The recent vote on Scottish independence has brought the West Lothian Question back to the fore, most noticeably through debate around the idea of “English votes for English laws”. But why is this an issue and what do the possible solutions look like?
First thing’s first though… What is the West Lothian Question?
The West Lothian Question
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have governing powers devolved from the UK Parliament. They have their own parliaments or assemblies which can vote on and control certain issues, for example, education.
This is fine and good in most people’s eyes. However, it results in the following quirk: continuing with the education example, Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) can change how education in Scotland works by voting in their own parliament (that’s Scottish politicians voting for Scottish laws). But to change how education in England works, MPs from across all four countries can vote in the UK Parliament. That’s English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs voting on English laws. Why do they get to vote on English laws but not the other way around? That is the unresolved West Lothian Question.