Martin Hannan: EVEL poses its own questions

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You will recall that EVEL was pushed through the House of Commons last week, and this totally unjustified use of “standing orders” to fundamentally alter what we laughably call the British Constitution may yet come back to bite that noted constitutional historian David Cameron on the backside.

His supporters – some of them Scots, disgracefully – say it is only fair that English MPs get to vote on English-only issues, and I do not disagree with that assertion, except that it should be done in an English Parliament, properly voted for and set up by UK legislation, just as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were.

To treat the UK Parliament as a place where English-only business gets done rather defeats the notion of a UK Parliament.

You don’t answer the West Lothian Question by raising a new Westminster Question – what is the place actually for?

Everything that is discussed in the Commons must be for all UK MPs to debate and vote on, otherwise why bother having a UK? Cameron, toadying to his more rabid backbenchers, says Scotland will not lose out just because Parliament is used for English business. Well here is one SNP member who is not buying that nonsense.

EVEL can’t possibly have an effect on Edinburgh, they will tell you, but they are wrong, and here’s why.

It has already been stated by Iain Stewart, sidekick to Scottish Secretary David Mundell, and Commons Leader Chris Grayling that the first vote on the expansion of Heathrow Airport might be considered an English-only matter, with Scottish MPs being barred from debating and voting on the sole diktat of Speaker John Bercow.

That is utterly outrageous. The fortunes of Edinburgh Airport and indeed all of Scotland’s airports are directly linked to Heathrow and Gatwick, and a third runway for the former is a matter of considerable importance to the many Scots and Scottish businesses who use London’s airports.

Heathrow is Britain’s number one hub airport and a lot of traffic to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen comes via Heathrow. So will there be more through traffic via Heathrow or Gatwick? Will Edinburgh be encouraged to expand? What will the cost of London expansion be to Scottish taxpayers?

It is beyond belief that this could be an EVEL matter. Yet Cameron and his cronies who are anxious to win a third runway for Heathrow must beat their own rebellious backbenchers to do so – and with the SNP’s 55 votes going one way or another, they cannot be sure of victory.

So here already is one EVEL issue which directly affects Edinburgh, and there will be many more.

Which leads me to ask what I hope will become known as the David Mundell Question.

Say Heathrow’s expansion is declared EVEL by Bercow and comes to a vote in the Commons. Her Majesty’s government determines to vote one way, but there is no guarantee of a majority.

What does David Mundell do? EVEL says that, even though he is a Minister of the Crown, David Mundell will be barred from debating and voting for the government. Madness, obviously.

So here’s the David Mundell Question – are Scottish MPs who become members of the government to be subject to EVEL banning, even if it means defeat for the government? I think we should be told.

ON YOUR BIKE

So THERE’S a plan for a cycleway across town that only costs £9 million? I’ll happily support it as long as it takes away the idiot cyclists I see every day.

Support is flagging

It IRKS me that Unionists always go on about the SNP’s desire to have our children educated about Scottish history – ‘brainwashing,’ they say.

But then look at that picture of schoolkids lined up to greet Prince William and Duchess Kate in Dundee the other day. Union flags in every hand and not a saltire in sight. Now who’s brainwashing?

Job is past its sell-by date

I WILL believe that the council is serious about making cuts when I see what they do about replacing deputy chef executive Alastair Maclean.

We must wish him well back in private legal practice, but we must also ask that his £132,000 a year salary be immediately accepted as a saving, i.e. that Maclean is not replaced.

Any of the council directors could add deputy chief executive to their job title, and someone within Maclean’s department should step up and become director of corporate governance. Do that, and the equivalent of five or six cleansing workers’ jobs could be saved.

Now is not the time to decide

This Thursday will see a mass trade union lobby of Edinburgh Council’s finance and resources committee which will be looking at the issue of compulsory redundancies for council staff as the council seeks to lose 2000 jobs across the workforce.

I would simply point out that the Edinburgh Coalition has maintained a stance against compulsory redundancies since it was formed. That ban should continue.

I would also point out that it is very early days to be taking such decisions. There is no need for all 2000 jobs to be gone by April next year. To transform this council will take many years, and if there is at least some willingness to debate issues, decisions should be taken much later.