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There’s a lot around at the moment about the relationship between Scotland and England.

Of course, in theory, the question should be about the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK, but the degree to which the UK and England are confused and conflated, and not just in the minds of those from outside these shores, is considerable; and the relative sizes of the constituents of the Union doesn’t help balance.

The Parliament

I’ve been a supporter of devolution for longer than I’ve been a Catholic, but I was glad to find support for the devolutionist position in Catholic social teaching, arising from the principle of subsidiarity; the principle that matters ought to be handled by the least centralised competent authority.  Matters affecting Scotland alone ought, therefore, to be handled by a Scottish authority, insofar as that Scottish authority is content to deal with them.   The same applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland; and indeed given the diversity of the English regions there are strong arguments for more effective decentralisation within England.

The real question is perhaps more how this should be done, than whether.  The creation  of a completely separate Scottish parliament, separately elected, was, I believe a mistake, albeit one which was perhaps inevitable at the time it was done, but which needs review.

If subsidiarity is properly thought through and applied, the work of the UK parliament in London would reduce, as it would deal only with UK-wide matters. If the people of Scotland – or of Wales, Northern Ireland or England (or English regions) – have elected people they trust to be their representatives, then those representatives should be as trustworthy on devolved matters as they are on UK-wide matters.  And there is no reason to believe that the overall amount of legislation and debate in which the representatives of any one nation or region would be involved would change.

The Scottish Parliament Building in Holyrood

So MPs for constituencies in Scotland could be in the UK parliament on (say) two days a week, and in the Scottish parliament for the other three. The West Lothian question falls by the wayside.  A clear demarcation system is needed, of course, but then that is needed anyway.

We could save the cost of a dual parliamentary structure, and multiple elections; and we avoid the risk that a more local parliament, with time on its hands, finds things on which to legislate which really do not deserve legislation at that level. For subsidiarity requires that the Scottish parliament, or any other, passes any matters which can be dealt with by more local authorities to those more local authorities; and unless any level of authority is kept very busy, it is likely to lose track of that point.