‘I am a Man of the Union be­cause the al­ter­na­tive is ro­man­tic folly’

Tam Da­lyell, the man who fa­mously posed the West Loth­ian Ques­tion, on where Scot­land is go­ing, how it got there and why Holy­rood should be scrapped

The Herald - Arts - - BOOKS -

How, Da­lyell asked the Com­mons back in 1977, would he be able to vote on leg­is­la­tion af­fect­ing Black­burn, Lan­cashire but not Black­burn in his own West Loth­ian con­stituency?

That al­most 40 years on we are still no closer to a def­i­nite an­swer to Da­lyell’s in­quiry strikes to the heart of the prob­lems in Bri­tish con­sti­tu­tional pol­i­tics.

Da­lyell’s solution is sim­ple: Holy­rood should be scrapped. Lit­tered through­out The Ques­tion of Scot­land are cu­ri­ous ‘what ifs’ that, Da­lyell be­lieves, would have scun­nered the devo­lu­tion project in its in­fancy: if Wil­lie Whitelaw, not Mar­garet Thatcher, had be­come prime min­is­ter; if the SNP had not man­aged to win the Western Isles in the 1970 gen­eral elec­tion; most re­con­dite, if Ge­of­frey Crowther, then chair of the Royal Com­mis­sion on the Con­sti­tu­tion, had not suc­cumbed to a heart at­tack in Heathrow air­port in 1972.

Over­whelm­ingly, in Da­lyell’s telling, de­mands for Scot­tish au­ton­omy were a naive re­ac­tion to a suc­ces­sion of “lo­cal fac­tors”.

Poor Labour can­di­dates cho­sen by trade union dik­tat. A grubby de­sire to get lo­cal hands on the black gold pour­ing forth from the North Sea.

For Da­lyell, devo­lu­tion is es­sen­tially an ill thought-through Labour Party “fix” foisted upon a re­luc­tant na­tion for po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency. An en­tire chap­ter is ded­i­cated to Labour’s Scot­tish

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.