§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th February.]—[See page 128.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
While I congratulate the Government on the information they give us that provisions will be submitted for diminishing the difficulty and cost which at present attend the passage of private legislation required for Scotland, I still think that it is desirable that I should move the Amendment of which I have given notice, and which is as follows:—But we humbly submit to Your Majesty that the present mode of legislating for the domestic affairs of Scotland is unsatisfactory; that measures affecting the welfare of the Scottish people are not considered, in consequence of the pressure of business of the other portions of the United Kingdom; that when Bills relating to Scotland alone are being dealt with, the decision of the House is often contrary to the wishes of the great majority of the Scottish Representatives; and that it is desirable, while retaining the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to devolve upon a legislature in Scotland the consideration of the domestic affairs of that Country.I do so because I think that measures affecting the welfare of the Scotch people cannot be considered here, in consequence of the pressure of other business, and because I desire to bring before the House one or two questions, which have been for ten or a dozen years before the House, and for the discussion of which no time has been found. The first 678 is with regard to a Bill of a non-contentious character, which both Conservative and Liberal Governments have brought before the House, and which Special Commissions both of this and the other House of Parliament have been considering for years. I refer to the Burgh Police and Health Bill. We are now told by the Government that this Session a Bill will not even be introduced. It is a most important measure, affecting all the burghs in Scotland giving us Police Law and Public Health Law. In consequence of the Public Health Law of Scotland being what it is, I believe that thousands of deaths occur in that country which are preventible. We are at least a quarter of a century behind England in the matter of sanitary legislation, and yet the Lord Advocate is unable to tell us when he will bring in a measure to satisfy our wants. Then again, there are important measures affecting the liquor traffic which require consideration. We have been trying for the last six years to obtain legislation on this subject. The last vote taken upon the question was in 1884, and there have been two Parliaments since then. We have tried in vain to obtain a day for the consideration of the question, and although in the last Parliament and in this there was a majority of the Scotch Members in favour of legislation, we cannot get an opportunity of bringing the matter before the House. There has been a Report from the Royal Commission on grocers' licences, and yet the Government tell us that they cannot afford time for the consideration of that Report with the view of legislating upon it. Then again, there is the question of land tenure reform. Bills have been brought before this House time after time, and they have been supported by a large number of Scotch Members; nevertheless they have been unable to obtain a hearing. The Crofters' Act has been in operation for three or four years, but there have been very few cases dealt with under it. The one thing wanted is to give the people more land, and although the Act, so far, has been unsuccessful for that purpose, we have been unable to secure a fitting opportunity for laying the real facts before the House. The same thing has occurred in regard to allotments for agricultural labourers. Three years ago an attempt was made to obtain 679 for Scotland the privileges which England now enjoys, and it was then promised by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that a Scotch Allotment Bill should be brought in. We have not yet seen that Scotch Allotment Bill, and I can see no indications of it. The people are craving for land and a cow at grass, in order that they may provide milk for their children; and the children are growing up stunted and unhealthy because the Government refuse to afford facilities for legislation. There is also another matter which affects the fishing industry. Three years ago we were promised the re-construction of the Fishery Board and the modification of its functions, with increased general powers. No Bill has been introduced, and the Fishery Laws of Scotland remain as bad as bad can be. In the next place, there is the Bill which was brought in by the hon. Member for Aberdeen in reference to the right of way over mountains and native heaths. No progress has been made with regard to it. Important measures affecting Scotland cannot be considered by this House on account of the ballot. The Scotch Members being few in number cannot pet an opportunity of promoting measures affecting the wants of the country. Some years ago a Bill relating to the payment of wages was passed by this House, but it was thrown out in the House of Lords, and since then no opportunity has been afforded of bringing it forward again. The fact of the matter is that this House has so much to do that, generally speaking, what it does it does badly. In the present Session there are only about 10 days on which it will be possible for private Members to bring their measures before the House. Notice has been given of the introduction of something like 200 Bills, and consequently only about 5 per cent, can have a fair chance of being considered and the proposals they contain being heard by the House. It is time, therefore, if this House refuses to grant facilities, that the Scotch Members had some other means of making their wants known. The wishes of the Scotch Representatives are not carried out here. Just now there happens to be a Conservative majority, and the Conservative Members sit on both sides of the House. But even when a Liberal Government has been in nower—and 680 Scotland has been Liberal for the last half-century—we have been unable to get what we wanted and have been compelled to take a great deal less. Now that a Conservative Government is in power, we cannot expect them to carry out the principles we advocate, because they are opposed to them. But the House will perhaps allow me to point out one or two little matters in which the wishes of the Scotch Members were overridden in matters affecting Scotland only, that were involved in the Scotch Local Government Bill. One most important Amendment proposed had for its object the giving to the County and Burgh Councils the right to acquire, compulsorily, land for public purposes. It was not proposed to steal it. It was not a question of confiscation, but simply a right to purchase, and I think that upon such a point the House might have considered the wishes of Scotland; 46 Scotch Members were in favour of the proposition, 12 against. But the 12 Scotch Members were augmented by English and Irish Members until they became 128, and as there were only 99 in favour of the proposal it was rejected. The same thing occurred when it was proposed that the County Councils should have the same power as Town Councils in reference to licensing. The numbers were 48 against 12, so far as Scotch Members were concerned, but the proposition was thrown out by 164 against 137. It may be considered a small thing to give the County Councils the power of maintaining rights of way; and of preventing Scotch landlords from stopping up the rights of way; but although 52 Members voted for it, and only 10 against, the Amendment was thrown out by 176 against 149. I might recapitulate a dozen or 15 important questions in which the same course was taken, although the defeated Scotch Members were four or five to one. In every case they were overridden by Members who had no connection with Scotland. There are two other matters upon which, incidentally, I should like to say a word. One has reference to to the financial arrangements between England and Scotland, and the other is a mere question of sentiment. As a matter of fact, in Scotland we pay more per head for taxation than England or Ireland. It may be that we are making more money; but although we pay more 681 per head, a Scotch official receives much less than the same kind of officer in England. It seems to me only fair and just that if you tax us you ought to put our officers upon a footing of equality with, at any rate, Irish officials. Nevertheless, while an Irish executive officer receives £1,500 a year, the same class of official gets only £1,000 in Scotland. Then, again, our public buildings in Scotland are not designed by Scotchmen; they are inefficient and ugly, and, instead of beautifying and ornamenting our towns, are an eyesore. One of my strong reasons for urging the adoption of Home Rule in regard to Scotland is that it would save the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds. In the matter of education, we have again been placed upon a footing of inequality. What in England is lost in grants is recouped in the way of licences, but in Scotland what we lose in the shape of licences we do not get back at all. Another fact, which may possibly be considered sentimental, is that Scotland is entirely ignored in our Despatches and Treaties. You speak of England, and England only, and we were told the other day by the Secretary for War that an English regiment was ordered for service in Egypt, when in fact it was a Scotch regiment. And now a word as to the remedy. I think the disease that you are suffering under is congestion here, and the only remedy is devolution. The wisest mode of remedying the evil would be to devolve the domestic affairs of Scotland upon a Legislature in Scotland. I am not particular that it should be composed of Scotch Members, although my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. D. Crawford) proposes that it should be. I am perfectly willing to try it, but I am not prepared to say what the constituencies may require, except in regard to the few in which elections have taken place lately. But I know that the movement has been growing in Scotland, and after the next General Election the Scotch Members will be able to speak more distinctly All I want now is to take the opinion of the House whether it is not desirable to devolve upon Scotland the power of determining and controlling Scotch matters. I am perfectly willing that the Imperial Parliament should retain the power of preventing injustice being 682 done to anyone, and that the Ministers of the Crown should, if they deem it necessary, advise Her Majesty to veto any particular measure. I do not think we want any Supreme Court in this country except the Court of Parliament, and I have no desire to see a solution of the difficulty established on the lines of federation as in America or Switzerland. All I desire is that we should delegate to a certain body or Parliament certain powers, and still retain the power of veto. I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace) that my proposal should be carried into effect at such time, and under such conditions, as may be desired by the Scotch people, and I am willing to amend my Amendment in the way desired by my hon. Friend. All I want is that these matters should be determined by the Scotch people through their Representatives. Another question is, whether Home Rule for Scotland, or for Ireland, should come first. The Irish question has already been before the Irish constituencies, who have expressed themselves conclusively upon the matter, and it is, at this moment, a more burning question. The same conditions exist in Scotland as exist in Ireland, but probably we may take a different method of solving them than they have done. Ireland has a right to be dissatisfied, because Irish opinion has not been considered as it ought to have been in this House, and because legislation has been forced upon the Irish people which they do not want. I trust that, in regard to Scotland, a Conservative Government will be wiser in that respect than they have been in the case of Ireland. In Scotland we are discontented because so few opportunities are afforded to us of expressing the opinions of those we represent, and because, when we do so, our votes are of no avail. The same principle ought to be applied to Wales, which has a just claim to have her case brought before the House. I may add that the question of Scotch Home Rule has not been raised on account of our admiration for the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), or in consequence of any feeling in reference to him, because in this matter the right hon. Gentleman has always been coldly neutral. It has simply grown up from dissatisfaction which exists in Scotland in 683 regard to the treatment of Scotch affairs, and I should like to hear from the Lord Advocate whether he even is satisfied with things as they are. He may be, but I think it is simply a question of the extent to which we desire to go. I have heard one or two remarks made in reference to this question. It is said that if we were to devolve the consideration of Scotch questions upon Scotland herself there might be a narrow spirit abroad, and that it is better to come here and have them dealt with in a broader and more generous way. If I found that that was really so, I might, perhaps, consent to waive our rights. But I do not think that the English and Irish Members can throw much light upon the Scotch problems by discussing them, and in Scotch debates we never hear any views expressed by an English Member unless he happens to be a Scotchman representing an English constituency. In fact, when a Scotch question is discussed here the House is empty, and it is only when the Division bell is rung that the House fills, and hon. Members are quite satisfied to be told that they are to go into the Lobby with the "ayes," or the "noes." What I want to see is a sensible and intelligible legislation and not a mockery. Another argument is that if the Scotch Representatives were to go away, as they have always been Liberal, the Liberal would be weakened. Now, I think it is a dangerous thing to have a minority continually thrusting their opinions upon the majority. Last year, upon the Sunday Closing Bill, the majority of English Members were against it, but other Members formed an alliance with the minority and altered the complexion of the vote. Generally speaking, my contention is that this Legislature is over-taxed, and that the only solution of the difficulty is to devolve a portion of its labours upon those who best understand it, and are best capable of performing the work. I cannot say that we are alive to our great responsibilities in regard to India. The discussion on the Indian Budget is the only occasion when consideration is given to the condition of 250,000,000 of human beings, and that is often thrown off until the very last days of an expiring Session. I do not think that such legislation is either wise or satisfactory. I believe that in the course of another half century, the Anglo- 684 Saxon race will dominate the world. It already possesses the best portions of the world, where men can live and thrive, and certainly their power of reproduction is not surpassed by that of any other race. But I feel that unless something is done to draw the bond closer, by and bye, in the race of nationalities, we may find ourselves in the background, unless something is done to give to every portion of the kingdom the management of its own domestic affairs. Hon. Members who are anxious to see a closer union of all parts of the nation brought about must be aware that the first step is to devolve upon a nationality the control of those affairs which concern its own well being, leaving it to carry them on in a manner commensurate with their due importance. I beg to move the Amendment which I have placed upon the Paper.
At the end of Paragraph 11, after the word "Scotland," to insert the words,—"But we humbly submit to Your Majesty that the present mode of legislating for the domestic affairs of Scotland is unsatisfactory; that measures affecting the welfare of the Scottish people are not considered, in consequence of the pressure of business of the other portions of the United Kingdom; that when Bills relating to Scotland alone are being dealt with, the decision of the House is often contrary to the wishes of the great majority of the Scottish representatives; and that it is desirable, while retaining the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to devolve upon a Legislature in Scotland the consideration of the domestic affairs of that Country.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."—(Dr. Clark.)
§ (2.35.) MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
It is with extreme reluctance that I trespass upon the time of the House in order to second the Amendment. The motives which induce me to do so are three. In the first place, it is a matter upon which, personally, I have a strong feeling. In the second place, it is not long since I was face to face with my constituents, and I have reason to believe that they feel strongly upon it also; and in the third place, I think it is unlikely, owing to the state of public business, that the question will be before the House again on an early day. Therefore, I trust that I may be pardoned if I cast myself on the indulgence of the House while I make a few remarks 685 with the object of giving the reasons which induce me to second the Amendment. There are two sets of arguments which, in my humble judgment, may be brought forward in support of it. There are, firstly, arguments which may be said to depend upon considerations of justice; and there are, secondly, others which may be said to depend upon considerations of political expediency of one sort or another. I trust that I shall be able to show, before I sit down, that some of the arguments, at all events, of the latter category, are not altogether unconnected with the political comfort and welfare of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. It is a peculiar fact, and one which I have noticed for years past, that until very recently none of the leaders of the Tory or the Liberal Unionist Party who went down to Scotland did anything except to boycott the question of Scottish Home Rule. Last year, however, for some reason or other, appears to have changed all that, and I do not think it will be found now that any recognised leader of either of those two parties will go down, or has recently gone down, to a Scottish meeting, and has not found it necessary to say something on the subject. For example, last year the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale went to Aberdeen, and found it necessary to deal with the question of Home Rule for Scotland in his speech. What did he say about it? He said what has been said for decades with regard to the cry for Home Rule for Ireland. He said:—This question of Home Rule is only one raised by interested agitators who expect some personal advantage from the change.But I hope to show the House that the question is not one for agitators; but that it is one in which every man, woman, and child in Scotland has a considerable self-interest. In the first place, I should like to point out a few facts in connection with the financial aspect of the case For instance, the Scotch people are taxed for Imperial purposes at a higher rate per head than the English population. Surely that, if it is true—and I believe it cannot be controverted—is not a matter merely for agitators; surely hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will admit that every person in Scotland has an absolute right to agitate in order to secure that a due and not 686 an undue proportion of Imperial taxation is laid upon his shoulders. Taking every item of the Imperial revenue into account I find that England is taxed to the extent, roughly speaking, of £2 1s. per head, while in Scotland we are taxed to the extent of £2 6s. per head. The result is that the Scottish people pay about £1,000,000 yearly, in excess of what they ought to do, in direct contribution to the Imperial revenue; and it must be remembered that Scotland is a very poor country indeed compared with England. I know I shall be met with the argument—a very weak one—that this taxation includes revenue from whisky. But I do not see how that alters the facts. I do not care whether the revenue comes from whisky or from tobacco, or anything else. If the Scotch people pay it —as they have to do—they are actually taxed, and the payment must not be omitted from the comparison. Then let us look at the other side of the account. Does Scotland get back her just share in the disbursement of the public revenue? I think in that matter she is even worse treated than she is in the matter of over contribution to the Imperial revenue. A careful examination will show that in the items of Civil Service, Law and Justice, Civil List Annuities, and Pensions, and so forth, Scotland is extremely unjustly treated. In the first place, England gets a great amount in Civil List Annuities and Pensions, while Scotland gets nothing at all. In the second place, if we put the whole receipts of Scotland from the Imperial revenue in comparison with her population, we find a deficit of £1,250,000 as compared with the proportion she should justly receive. Again, there is another serious injury to the Scottish nation in consequence of having no local Legislature, and that is that London, instead of Edinburgh or Glasgow, absorbs at this moment the great mass of the wealthier classes of Scotland into its own pale. This is a very grave matter. Every one knows that the land of Scotland is very largely held by the aristocracy, and it is computed that fully one-third of the whole rental is now being spent out of Scotland. Summing up these items it would appear that the total annual loss of Scotland, in respect of these matters, amounts to no less than four millions sterling: a year, or about £1 per head of the population. But 687 although the financial injury is in this respect considerable, I hold that the political injury is very much greater. Scotland is a country which may be described as "steeped to the lips" in Liberalism, in the same way as the South of England, including London, is steeped to the lips in Toryism. Let us look at the state of the Scottish Membership. At least six-sevenths of the Scottish Members are Liberals of a sort, and it must be borne in mind that two-thirds are Liberals of the true Mid Lothian type. Yet, in spite of this, what happens when the Scottish Members combine together for the purpose of passing some really Liberal measure? They are at once incontinently voted down by English Tories, who, no doubt, are thoroughly convinced that they know infinitely better about the needs of Scotland, and that their souls are burning with a greater anxiety for the welfare of Scotland than are the souls of the Scotch Members themselves. But for their votes the Crofters' Act would have been extended to the united counties of Elgin and Nairn last Session. Again the Scotch Local Government Act is a bare skeleton at present, but it would long ago have been clothed with living flesh and blood if the Amendments pressed in Committee had not been refused by the Government. In the same way there is no question that the Scottish State Church would have been Disestablished, and that a Local Liquor Veto would have been passed long ago but for the votes of English Tories. Such, Sir, in barest outline, are the claims for Home Rule in Scotland, and they are founded on the principle of general justice. And now, if still further favoured with the indulgence of the House, I propose to say something as to some grounds of the demand, which are based upon political expediency. I have said that the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale went to Aberdeen last October, and on that occasion found it necessary to speak about Scottish Home Rule. The noble Lord was ably followed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, who spoke at Inverness on October 11. The right hon. and learned Gentleman candidly confessed that the election of Elgin and Nairn had filled the Party to which he belongs with "bewilderment and surprise," although the walk over at 688 Dundee and the loss of a seat at Peterborough apparently seemed to him to have been quite consistent with the victorious march of Tory principles. The right hon. and learned Gentleman then did me the honour to call me, or the election, "a dark spot on the political horizon." I can assure him, however, that a great many electors in these and in other counties think that that election might be better described as a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, which is at this moment spreading over the Scottish sky, and which may possibly before or at the next General Election be followed by a voice directed to all the Ahabs of the Tory Party in Scotland, saying, "Get thee down, that the Radical rain stop thee not." I trust hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will not suppose that I have desired to level any special epithet of discredit, against them by calling them Ahabs.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that he is not now speaking on matters relative to domestic legislation for Scotland.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I may say, Sir, I was merely mentioning—and no doubt I was wrong in so doing—this part of the right hon. and learned Member's speech as introductory. The right hon. and learned Member proceeded to speak on Home Rule for Scotland and Disestablishment, which he coupled together, and then he asked—How is it being disposed of by the Gladstonian Party, from their leaders downwards? The Scotch Church and the Scotch State are merely being made two of the counters in the game of ambition which is being played for Party purposes;and he went on to remark—I do not know what is the latest turn or wriggle in Mr. Gladstone's career of evasion, equivocation, and prevarication.I am sorry to say that this statement on the matter of Scottish Home Rule was received by the audience with laughter and cheers; but I do not so much dwell upon the fact, because the audience chiefly consisted of landlords, lawyers, commissioners, factors, bailiffs, gillies, gamekeepers, and rat-catchers—in fact, the whole landed interest, and nothing else. Continuing his speech, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said—I suppose many of you are inclined to laugh heartily when this subject of Scottish Home Rule is mentioned.689 Now, Sir, in my humble judgment the question of Home Rule for Scotland, although not yet urgently in the foreground, is fast ripening, so much so that, before very long, it will be no laughing matter to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I respectfully submit that it already is so strongly anticipated by the people at large, that it should be treated seriously by English politicians. I venture to suggest that the great secret of statesmanship is to take up and discuss important national questions, and find solutions for them before they are forced upon the Government under conditions of excitement or opposition. How different would the state of Ireland have been to-day had this method been applied to her. If I were not almost the youngest Member, I would say to this House, Do not wait until Scotland takes up the role of the importunate widow, and let us act on higher motives than those which influenced the unjust judge in the parable; cure is proverbially difficult, while prevention is well known to be comparatively easy. There is only one other argument from expediency which I would venture to lay before the House, and which, I think, ought not to be without its effect on the other side. Supposing that during the time which yet remains to Her Majesty's present Government, they were to pass a Scottish Home Rule Bill on Federal lines, and, for the matter of that, Welsh and Irish Home Rule Bills also, how much better would their position be at the next General Election. What is the position of the Government now? They are kept in power solely by the grace of the Liberal Unionists; and I suppose I am right in saying that the Liberal Unionist Party will not, at all events, be greatly increased in number at the next General Election. Moreover, the Government have somewhat further complicated their position this Session, inasmuch as in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, local self-government has been promised to Ireland. Now, the Government must know perfectly well that if they gave local self-government to Ireland the result would be to destroy their Coercion Act; and that if their Coercion Act were thus destroyed, something else would be destroyed also, namely, their clients—or shall I say, their masters—the Irish landlords. On the other hand, time is creeping on. Parlia- 690 ment is in its Fourth Session, and the Government are already coming within measurable distance of—shall I say?—the dire effects of the Septennial Act. Already Dissolution rises up before the Government, "bold, gaunt, and bare," as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian said on a memorable occasion. Why should they not use the remaining time in order to rid themselves of these troublesome hosts of Scottish and Irish Liberals, and thus secure for themselves a comfortable majority in a purely English Parliament? Why not emulate the wisdom of the man in the parable, and make to themselves friends of the Mammon of Liberal unrighteousness? It may be true the granting of Home Rule to Ireland or Scotland would have the effect of enthroning a Liberal Government in power in Scotland for ever; but that would not he without its compensation. In England you would gain more than you would lose by the bargain. Taking the present representation of England as a guide, you would have a majority of at least 100, while, if you continue to have the support of the Liberal Unionists, who would probably continue to vote with you from sheer habit, then in an English Parliament you would have the unparalleled majority of 205, which would enable you to take a lease of the Treasury Bench, for 7, 14, or 21 years.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must again remind the hon. Member he is not speaking to the question before the House. The hon. Member must not indulge in general reference to the political situation.
§ MR. SEYMOUR KEAY
I have finished all I have to say with regard to the financial and political bearings of the question, and I shall therefore, subject to your ruling, simply add that while apologising to the House for having had insufficient time for such preparation as would have ensured that my remarks should fall within the rules of debate, I have great pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
§ (3.10.) MR. MARK J. STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has taken a very unusual course in his speech in advocating the expediency of the Amendment before the House, and I cannot help thinking that the manner in which he expresses his opinion both in this House and outside, constitutes a very dark spot on the political horizon. When a candidate enters upon a political contest and pledges himself to and promises everything in order to get into Parliament, he must expect to be confronted with the consequences of his conduct. Now, I claim to know the sentiments and feelings of the majority of the Scotch people as well as hon. Members opposite, and I deny that there is the least desire in Scotland for Home Rule. No doubt there is a section of the people, some of whom are influenced in the matter by the hope of obtaining political power, who desire Home Rule; but the great majority of the people, I believe, are not dissatisfied with the existing state of things, although I am ready to admit that they wish more time was given by Parliament to Scotch business. At the same time, I must recognise the fact that the Government have shown a desire to deal with Scotch affairs. For instance, there is the Local Government Bill for Scotland, passed last Session, a useful measure which, though the amount it handed over to the Local Authorities was perhaps scanty, is, in my opinion, calculated to educate and train a large number of people in the management of county business. Undoubtedly there are many subjects affecting Scotland ripe for legislation, the licensing question, for instance, and there is a strong feeling that the Secretary for Scotland ought to have a seat in the Cabinet; but to infer that the whole country is up in arms against the present state of things is absurd. There is a point in the Queen's Speech to which I wish particularly to draw attention. I refer to the question to which the late Mr. Craig Sellar devoted a large amount of time and effort—namely, the reform of private Bill legislation, and I am glad that the Government have announced their intention of dealing with the subject this Session. As long ago as 1886 Lord Hartington's Committee reported— 692That it is essential that arrangement should be made to relieve the House from the duties now discharged by Private Bill Committees.And Mr. A. J. Balfour, who was then Secretary for Scotland, said—I share the opinion that the present system of Private Bill Legislation by Committees in the House of Commons and the House of Lords is utterly absurd, expensive, and antiquated.And he added—I hope to be able to carry through this House, with the assistance of my learned friend the Lord Advocate (Lord Kingsburgh), some measure which shall relieve Scotland of a most unnecessary burden.The right hon. Gentleman did not, however, carry his Bill through, but I hope that the Government measure dealing with this matter will become law this Session, and that this link in the chain of legislation of a domestic character for Scotland will thus be supplied. Now, Sir, the next point which the hon. Member for Caithness has taken up is that measures affecting the welfare of Scotland are not considered. But I cannot think that he is altogether serious in making that suggestion, because we know that this Government has already dealt with many important questions. There was first the Crofters' Act; then they dealt with Local Government. With regard to the question of free education, the Government have been quite willing to give that instalment of justice to Scotland, and I think that it is hard to say that they have neglected the interests of the country. On almost every one of these questions the Divisions of the House were in accordance with the views of the majority of the people of Scotland. I repeat that though the Government do their best, they have not time on every occasion and in every Session to devote to Scotland, or to make a question of such a subject, for example, as that of the Established Church of Scotland. There is the somewhat thorny question of the Educational Endowment Scheme for Scotland, and we know very well that a Committee was appointed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian's Government in 1883 upon that scheme, but I do not think that Committee altogether represented local interests. Now, Sir, there are one or two considerations which I should like to advance against a separate Legislature for Scotland. In 693 the first place it would not stimulate but throttle local effort in Scotland. The hon. Member who has an Amendment on the Paper proposes that certain of the Scotch Members should sit in Edinburgh for the transaction of Scotch business. How would that suit Members living in London, and who have professional engagements there? Where are these representatives to come from? You have just elected to the County Councils men who could discharge the duties, but the standing of these men is such as to preclude their corning to Edinburgh and attending some months there in the autumn for the purpose of transacting local government matters connected with Scotland. A Legislature of the kind proposed would lead to very great hardships and, what is more, would be a source of very great expenditure. If you set up a separate Executive, or separate Legislature, you would require a separate set of servants and a separate Treasury. And the Scotch people are not too fond of spending their money unnecessarily, and they would simply say that they would have nothing to do with it. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian used in this House the very expressive phrase that it "passed the wit of man" to draw a line between Imperial and local affairs. That is true, and it is untrue. It is perfectly true that it would pass the wit of man if you have a separate Executive and a separate Legislature. But it is untrue if Parliament has general control of the grave principles which animate its policy, and maintains an appeal to itself where it becomes necessary to apply those principles. Now, a point which occurs to me is the danger and difficulty, in a small country left to manage its own affairs, of mismanagement. Scotland is a small country, with a population of only about four millions, and perhaps it may be considered that the danger is not very great. But there is this to be said, that sometimes in a small country, where the people manage their own affairs, they are apt to forget the affairs of other people. An illustration of this can be found in the discussion which has taken place in different parts of Scotland about the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. It has been the invariable, if not the universal, opinion that the administration of the Act must be more centralised, and that perhaps it should be centralised in 694 London. Why? Because it has been found that one county has passed regulations and so administered the Act as to be out of harmony with the regulations and action of the Authority in a county which is perhaps contiguous. And, similarly, if Home Rule were granted to Scotland, the separate Legislature might adopt measures which, though useful to the country, might bear the evidences of want of care for the affairs and interests of neighbouring or sister countries. That is a strong reason, to my mind, why we should let alone the great question of Federation for the great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. By all means have federation to the utmost extent for your colonies, but you must not split up your own country. You must keep the old country intact as a centre from which to conduct all that is good in administration throughout the world. I think the Amendment of the hon. Member for Caithness would be foolish and would be unstatesmanlike, and I trust the House will give it a direct negative.
§ (3.27.) MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
Mr. Speaker, last Session the hon. Member for Caithness brought forward a Motion similar to that which he has proposed today. On that occasion I was one of the two Scottish Liberals who voted against the Motion. Nothing has been said today which makes me feel inclined to take a different course from that which I took last year. I must say that-the speech of the hon. Member for Caithness throws some difficulty in my way in stating the objections which I have to these proposals, for a more terrible comedown than the speech of my hon. Friend I have never heard, My hon. Friend has abandoned everything he set up. There is nothing he has proposed or suggested which cannot be realised by a Grand Committee of Scottish Members sitting in this House. My hon. Friend was President of a Scotch Home Rule Association, which has sent members all over Scotland to say that Scotch Home Rule ought to take precedence of or go pari passu with Irish Home Rule. My hon. Friend gives a considerable snub to his own Association when he speaks of the way in which the feeling for Scotch Home Rule is growing, "not withstanding the injudicious action of some of his friends." 695 I suppose he refers to the wandering Home Rulers, who have been devoting so much of their attention to certain contituencies. I can sympathise with the whole of my hon. Friend's speech which relates to the neglect of Scottish business in the House. That deplorable neglect must be amended. I thoroughly agree with him that none of our affairs receive that attention which they should receive. It is deplorable to see empty benches on both sides of the House whenever Scottish questions are being discussed. We know the light in which English Members regard Scottish questions. Only last night, in the Lobby, an English Member said,—"Ah, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, a very suitable day for a Scottish discussion." Hon. Members seem to be afraid of Scottish business. When there is a Scottish debate going on, you may hear English Members whispering among themselves "Hypothec," "Mortification," and such like words which, they say, it is impossible to understand. The Lord Advocate has given an explanation of the emptiness of the benches during the Scottish debates. In a speech which I think both ungenerous and impolitic for a Minister responsible for Scottish business to have made, the Lord Advocate thought it right to say that English Members are driven from the House by the length of the speeches of Scotch Members and the horrible way in which they bore the House. [The LOKD ADVOCATE: No.] I will read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman:—The complaint is that the English Members go into the smoking-room. Now, the first question I ask is, Why are they not in the House of Commons? And the answer—I am afraid the truthful answer must be—that they have been driven out of the House of Commons. Well, then comes a much more delicate question—Who drove them out of the House? Now, as we are all friends, and a long way from England, and, as far as I can see, no Englishmen are present, I will now tell you the truth. They have been driven out of the House of Commons, and have dropped into the smoking-room, because there is a limit beyond which flesh and blood cannot endure long speeches. And if you meant really to prosecute the subject to a painful identification of the orators, you will know the names of the men who make the complaint. Look at the debate which immediately precedes the Division on which the smoking-room brigade have prevailed, and you will find that for hours it has been carried on by the very men who make these clamorous complaints.696 I ask any impartial man in this House to say in what spirit the Scotch Debates were carried on last Session. In my opinion they were carried on in the most moderate and efficient manner. It was an ungenerous action on the part of the Lord Advocate to bring such a charge against the Scotch Members. Having made such a charge, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will not find Scotch business go through the House the more easily. I do not know whether English Members can or cannot understand Scotch business, but the fact remains that they are not in the House when Scotch questions are discussed, and that they only come in when a Division is called to vote down the opinions of Scotch Members. Over and over again that was done in the Scotch Local Government Bill. My hon. Friend goes too far in his Amendment, and the proposal of a separate Legislature is both unkindly and premature. I would remind him of the Scotch proverb—"ane at a time's guid fishin!" We have already got on this matter of Home Rule one big fish exceedingly firmly hooked. It has given us a good run, but is sulking in a deep hole. I am afraid it will be some time before we get into a position to drive it on; though I have no doubt we shall start it and have another good run to get it out of the water. But to burden ourselves with another big fish in the shape of Home Rule for Scotland would, I think, be exceedingly foolish. It is a pretty large order to undertake there-modelling of the Constitution of Ireland, and it is very undesirable that we should throw the whole Constitution of our country into the melting-pot. And that is what we should do if we took up the whole question of Home Rule for Scotland. It seems to me that directly we start the question of a separate Legislature for Scotland, we instantly start the whole subject of re-modelling the Constitution on the Federal system. That is a project for which there is much to be said, but I do not think we are ripe to enter upon it just now. My hon. Friend has said that the system we apply to Ireland should also be applied to Scotland. To that proposition I entirely demur. The differences between the two countries are great. First, there is the physical difference, which is a very great 697 difference. England and Scotland are bound together in a manner which is practically indissoluble. The boundary that divides them is a very narrow one. The boundary line of the Tweed between England and Scotland is a mere nominal line, and the connection between the two countries is daily and even hourly becoming closer and more intimate. People cross the border from side to side every day and every hour. I frequently have oceasion to cross from one country to the other several times in the course of a day. For my own part I feel the closeness of this connection very strongly, as I live within a short distance of the border, and sometimes I am in both countries three or four times in the course of a single day. The connection, therefore, between England and Scotland is much closer than that which exists between England and Ireland. Then again there is a great difference as between the political associations of the two countries so far as England is concerned. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian produced his Home Rule Bill in 1886, his proposition was that the Irish Members should no longer have seats in this House, and what struck me as the most extraordinary feature in connection with that proposal was that the Irish Members agreed to it, and were perfectly ready to cease to sit in this House, and to be content with taking only that part in Imperial affairs of the kingdom which would result from the payment of an annual tribute. I am sure so far as the Scottish Members are concerned, we are proud of the part we are called upon to take in the affairs of England and of the manner in which many of our Representatives have taken part in the government of the country in past times as well as the present. I may also say that whether we agree with the right hon. Gentleman or not, we are at any rate proud of the fact that at this moment one of the Chief Ministers who sit upon the Treasury Bench—I allude to the Chief Secretary for Ireland—is a Scotchman. Another great difference between Scotland and Ireland in its relations to England, is the historical difference. The treatment of Scotland and Ireland by this country has been utterly different. We have never been subjected to a series of Viceroys sent over to us from a foreign country, and belonging to a different nation. 698 Scotland has not been governed by Boards consisting for the most part of foreign officials. We have never had forced upon us a foreign Church and foreign laws. For all these reasons I can only say it is impossible for me to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and that I shall feel myself bound to go into the Lobby against his proposal.
§ (3.43.) MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
As I feel considerable difficulty in voting for the Amendment of my hon. Friend, I will endeavour to explain the grounds on which I am prevented from giving him my support or from meeting his proposal with a direct negative. I think it right to say in the first place, as my right hon. Friend below me has said, that I entirely agree with those parts of the Amendment which consist of mere statements of fact, and it is only when I come to the operative part of the Amendment that I find it necessary to differ from it. He says in that Amendment that—The present mode of legislating for the domestic affairs of Scotland is unsatisfactory.He also says—That measures affecting the welfare of the Scottish people are not considered in consequence of the pressure of business of the other portions of the United Kingdom.He also asserts—That when Bills relating to Scotland alone are "being dealt with the decision of the House is often contrary to the wishes of the great majority of the Scottish Representatives.Now, these are very grave statements; and in my opinion they are strictly true. Not only are they grave statements, but they point to the necessity of some change of arrangement, and also indicate that that change should be in the direction of some devolution of the business with which this House is at present overburdened. It may be asked if this be the case why do I object to the conclusion to which my hon Friend has come, when he says—That it is desirable while retaining the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament to devolve upon a Legislature in Scotland the consideration of the domestic affairs of that country.I will state to the House the reason why I do not wish to subscribe to that doctrine, and it is this,—this Amendment would commit the Liberal Party, and would also commit the House of Commons, to dealing with the question usually 699 described as Home Rule for Scotland in a particular manner, and this, too, while the question of self-government for Ireland yet remains unsettled. Now, Sir, I not only feel that it would be the height of imprudence for the Liberal Party to commit themselves to dealing with this question in a particular manner while the other large question remains unsettled, or, as my right lion. Friend has put it, to load our line with another big fish when we have not yet landed the fish we have got upon the hook; but I am also persuaded that it is the wish and the decision of the people of Scotland that the Liberal Party should stand uncommitted upon this question. We are now engaged in a strenuous battle for the settlement of the Irish difficulty. Victory appears much nearer than it ever did before, and I believe it is the wish and the determination of the Scottish people that other questions should be kept in the background until the great Irish question has been settled. It will be impossible, if we accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend, that the situation should remain unaltered. If the Amendment were agreed to the Scottish question would at once be brought into line with the Irish question, and we should go to the country at the next General Election, pledged to support the proposal for a separate Legislature for Scotland as well as for Ireland. On every election platform we should have to stand or fall not by one Bill but by two. In the one case the question has already been thoroughly sifted and discussed, while in the other the question stands in an exactly opposite position. The arguments on the one side and the other of the Scottish question have not been examined—they have not been so much as stated in the discussions which have taken place—and therefore I say it would be the height of imprudence for us to commit ourselves to the approval of the proposal contained in this Amendment until we have first settled the other question. Now, it may be asked, what are the particular objections which I take to the use of the word "Legislature." It may turn out that the difficulties which I see—and here I express no opinion as to whether they are difficulties that can be overcome—will when the proper time arrives vanish. They may prove to be unsubstantial, it may turn out that they may be associated with such conditions that 700 any evils by which we may now think they are accompanied will disappear. But, in the meantime, they have never been stated. In the first place, if the principle of the Amendment is accepted you must create an entirely new body. Now, we have just created in Scotland a new elective body, namely, the County Councils, and we have thereby got at least, in skeleton form, a complete system of local government from which in the near future we have reason to expect that something may be done. I do not say all that is required to relieve this House of the pressure of business. Is it not probable that the creation at this moment of a new elective body would appear to many minds to be an evil in itself? My next point is that if you have a local Legislature for Scotland I presume that would imply the creation of a local Legislature for England, because the English can hardly be expected to submit to have their affairs conducted by Scottish and Irish Members when they have each a separate Legislature of their own. And you will have to persuade English Members to enter into that entirely new arrangement, which they have not thought of up to this time. In the third place, the House will perhaps allow me to mention another point of serious difficulty. I mean the effect which the depletion of its important functions would naturally have upon the Imperial Parliament in general, and especially on the House of Commons. This, I think, is a point well worthy of consideration, and the House will probably be disposed to admit that if the process were carried far enough, if a large portion of the important business of the country were withdrawn from its consideration and put into the hands of other bodies, one of them a body of such enormous importance as an English local Parliament would be, might it not be that the centre of political gravity would be removed from the Imperial Parliament and the efficiency and dignity of this House would thereby be greatly impaired; so that, call it by what fine name you like, it would not be the Parliament of the country in the same sense as heretofore. These, I urge, are serious considerations, although I pronounce no final opinion upon them. I must, however, say that if we, in the way suggested 701 by this Amendment, tack a Scotch Home Rule Bill on to an Irish Home Rule Bill we may have great reason to regret it, and the Liberal electors of the country will have good reason to resent it. In the one case we go before the constituencies with a proposal they have had four years to consider and understand, while in the other we go to them with an undigested and unexamined proposition, and say, "You must swallow both." I fully recognise the genuine zeal and conscientious motives that have actuated my hon. Friend in moving this Amendment, whether the time he has chosen for it is opportune it is not for me to say; but, at any rate, it forces me to speak confidentially before our political opponents, and to say that if we have to face a General Election with such a programme we can hardly foresee the difficulties we may have to encounter. We may lose not a few votes in England—perhaps hundreds of thousands—inasmuch as the English people have never entertained or considered this proposal. Is it certain that we should not lose votes in Scotland? Is it certain that we have not begun to lose votes there owing to undigested and unconsidered proposals for Home Rule having been put forward? In my own Amendment I have gone the length of indicating, as one alternative, a means by which the neglect of Scotch business and the pressure of that business on this House may be remedied. I propose that—It is desirable, while retaining the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to devolve upon the Members of Parliament for Scotland the consideration of the domestic affairs of the country, or to adopt some other means whereby Scottish affairs shall be entrusted to the control of the representatives of the Scottish people.Now, Sir, the latter and more general alternative would amply satisfy my own views on this subject; and, indeed, it would meet my views better than the first. The reason why I have ventured to put on the Paper the first alternative relative to Scottish Members sitting in Scotland is that I wish to bring prominently forward the suggestion that, whether that particular plan be a good one or not, it is not impossible to get Scottish affairs transacted by the representatives of Scotland in a manner which would be entirely free from what I may call the constitutional objections to which 702 the proposal to create a brand new Legislature is open. In that case there would be no new body, and consequently no necessity for a separate election, and no contingent necessity for the creation of an English Parliament. There would also be no withdrawal of the business of the country from the Imperial Parliament, consequently no constitutional objections would arise. I am far from thinking that that is the only way in which the thing could be done, and the real gist of my Amendment lies in the latter alternative, which says that some means ought to be adopted by which Scottish affairs should be under the control of the Representatives of the Scottish people. Now, Sir, I think that the Mover of this Amendment and some of those who think with him are under a mistaken impression as to what is the real mind of the Scottish people on this question. I myself am convinced that the people of Scotland are sincerely in earnest in determining to keep back this question until the Irish question has been settled, and I find some proof of this in a recent meeting of the Scottish Liberal Association, held in Glasgow. Everyone who knows that body will acknowledge that it holds advanced Liberal opinions, and that it is a representative body drawn from the whole of Scotland. At that meeting a resolution was proposed which I think is substantially identical with the Amendment of my hon. Friend. That resolution was—That this Council hereby resolves that it is desirable that arrangements be made for giving to the people of Scotland, by their representatives in a national Legislature, the management and control of Scottish affairs.A clergyman, the Rev. David Mitchell who is a well-known and very advanced and earnest Liberal, moved as an Amendment that the meeting pass from this Resolution, and he said, among other things, that he thought the time had come when they must say one or two plain words to the people who were agitating in this matter, and then they would find out where they were. Sir, I entirely endorse the opinion of that rev. gentleman. I think the time has come when we should say a few plain words to the people who are moving in this agitation. The words I am saying, and which were said by the rev. gentle- 703 man to whom I have referred, are that this premature formulating of the demand for Scottish Home Rule in a particular manner, namely, by the Legislature, is a thing calculated to do the utmost damage to the cause of Irish Home Rule, and is, moreover, contrary to the opinion of the people of Scotland themselves. That opinion was endorsed by the people at the meeting to which I have alluded, and the Amendment of Mr. Mitchell was carried by an overwhelming majority. That I believe to be a true expression of the opinion of Scotland on this subject. I have said nothing, and I do not intend to say anything, tempting at the subject is, as to the reality of the grievances under which we suffer. I have, on more than one occasion, asked the indulgence of the House to address it on this subject. I have recently read a very interesting pamphlet by the Marquess of Bute, to which I would refer anyone interested in that subject, and he states in a very true, and at the same time very sympathetic, way the case of Scotland, and the grievances under which we labour. It is not from want of sympathy with those grievances that I do not find myself able to support the Amendment in the form in which my hon. Friend has proposed it. I think the country will look at our proceedings to see in what way this matter is dealt with by the House and the leaders of the Liberal Party. I trust that my hon. Friend will not think it necessary to persist in this d3mand for the specific form of a Legislature for Scotland, and I hope the House will not agree to it. I am sure that the good sense of our constituents and of the people of Scotland will sustain us in the decision that this is an inopportune and untimely demand, and that though Scotland has real grievances, the time for devising a specific remedy for them has not yet arrived.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment—
To leave out from the word "upon," to the end of the proposed Amendment, in order to add the words "the Members pf Parliament for Scotland, sitting in Scotland, the consideration of the domestic affairs of that country, or to adopt some other means whereby Scottish
affairs shall be entrusted to I he control of the representatives of the Scottish people."—(Mr. Donald Crawford.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ (4.7.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
I think that the course of this debate will already have shown that if the controversy on the subject of the Motion has advanced since last year the situation essentially remains unchanged. In the interval that has elapsed since last Session Scottish Representatives have had an opportunity of meeting their constituents, and Associations have been able, if they wished to do so, to give their judgment. The result of all this has been to justify the attitude which the great majority of Scottish Representatives assumed last Session. The attitude of the Scottish Members was, that, although there was profound discontent in Scotland as to the management of Scottish affairs, and they felt, at the same time, that this sentiment should be impressed on the House. There was a firm determination in Scotland that her claims should not embarrass the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian towards Ireland. This was expressed, perhaps, all the more readily because Scotland has not yet formulated a definite policy such as that upon which we are called upon to give our votes today. Now, Sir, what does this Amendment mean? It means, as has already been pointed out, that Scotch Home Rule is to be placed on a par with Irish Home Rule, and that is a position which is not maintained in Scotland. It would demand a fresh departure in a form not yet definitely adopted. And certainly, not yet sufficiently appreciated by public opinion in England. I speak as a believer in something in the nature of a State Legislature in Scotland, and the belief rests no less on Imperial than on local consideration. In such legislation we have to guard against loss of vitality to the Central Authority of the Empire, and we have to secure also that the status of Scotland is not impaired by it. We need not lose one iota of the power and the dignity which we possess in the Imperial Councils. We need not, but we might do so if the pace is forced with regard to this question. Therefore, many of 705 us who desire local independence in Scotland are prepared to consult, and anxious to consult, the attitude of England on the question, because, without the maintenance of Parliament as the real centre of the State, the importance of an English local assembly, representing some 28,000,000 of people, would so enormously outbalance all the others that would be established in the United Kingdom as to become the real power. Whilst Parliament would resolve itself into something of the nature of the German Reichsrath. That is the real difficulty to be faced in organising a federal system for the United Kingdom, and without doubt it is to that that we must tend when Home Rule is given to Ireland, and when representation in an Imperial Parliament is provided for. These are by no means insuperable difficulties if we can secure the support of the large body of English public opinion; and when England realises, especially when English Tory opinion realises, that reforms such as the Disestablishment of the English Church can be carried by Scotch, and Irish, and Welsh votes, in face, perhaps, of a great English majority, and when we can put forward, on the other hand, a general scheme of devolution, fulfilling the required conditions, then, I believe, we shall find England along with us. There are other warnings which we shall do well to bear in mind. We can depend on the support of the representatives of Ireland at the proper time, but I very much doubt if they would thank us for pressing this Amendment now. The British public was not so quick to see the urgent necessity of the case of Ireland as to make us anxious to take the whole federal question upon our backs. Again, the right hon. Gentlemen who are sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, who will have to deal with the re-casting of the Irish Bill, may naturally consider that they have enough of this branch of legislation upon their hands for the time. At all events, upon a question of such supreme Constitutional importance as that with which we are now concerned, the opinion of our leaders is entitled to great weight. Further, we have a prospect of entertaining some proposals with regard to Scottish Private Bill legislation during the coming Session, and, if that be reasonably carried out, 706 there will be the less difficulty in waiting for a little while for the further changes which we require to a time when we can advance them with caution and soundness. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should not misconstrue the motives which induced so many of us last year to refrain from supporting this Resolution, because we believe in the fullest development of local control and administration. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not. If they think they can out-vote us here and at the same time refuse us a free hand elsewhere they will reap the consequences of their delusion. They should remember that if many of us are content to abstain from voting, or to vote against—as I shall do—the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, it is on the ground of time and of the manner in which the proposal is made rather than from any objection we have to the principle of the Amendment, or to the belief that things are well as they are.
§ (4.15.) THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON,) Bute
I hope the hon. Members who promote the cause of Scottish Home Rule are satisfied with the tenour of the discussion which has taken place, because, as far as I can judge from the speeches delivered, and especially from the highly significant speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjori-banks) and of the hon. and learned Member for North-East Lanarkshire (Mr. D. Crawford), certain conclusions have been drawn from the state of public opinion in Scotland which have considerably modified the rising ardour discoverable in certain parts of the country early last year. To turn for one moment to the Amendment of the hon. Member for North-East Lanarkshire, I notice with considerable surprise that though he offers two alternatives to the House, he favours very distinctly the second of the two alternatives embraced in his Amendment. Accordingly, taking the hon. and learned Gentleman at his own choice, I find he proposes that this House shall adopt, as an Amendment to the Address, a Resolution, the purport of which is clearly that it is desirable, while retaining the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to adopt some means whereby Scottish affairs shall be entrusted to a 707 Parliament of the Representatives of the Scottish people. I put it to the House whether, upon the most ordinary principles of prudence, not to say statesmanship, that is at all an admissible proposition? It begins by dealing with one of the most vital questions relating to the Constitution of the throe kingdoms, and then it proposes to affirm that some means, which nobody has yet thought of, ought to be devised for the purpose of giving effect to the Amendment. The hon. Gentleman has made this extremely plain, because, as he said with great frankness, he has taken his political opponents into his confidence, and he has really for about 20 minutes been thinking aloud over this very arduous and difficult question. He is not satisfied—he is very much dissatisfied—with the proposal of the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark). He also greatly doubts the expediency of the first of his own two alternatives, and he then proposes that the House, rejecting both the more or less specific remedies which have been stated, shall resolve, in an attitude of mere mediation, if not despair, that something or other ought to be done which nobody here is clever enough to hit upon. It appears to me that an Amendment of that kind is not admissible to the deliberate consideration of Parliament under any circumstances; and probably no circumstances are less favourable to its admissibility than to move it as an Amendment to the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. But, looking at the question from a more general point of view, I cannot but congratulate my hon. and learned Friend upon having so far advanced in his study of the general question of meddling with the establishment of separate Parliaments. He has most justly observed, and it seemed to me to have come to his cognisance for the first time, that whosoever sets up a separate Parliament in any of the three kingdoms, is thereby detracting from the position of this Parliament, and that no one has a right to offer to the constituencies a plan for setting up a Parliament in anyone of the three kingdoms who has not thought out and is ready to present to the constituencies the relative power of the Imperial Parliament and a local Parliament. That appears to me to provide food for thought about other countries than Scotland, and 708 I cannot help looking with hope and expectation to the extremely candid disposition with which the hon. and learned Member is proceeding to re-consider the whole of this subject. But what is the subject upon which we are invited to embark? It proceeds mainly upon certain statements or assumptions as to the present condition of Scottish Parliamentary business. The assumption—because it has not been proved—is that Scottish Parliamentary business is in a very bad state. I think that, after the experience of last Session, he is a bold man who would assert that the work of Scotland cannot be efficiently accomplished by this House. Something has been said about the remarks made by myself upon the proceedings of last Session. I made remarks—and I observe that their repetition to-day was received with applause—which suggested that, perhaps, some of the difficulties in regard to Scotland were to a large extent traceable to the love of discussion which is, perhaps, more or less characteristic of the national character. But I pointed out that we must, if we were to obtain fair consideration for Scottish legislation, endeavour to enlist not only the votes but the sympathy of our English brethren. I ventured to point out, that I was afraid Scottish business was less popular than was desirable, and that if we could induce English Members to favour us with their presence throughout the discussion of Scottish matters our object was likely to be attained. I turn to the facts of the cases which have been brought in aid of the arguments adduced for a change. What are the cases which are put forward as evidence of the unsatisfactory condition of Scottish Parliamentary business? One case has been mentioned—that of the Burgh Police Bill. It is said that we ought to upset the constitution of the country because we have not got the Burgh Police Bill passed. The Burgh Police Bill is a very meritorious measure. I am bound to say that, as my name is on the back of it. At the same time, the Burgh Police Bill, I think, may with advantage stand over, rather than that we should make these gigantic plunges in the direction of the unknown, which even the courage of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Lanarkshire 709 (Mr. D. Crawford) stands back from. The Burgh Police Bill is a most unfortunate illustration in support of the Amendment, because it stands in this position, that it was considered by a Committee of the House of Commons which was almost exclusively composed of Scottish Members. I think there were 20 or 22 Scottish Members upon it. The attitude of the Government, as announced by me the other day, was this: If the Scottish Members are ready to pass it through the House, as adjusted by, the Select Committee, we will rely on that assurance, and carry it through. But, on the other hand, we are not prepared to take a Bill of 571 clauses, and set it down in the fair-way of the navigation of the Session, and invite hon. Gentlemen to resort to it when occasion requires for the retardation of business. But other measures have been suggested as furnishing a text for hon. Gentlemen. I can hardly suppose that the hon. Member for Caithness is serious in regarding the catalogue of minor measures he refers to as otherwise than merely evidencing a want of appreciation on the part of the majority of this House to some projects which are very dear to individual Members on the other side. That is the real state of the argument, so far as it relates to specific Scottish measures. Last Session we passed large measures for Scotland—measures involving a great amount of consideration and time, and I say that the work was very well and creditably done. And there is not the slightest reason why, if a business-like spirit were applied to the other measures we shall bring forward this Session, and especially to the one referred to by my hon. Friend (Mr. Mark Stewart), we should not make equally satisfactory progress. There is another head or category of complaint. We are told, "You do not bring forward and carry measures, and when you do, the decision of the House of Commons is adverse to Scottish opinion." May I invite hon. Gentlemen to consider this? This is a subject on which it is possible to make large assertions, and, therefore, I speak entirely subject to the private knowledge and opinion of any other Member. I think, however, that the public opinion of? Scotland—the broad and, on the whole, generous opinion of Scotland—does not attach 710 so much importance to all these points, upon which the majority of the Scottish Members voted against us, as hon. Gentlemen do themselves. I am bound to say that the net result of the legislation of last Session is excessively popular in the constituencies, and that the very natural, and probably inevitable, efforts which they have made to attach importance to the points on which they controverted the Bill are really not appreciated, and have not the position in the perspective of the constituencies which they have in their own. I turn to another subject which is regarded as the motive power towards this change. Not only is it said that legislation is unsatisfactory for Scotland—which I deny—but it is said that Scottish opinion—meaning thereby the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite—is overborne upon various questions, and that this is an intolerable evil. I ask the House this—How do you propose to alter this when you are given a combination of the three kingdoms, and when one of the countries sends a majority of Opposition Members to carry out their policy? You cannot do it. If you appoint a Committee which is to arrive at a conclusion adverse to the general policy of the Government, that means that they arrive at a conclusion adverse to the general policy of the House which keeps the Government in power. Surely it is an impossible political result to contend that the three countries, remaining united, shall stand in this position: that the policy of the Government shall be baffled and stopped, and yet that the Government shall remain in office, and seek to carry out a policy of which it disapproves That is an entirely impossible political predicament. Hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on the other side have another set of grievances, and I desire to invite attention to this, because it to a large extent construes some very vague words used in both Amendments. The hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) is strongly of opinion that Scottish officials do not get fair play—that their salaries are too small. Far be it from me to discourage the idea; but I want to know from the hon. Member for Caithness, or anyone who sympathises with his views, how is your Scottish Legislature to rectify that unless it has got a purse of its own to administer? How are you 711 going to have more liberal treatment from a Scottish Parliament unless you give it carte blanche over English resources—paying the officials out of English resources without the English Parliament having a voice to control that expenditure? The other alternative is that we, the unfortunate Scottish officials, are to depend upon the resources of our native country alone. But the hon. Gentleman goes further. He says, not only are the Scottish officials starved, but the public buildings are scandalously bad in point of architecture; and he thinks the Scottish Parliament would redress this grievance. These æsthetic qualities I am fain to claim, and cannot disclaim, for the Scottish race; but if the hon. Gentleman is going to indulge his architectural fancies by the embellishment of public buildings, then I suppose he will require money, which must be raised by increased taxation on the people of Scotland, or else it must come out of the coffers of the English people, who are to have no voice in the matter. There is another point which bears on the same question. I want to ask the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark), and the hon. Member for North-East Lanark (Mr. D. Crawford), do they consider that a separate Executive should be set up in Scotland? If so, I want to know what is to be the constitution of their Parliament, and what is to be the authority of their Parliament? If this Parliament is to sit in Edinburgh or Glasgow, or some other Scottish town, and is merely to consider the Burgh Police Bill, and is also to consider some of the other measures favoured by the hon. Gentlemen, then I understand it; but if they are to improve the public buildings, and raise the salaries of the officials, that implies an Executive. What is your Executive going to be? It is, I presume, to be equipped with all the functions of Government, including that of spending money. How, again, would you propose that this Parliament should be a democratically elected body—a body which shall not only pass laws, but influence policy—unless you set up a separate Executive? And that I call setting up a completely distinct Government. Now, the hon. Member for Caithness has referred to sentimental views which he does not entirely sympa- 712 thise with, but which he thinks are operative in this question. He referred to an abuse which I entirely agree is an abuse —the abuse of language in using the word "England" when "Great Britain" is more properly applied. But I am quite sure that solecisms of that kind are to be corrected rather by supplying proper literary models for the English people, and showing them, by the illustrious examples of our public men, that we claim a very large share in the dignity of our country, than by setting up a Scottish Parliament. I welcome the contribution to the debate which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick shire (Mr. Marjoribanks), because of certain firm words which he used in the course of his speech, and which I commend to the attention of the Liberal Associations which meet at Glasgow or anywhere else. The right hon. Gentleman has expressed, with very great clearness and admirable frankness, the strategic reasons which render it impossible to combine in the Parliamentary operations of his friends the landing of an Irish fish and the landing of a Scottish one. There is a beautiful frankness in the language of that speaker, and it was quite participated in by the hon. Member for North-East Lanarkshire (Mr. D. Crawford). The question apparently is—What is to be done with the Liberal Party? Is the Liberal Party better with Home Rule for Ireland and Home Rule for Scotland, or is it better first with the one and then with the other? Or may it not be better to abstain from frightening away sensible people in Scotland at the next General Election, and even, if need be, should any thing go wrong, swell your ranks with those who would not answer to the cry of Scottish Home Rule? The right hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjori-banks) has used firm and drastic language. He says we ought not to "pretend" that we are ready to take it up. I hope that word of warning will sink into the minds of the hon. Member for Caithness and his allies, and that they will accordingly observe that if they receive support from above the Gangway it is pronounced by one of the whips above the Gangway, and a right hon. Gentleman who largely attends to Scottish business, to be a mere "pretence," and that the more manly and correct course is to say so, and to disclaim all 713 sympathy with the hon. Gentlemen. I welcome that contribution to the political wisdom of Scotland at the present juncture, because I think it is very much needed. I think there has been a disposition in Scotland to reproduce the celebrated advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Sir George Trevelyan)—"Let everything go in." There has been a great disposition to consider nothing too bad in the political market to be put into that universal receptable of heresies, the programme of the Liberal Party, and it is rapidly becoming swollen beyond all recognition, by what is now pronounced, by its chief pastor and censor, to be mere excrescences, and distressingly absurd ones, I have said that these are timely words. May I go further, and say that I hope they will be conspicuously and constantly enforced upon the attention of the people of Scotland; because, speaking as a Scotchman, and not for the moment as a politician, I do venture to say that anything more dismal and bleak than the prospect of life in Scotland under a Scottish Parliament I cannot conceive. We have already signs of the rising discredit which attaches to the idea. Its very author and proposer, the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark), says he would not have a seat in it. He would not give up his seat in the House of Commons for a seat in the Parliament of Scotland.
§ DR. CLARK
I never uttered such words. The question was whether the Scottish Members would accept any scheme of Home Rule which would prevent them from having a right to be here; and I cheered the sentiment that we would repudiate and refuse a scheme of Home Rule that would prevent us coming into the Imperial Parliament, and taking part in Imperial affairs.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
On that explanation I have to say two things. In the first place, I rejoice in the fact that there is no prospect of the withdrawal of the hon. Gentleman from this House; and, in the second place, I am quite content handsomely to apologise to the advocates of Home Rule, and say that, at all events, we know now that the Scottish Parliament will be a body in 714 which the hon. Member for Caithness will have a place, and doubtless a distinguished, if not overwhelming, position. I was going to say that, upon the most serious view of this question, I cannot conceive a duty more incumbent upon Scottish public men than to do their best to put a stop to this notion. I cannot imagine that there is any trading body in Scotland which could look without horror, if ridicule were withdrawn from the question, upon the institution of a Scottish Parliament. I cannot imagine that those who are interested in the great institutions of the country, apart from its commerce—in the Universities, in the law, in everything else that lends dignity to the public life of a country—would entertain other than a universal feeling that this would be a step backwards, if possible, towards the darkness from which the country was withdrawn by the Union; and that it would be one of the most recent triumphs of a section of the Liberal Party, and one of the most overt steps towards obscurantism ever inflicted upon this country. I rejoice to think that a sound review of the party and strategic situation has led Gentlemen opposite, who are well able to control the circumstances of the case, to recede from showing any favour to it. I rejoice to think, therefore—and, perhaps, we shall have some more steps in this direction—that it will be seen at the next General Election, and the elections which may intervene before that event, that both parties stand firm in asserting that, whether the exigencies of the Irish Home Rule Question may point in one direction or may point in another, Scottish Home Rule is not to come; and that, in the meantime, any one who says it is coming is guilty of the "pretence" denounced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire.
§ (4.40.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I desire to follow the right hon. Gentleman, because it is my intention to give a vote which will be in consonance with his, but upon grounds that are totally different from his, and that, in fact include the strongest objections, partly to his arguments and partly to the language he used. I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary to pass such satirical remarks 715 upon Scotch Members for their garrulity. I am not a sufficiently old Scotch Member to feel myself touched by his observation, although it might be perhaps very fairly and properly applied to me; but this is a question of absolute and abstract, not relative, garrulity. I do not believe that, in the opinion of this House, Scotch Members have at any time been distinguished for spending a larger number of words upon a given amount of business than other Members of the House of Commons. I am bound to say, taking the matter as one of fact, that in my opinion, after long experience, I have found the Members from Scotland more sparing in the length of their speeches than Members from other parts. There is another statement which the right hon. Gentleman made to which I wish to refer. Towards the end of his speech he said that by the Act of Union the Scotch people were brought from darkness into light. I never heard a more extravagant statement proceed from the lips of any Gentleman representing the Government in this House. The right hon. Gentleman prefers the conduct of the Scottish Members in the 18th century to that of the Scottish Parliament in the 17th century. But what are the facts? The action of the Scottish Parliament in the 16th and 17th centuries did much for liberty, and therefore for the advancement of Scotland; but what was ever done by the Scottish Members in the Imperial Parliament for the advancement of Scotland in the course of the 18th century down to the time of the Reform Bill? One thing I know they did. They supported the Act of Patronage under Queen Anne, which disturbed the Church of Scotland—the National Church—from one end of the country to the other, and caused a long controversy and dissension which did not find an issue till 1843. It has even been urged, in the interests of Scotland, that the passing of that Act was a distinct breach of the Act of Union with Scotland, which provided that it should be an Article of the Treaty between the two countries that no change should be made in the doctrine or discipline of the Church. I entirely differ, therefore, from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that at the Act of Union Scotland came from darkness into light, and that the period from the passing of 716 the Act of Union till the Reform Bill was a very enlightened or a very creditable period in the history of Scottish Parliamentary representation. Its condition was wretched, its franchise was a mockery, its results were unsatisfactory in the highest degree, and stand in disadvantageous and not in advantageous contrast with the proceedings of many Parliaments of the 16th and 17th centuries. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposes the Motion on the ground that there is no existing grievance—I will except the question of the private business of Scotland, with regard to which grievance is admitted, but beyond those narrow limits he holds that there is no existing grievance. Now I, on the contrary, hold that there is an existing grievance. Private business itself is a serious grievance, and a serious change is now to be proposed on account of that grievance. The right hon. Gentleman may think that that change will be very easily disposed of by the appointment at the will of the Executive Government of a certain number of official persons in Scotland to discharge functions that have heretofore been discharged in a free Representative Assembly. But he may find that difficulties will start up in his way even in dealing with a portion of the country, because it may be found that Scotland will expect, and even that Scotland will require, that there shall be a representative element in that body, whatever it is, which is hereafter to dispose of the private business of Scotland. But I go on to the further allegations of the right hon. Gentleman, in which, facing the matter, I am bound to admit, with perfect candour and great consistency and boldness, he treated in some part at least the cases brought forward to show that Scotland has a serious grievance. He referred to the case of the Burgh Police Bill, and he covered this case as well as the whole of this part of the question by referring to the undoubtedly great services done to Scotland, and the great labour expended by this House on behalf of Scotland, in the last Session. It is very true that last Session was a remarkable Session in the history of Scottish legislation in the House of Commons. Can the right hon. Gentleman point to any other Session like it? What has been the case of 717 Scotland for five, 10, 20, or 30 years before it? It was an exceptional Session altogether? It was known that it must be an exceptional Session, and if Her Majesty's Government had in the Speech from the Throne announced anything similar on the part of Scotland this year we would have had England justly up in arms against it. The right hon. Gentleman grappled with the case which the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Leng) has mentioned in an able comment on the subject of Home Rule for Scotland in the January number of the Westminster Review, namely, the case of the Burgh Police Bill. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that he has a triumphant answer; and what is it? He admits, in the first instance, that this Bill has been introduced in seven successive years; that it is a Bill with respect to which Party spirit does not extensively prevail; but that for seven years it has been found impossible to make any progress with it. In one point I agree with those who criticise some of the language that is used in Scotland. It is common in Scotland to treat the case as if it were a case of neglect on the part of Parliament. Neglect is a wilful offence. I am far from saying that there is wilful neglect on the part of the House of Commons. I think it would be unjust to the House of Commons to say so, but there is incapacity in the House of Commons to deal with all its business. The question for Scotland is not whether we are individually or collectively to blame, but whether Scotland has a grievance in having had withheld from her all satisfaction of her legitimate wants which may warrant her in asking for a remedy. The right hon. Gentleman says triumphantly that the Government have offered to carry the Bill through the House upon their own responsibility on a condition. And what is the condition? The condition is that on this Bill of 571 clauses all the Scottish Members, whatever their opinions and convictions may be, are to make no opposition, are to have no discussion, but to allow the Bill simply to pass through its stages whether they approve all its points or not. Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that in denying the grievances he has demonstrated the grievance? The desire of the Scottish people is not that their grievances should be shuffled through 718 Parliament without discussion; it is not even that the discussion shall cease at the stage of Committee; it is that according to the rules of a free Legislative Assembly those Bills shall be discussed openly and freely from stage to stage; and it appears now that the strength of the case of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of neglect lies in this—that a great and important Bill, not a Party question, has been for seven years totally blocked in the House of Commons and is now offered by the Government to be passed through the House of Commons on the conditions I have mentioned. That demonstrates not the guilt or the fault of the House of Commons, but the incapacity of the House of Commons, and I am sorry to say its increasing incapacity, to deal adequately and satisfactorily with the enormous demands made upon it from every portion of the country and of the Empire. Then comes the question of something more than neglect. I am not able, naturally, to plead the case of the House of Commons as much as I did under the last head; but we now come to the case where not neglect of Scottish wishes is alleged, but contradiction of Scottish wishes, Scottish judgment and opinion. Are the facts on that subject to be denied? I wish hon. Members would again turn to the short Paper drawn up by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, and they will there see set forth in the clearest and most convenient form the manner in which, by votes that are not Scottish and on account of considerations that are not Scottish, Scottish opinion is overridden on questions purely local in this House. Here is a list of 12 Divisions taken in the course of the proceedings on the Scotch Local Government Bill in the House, and the results of those Divisions. What are they? They are local questions. The first of them is that the County Council should have control of the police. That is a question on which Scotland is entitled to have an opinion. The next is that the County Council should have the same licensing powers as the burghs. That seems to me to have been a very moderate demand, and at any rate a demand that Scotland was entitled to make. Both those proposals were rejected, but both of them were supported by majorities of Scottish Members the first of them, as to county 719 police, by a comparatively small majority, because it was only a majority of something more than two to one; 43 Members supported the proposal and 18 opposed it. Then came the proposal as to the licensing powers, and there 48 Scottish Members supported the proposal and 12 Members opposed it. Four to one of the Scottish Members were supporting that which the House rejected. Of those proposals the first was rejected by 102 to 75, and the second by 164 to 127. Now, my contention is this, that the rejection of proposals on which Scotland has a clear and distinct opinion and which are strictly local in their character, is a grievance. That is what is denied by the right hon. Gentleman. Here is a proof of it. I will not trouble the House by going through in detail all the 12 questions on the one single Bill, but the result was that on the 12 Divisions there were 530 votes of Scottish Members in favour of the rejected proposals against 158 against those proposals. Scotland cannot be satisfied when she sees on these local matters that 158 votes going contrary to her wishes are more powerful in determing the judgment of the House of Commons than 530 votes given according to her wishes. But what is the answer to that? The answer comes to this, that the true representation of Scotland does not lie in the majority at all, but in the minority; that some of the majority do not always reside in Scotland—as if all the minority resided in Scotland—and that those who do not reside there and who form the majority are so inferior in their powers of comprehension, in their powers of perception, in their powers of sympathy, that their votes are to be passed by; those are fancies, crochets, fads which are proposed by the majority; it is to the minority that you must go if you want to know the true sense of the country. Let the right hon. Gentleman, if he likes, and if he adopts that principle, show his usual courage and go through with it. Let him apply it to the House of Commons as a whole and let him get up and boldly say that it is the minority that represents the true sense of the country. With respect to the remedies for these grievances I find myself coming somewhat reluctantly into a position more approximate to that of the right hon. Gentleman. It is admitted 720 that something is to be tried with respect to private business. I should like to have the benefit of that experience; it may open up many considerations of interest and importance. While the position as to private business is, in principle, conceded, beyond that we have undoubtedly a great variety and diversity of schemes proposed. I cannot find fault with the Mover of the Amendment or with the Mover of the Motion, because what they have done is to endeavour to give articulate form to a sentiment in Scotland which, though not yet articulate, is real and substantial. Now, there is a paramount obligation on me to make no promise to Scotland or any other part of the country until I think I see a way to the fulfilment and redemption of that promise, and I confess I do not see my way in this case. My hon. Friend the Member for North-Bast Lanarkshire has endeavoured to avoid committing himself to a specific proposal, and has distinctly laid down—there I agree with him—that the question has not yet been sifted, and we are not ripe for a particular plan or a particular remedy for the grievance which exists. It shows how difficult these questions are. It seems to me that the Mover of the Amendment upon the Amendment has almost become entangled by the words of his Motion in some serious difficulties, because the large and covering phrase which he uses is that there should be an Assembly of Scotch Members sitting in Scotland or—some other means whereby Scottish affairs shall be intrusted to the control of the Representatives of the Scottish people.But are we to adopt such a principle as that Scottish affairs are to be intrusted, not to a Scotch Parliament, but to the Scotch Members of the Imperial Parliament? If you are prepared for a proposition which is so grave and which involves so much, have you determined what is to be the relation of those Scotch Members to the Imperial Parliament at large? If you have determined that while vested with the absolute control of Scotch affairs they are likewise to retain without limitation their control, or partial control, over English affairs, with all the different points involved in a re-constitution of that kind, you will have to adopt a very specific 721 plan indeed. I make that criticism not believing that it is in any degree due to failure of perspicacity on the part of my hon. Friend, who never speaks without ability, which makes it a pleasure to listen to him. What I have said shows how hard it is to make a proposal of this kind which may not be liable to the objection of being vague and unreal, or at least premature. I certainly believe that this is a very difficult question. I believe that the great Irish Question of Home Rule, viewed from one very practical point, is a part, not the largest part, of the subject of devolution arising from demands upon the time of Parliament which are growing heavier year by year. But with regard to the question of devolution, some are prepared to propose a different plan, not for the three countries, but the four countries; for Wales undoubtedly, owing to recent debates and discussions, has come to see that she has a title to obtain greater recognition in the course of three years than she has had for three centuries. Some gentlemen think themselves very modest when they say, "Our plan is that a Scotch Parliament ought to be incorporated with the plan for an Irish Parliament; or at least it ought to proceed pari passu." There is no doctrine of greater danger than that of pari passu applied to the method of legislation in the House of Commons. The only practical way of illustrating it is that which was employed by Mr. Bright when he said it was like driving six omnibuses abreast down Park-lane. Between these extremes, between a remedy for private business on the one side, and a remedy in the shape of a Federal Parliament on the other, there are floating ideas perfectly immature and not yet reduced to shape—vaporous forms that are still in the atmosphere and driving about like clouds in the wind, which it is totally impossible to grasp and totally impossible to define. In my opinion, in these circumstances, this is a time of reserve. My difference with Her Majesty's Government is that they see no grievance, while in my judgment there is a grievance, and, what is more, I believe that in the judgment of Scotland there is a grievance, though I do not think the mind of Scotland is made up as to the remedy. That question is not yet ripe for discussion, and we ought not to pass a Motion which, 722 in its verbal shape, would signify it was ripe, unless we thought it practicable. But I am bound to say that this question is ripening in Scotland, though it is not ripe. There is no people within my knowledge less likely to be misled by fancies or mistake them for realities. But the manner in which the subject has been entertained shows me that the Scotch are not satisfied with these unqualified panegyrics upon the Scotch Union as it is in which some Gentlemen have been fond of indulging. I remember perfectly well, before this question had come into view at all in Scotland, addressing a large meeting there, and delivering sentiments in favour of the union between England and Scotland, and being astounded with the absolute coldness with which they were received. Is was impossible to get up a warm recognition of those benefits which were attributed to the Union, but most of which, in my opinion, it would be more just to say had been contemporaneous with the Union. But while this question is ripening, I believe it is one with regard to which Parliament need entertain no serious anxiety. Scotland, if there be a grievance, is perfectly able and willing to consider that grievance. I, for one, hope that whatever happens we shall not throw this question of local government in Scotland, to which I have never applied the name "Home Rule"—that we shall never throw this question of devolution on behalf of Scotland into the same cauldron as the Irish Question has unhappily been thrown for the last three or four years. Let us keep it apart from party controversies, and from national controversies. If Scotland speaks, she will speak clearly and rationally. If she speaks clearly and rationally, England will think once, and twice, and even thrice, before she puts impediments in the way. But in my opinion our duty is plain. It is to maintain an attitude of reserve. It is our duty to admit whatever facts appear to stand in the clear light of the evidence of facts, but above all to rush to no rash, unfounded, blind conclusions; but rather to say, "We will wait for further light and for the further maturity of this question in the minds of the people of Scotland, rather than run the slightest risk of misleading her, and possibly even of 723 disturbing the country, as well as impeding the course of the public business by the adoption of propositions upon which we as yet do not possess, and do not even see in our own mind the means of leading to a satisfactory conclusion." Therefore it is that I must take the course of voting against the Amendment. That is the proper course to take on every occasion, whatever sympathy one may entertain on the point, if you believe that to vote in support would commit you to any pledge you have not at hand the means of redeeming. But that Scotland has a grievance, is seriously considering that grievance, and that Scotland will probably bring her grievance in due time to a practical form for England's consideration, is my distinct conviction.
§ MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
May I ask you, Sir, for direction under these circumstances. Neither the Amendment nor the Amendment to the Amendment satisfies me, but I could accept either if allowed to qualify it by the words of which I have given notice on the Paper. I would ask you, Sir, whether after the Division it will be in my power in any way to bring my Amendment forward?
§ MR. SPEAKER
That will actually depend on the decision at which the House may arrive upon the question now before it, which is, that the words proposed to be left out of the Amendment be retained. Should that proposal be negatived and the second Amendment be inserted, then at the end it would be competent for the hon. Member to move his Amendment.
§ Question proposed, "That the Provisions proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. SPEAKER
Those who say "Aye" to the question support the Amendment as originally proposed to the House.
§ (5.20.) The House divided:—Ayes 112; Noes 278.—(Div. List, No. 4.)724
That the words 'the Members of Parliament for Scotland, sitting in Scotland, the consideration of the domestic affairs of that Country, or to adopt some other means whereby Scottish affairs shall be entrusted to the control of the representatives of the Scottish people,' be added to the proposed Amendment.
§ Debate arising.
§ It being after half-past Five of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.