‘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
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