make work up. (I've heard it said that some MPs actually employ people just to follow them around and take photos.) This is not good for the democratic process and, in my view at least, this is a far bigger problem than any of the Holyrood expenses 'scandals' which have emerged since 1999.

Question 2 is interesting. We often hear how the introduction of an English votes for English laws system at Westminster to balance the devolution settlement would be a bad thing because it would result in two classes of MPs. Strikes me that we already have that; the English MPs who have to run around covering all the matters that Scottish MPs and MSPs deal with and the Scottish MPs who can sit in the bar until they have to follow someone into the lobbies.

Conclusion? If you live in Scotland, even of you have an excellent MP, he or she will be a complete waste of money - at least in comparison to your local MSP. And if you live in England, why the hell do you put up with this?



And it's all financed by the English tax payer too.

Let them be independant I say but don't expect us to pick up the bill.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with your final paragraph, however remember that the Westminster MP's control the MONEY. They will not give that up lightly.



scilla said...

You are absolutely right and as the recession/depression hits more and more of the British taxpayer in the pocket these kinds of questions will be asked more and more frequently of the Establishment. Balanced devolution for a 21st Century Union and a grown-up democracy would see an English Parliament and representatives from all home Parliaments to a central government dealing with reserved issues. They might be paid more than the others for taking on more responsibilities. However first you have to persuade most of the Westminster incumbents to submit themselves to selection for an English Parliament and their track record in supporting and protecting England would come under scrutiny. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.
Scilla Cullen
Chair, Campaign for an English Parliament.