HL Deb 18 December 1974 vol 355 cc1167-255

2.50 p.m.

The EARL of CROMARTIE rose to call attention to the necessity for some form of devolution of Government for Scotland; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I believe that there are many Scottish Peers on both sides of your Lordships' House who, like myself, think that this debate is long overdue, since it is of the greatest importance to Scotland. At this time of considerable difficulty for Scotland as well as for England and Wales, it would be quite wrong to mention that emotive word "separatism". May I stress that this debate is intended to be about devolution? However, it must be real devolution and not some ineffective sop—possibly attached to the new local government set-up.

Here may I appeal again to the Government to postpone the implementation of, at any rate, the new regional councils? If that is not done, the additional cost to taxpayers and ratepayers will escalate—as, indeed, it has done already in certain regions, one honourable exception being the Highland Region. There is bound to be a considerable overlap of the powers of an elected assembly and of a regional authority which will eventually lead to waste of time and money. A reasonable delay could also give the much-desired opportunity of re-examining the monstrous Strathclyde Region. Those of us who for many years had the honour of working with a local authority know how necessary is this re-assessment. Indeed, after reading many letters in the Scotsman and other papers on this subject, I can remember only two which insisted that the process should continue. One was from a man who appeared to be financially interested; the other was from an "ivory-tower" academic who, I imagine, had no practical knowledge of the subject.

My Lords, we all know that both major Parties have swept the devolution problem under the carpet for too long and have hoped that it will lie still—it has not, nor will it. During this period of pretending that the problem did not exist one read, and some heard at Election time, more nonsense propagated than on any other subject—passports, the eviction of English people working in Scotland, and heaven knows what else. May I remind your Lordships that in 1905 the Kingdom of Norway was formed, having amicably parted from the sovereignty of Sweden. No passports are required when the Scandinavian people travel between Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The only "scare line" which I did not see was the suggestion that Hadrian's Wall should be reconstructed—of course facing South !

Another point put forward to make the flesh creep was that of the domination of the Scots by the South-West Central Belt, led by hordes of Communists. My Lords, there are Communists here, as elsewhere in Britain, and since they are dedicated to destruction and disruption the great majority of our people would be delighted if they emigrated to Russia, where it is improbable that they would be able to lead the cushioned life that they lead in Britain. Although the West of Scotland is different in many ways from either the Highlands or the Eastern parts of the Kingdom of Scotland, they are still good Scots, and it is even possible that their very real difficulties might be better understood by other Scots situated in Scotland; because, however conscientious Scottish Members of Parliament may be—and, indeed, are—they can sometimes bring with them an aura of Whitehall and Party dogma which does not help to solve all problems.

My Lords, we have seen of late disastrous strikes, appalling mishandling of the teacher problem and, last, but not least, the desperate plight of the Scottish farmers who were encouraged to go into beef by the Government of the day. All these matters can be better handled on the spot by an elected Government which might even have a Minister of Agriculture who really knew something about Scottish farming problems. I admit that we are still faced with the position of a concentrated numerical majority being able to swamp the rest of Scotland, but why should we not have some form of proportional representation? This might even be suitable for England where, under what is basically a two-Party system, so many people are virtually being disenfranchised.

As is the case with every other political debate, that on devolution gets confused by the misuse of words and false assumptions. Some people want devolution to go no further than that proposed in the Kilbrandon Report; others would prefer devolution to go further. And one of the great fallacies postulated by many politicians has been the supposition that all those who voted Conservative or Labour were voting against devolution. My Lords, nothing could be further from the truth.

Finally, my Lords, may I deal with the touchy question of the allocation of the hoped-for profits from the oilfields which lie off the Scottish coasts? Of course, these profits will depend upon two factors. The first is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury do not mortgage future oil profits for immediate loan aid from abroad. Secondly, the huge capital investment which is needed to extract oil from the depths of the sea means a high price for the end product, and it is not impossible that the Middle East oil-producing countries may consider lowering their prices at a very awkward moment. It is to be hoped that an elected body in Scotland would have a considerable say in the allocation of these profits. There is some—and, I think, justified—suspicion that the greater part would be siphoned off South for the financing of such projects as the Channel Tunnel, the Third London Airport and the like.

Many of your Lordships know how desperately behind we are with decent housing for our people. The planner's nightmare of the high-rise fiats did, indeed, replace certain slum areas in such great cities as Glasgow, and this has added in no small measure to the plague of juvenile delinquency and crime. When money becomes available much greater sums should be allocated to create decent dwellings which encourage a community spirit and enable mothers to control their children.

Another sphere where possible oil revenues could help is in creating proper and economic communications between the mainland and the Western Isles. As I have said before, these communications should be considered as a continuation of the existing road and rail systems of the mainland. British Rail could be helped in many ways to take the burden off the overloaded roads. They might also be able to provide on the long route from Euston to London, on those great stretches of the permanent way where electrification is a long way off, diesel engines which do not catch fire and break down with depressing frequency.

My Lords, devolution is coming, despite a certain number of voluble opponents. Let us try to make it work. The vast majority of us who live in Scotland wish to remain united under the Crown; and may I remind your Lordships that Her Majesty the Queen is also Queen of the Scots. However, we should also be free to run our own show in amiable accord and co-operation with our English cousins who should help and not hinder us. I do not have to remind noble Lords of the sacrifices which were made by the men and women of Scotland during two World Wars—not only the sacrifice of those who filled the ranks of our splendid Scottish Regiments as well as those who served in the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Mercantile Marine, but also the fact that the number of those who died was tragically great for a country with a population of only 5½ million. In conclusion, may I say that we have much in common with the English but that the Scots, a very old nation, have a right to the management of their own destiny. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.0 p.m.


My Lords, let me say right away how much the Government welcome the Motion moved with such perception by the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie. I personally am delighted because I so much enjoy any opportunity I can get to talk about devolution. This Motion comes just at the right time. The Government are now pressing on with all the detailed work needed to implement the proposals in the White Paper on Devolution published in September, and it is important that in doing so the Government should know, and be influenced by, the views of your Lordships on a matter of such fundamental constitutional importance.

It is the White Paper which seems to me to be very much the starting point for today's debate. The proposals it makes are far-reaching indeed, and in fact they amount to a more radical constitutional change in the relationships between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom than anything we have known since 1707. The White Paper was based of course on a detailed study of the recommendations of the Commission on the Constitution which was set up by the Labour Government in 1969 because we recognised then, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister put it in another place at that time, the strong feeling, not only in Scotland or Wales, but in many parts of England, of a greater desire for participation in the process of decision-making moving it nearer, wherever this is possible—to the places where people live. So the constitutional Commission was set up. First it was under the brilliant and inspiring chairmanship of the late Lord Crowther and then, on his untimely death, under the equally distinguished chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Kilbrandon. I should like again to say what a privilege it was to serve on this Commission under their leadership and alongside my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby, and also the noble Lord, Lord Foot, both of whom I found to be great allies in the work in which we were engaged.

As noble Lords will recall, we all worked so hard that we produced a multitude of different recommendations which were often conflicting. So not only was there a Majority and a Minority Report, but even within the majority there were significant minority views on various major questions. It was partly because of this that when this Government came into Office last February they decided that there must be the widest possible consultations on the various proposals put forward in both the Majority and the Minority Reports. So we published a discussion document last June, summarising the the seven main schemes of devolution put forward in the Majority Report and the Memorandum of Dissent. Four of those different schemes were concerned with Scotland, and it was on the basis of these and the various questions which the Government raised about them that the Secretary of State for Scotland had widespread and detailed discussions in Scotland with a wide-ranging group of organisations, including the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Scottish Council of the Confederation of British Industry, the Church of Scotland, the representatives of local authorities in Scotand and also with representatives of some of the political Parties. On the basis of those discussions the Government produced their radical constitution proposals for Scotland (and of course for Wales as well, because parallel actions were taken in Wales) in the White Paper last September.

As that White Paper made clear, the Government proposed that there should be a directly elected assembly in Scotland. It proposed, too, that that assembly should have legislative powers and that it should also assume many of the executive functions of the Scottish Office and of the nominated authorities now operating within Scotland. At the same time the Government made it clear that they agreed wholeheartedly with one of the few unanimous recommendations of the Constitutional Commission; namely, the recommendation that they rejected separatism and federalism. The Government naturally agreed with that unanimous recommendation. Like the Royal Commission, we regard it as a vital and fundamental principle to maintain the political and economic unity of the United Kingdom. It was within that essential framework that the Government put forward their proposals in the White Paper, which also made it clear that there will be no reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament at Westminster and that the Secretary of State for Scotland will continue to act as a full member of the United Kingdom Government in the formation of United Kingdom policies.

The Government are moving as quickly as possible to implement these decisions to set up a directly elected assembly in Scotland, and of course also in Wales. It it because the Government attach so much importance and urgency to this question that two months ago they strengthened their ministerial team on devolution and set up an entirely new Constitution Unit in the Cabinet Office. The unit is under my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council. It has its own Permanent Secretary, senior administrators and lawyers, together with the necessary supporting staff. In directing the work of this unit, the Lord President is assisted by my honourable friend in another place, the Minister of State for the Privy Council Office. In addition, Mr. Harry Ewing has been appointed as an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, and with supporting officials there he is working closely with the Lord President and the Minister of State on the Scottish aspects of devolution. And of course all the relevant Government Departments are closely involved in the massive amount of work which is now going on.

But, my Lords, there are some formidable problems to be solved before it is possible to proceed to legislation. So let me just indicate, as briefly as possible, some of these major problems so that this House can express its considered views on them. First, there is the question of the range of the legislative powers to be devolved to the Scottish Assembly. The White Paper said that the Scottish Assembly will have legislative powers within those fields in which separate legis- lation already exists so far as Scotland is concerned—that is, such fields as housing, health and education. These areas were quoted in the White Paper as an example of the sort of fields in which legislative power would be devolved, and other areas are, of course, under consideration. So clearly there is much complicated and difficult work to be done here.

Secondly, there are enormously difficult and complex problems to be solved in the area of finance and economic management. As we said in the White Paper, in any scheme of devolution the financial arrangements will clearly be of fundamental importance". We went on to say that, any major change in the present broad arrangement has got to be reconciled with the maintenance of a general uniformity of approach in the United Kingdom as a whole to the allocation of resources, to taxation arrangements and to the overall management of the economy". This is why the White Paper proposed that, the financial allocation for functions over which the assemblies will have responsibility will be in the form of a block grant voted by the United Kingdom Parliament under arrangements which will take account both of local needs and the desirability of some uniformity of standards of service and of contributions in all parts of the United Kingdom". Clearly, as noble Lords will appreciate, an enormous amount of work has to be done in this area before detailed measures and proposals can be worked out, and whatever eventual solutions are produced here our objective on the expenditure side is that the Scottish assembly should be able to judge among competing priorities within Scotland … in the light of their own assessment of the community's needs; as between, for example, hospitals and roads or schools and houses", and so on.

Another major area of problems is the possible trade and industry functions which it might be possible to devolve to the Scottish assembly. As my honourable friend the Minister of State in the Privy Council Office said in another place earlier this month: The possibility of devolving trade and industry powers is being actively considered". As my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Scottish Office also said in another place earlier this month: Relations between the nationalised industries and the Scottish Assembly is one of the issues currently being examined in the context of the devolution proposals". So, my Lords, there are enormous complexities and difficulties in this area as well, and the Government are proceeding as quickly as they can.


May I ask the noble Lord whether he could elucidate one major point in this connection? Does the devolution of trade—I use his words—involve devolution of the functions of Customs and Excise?


My Lords, the noble Lord will probably appreciate that the functions of Customs and Excise would almost certainly be reserved to the United Kingdom Government. It is not the intention of this Government to produce a barrier at the Scottish Border which would either lead to smuggling or would be a barrier to trade. That seems to be consistent with the maintenance of the economic unity of the United Kingdom. Another major area of problems which the Government obviously have under consideration is clearly indicated in the White Paper in which we said that the assemblies will assume some of the executive functions of the Scottish and Welsh Offices and of the nominated authorities now operating within their boundaries". Clearly, therefore, we are carrying out important detailed studies to decide precisely which of these executive functions and which of these ad hoc nominated authorities would go in this direction. Then, of course, there is the question of what form of Executive will be associated with the Scottish assembly. Should it follow the ministerial executive system, which we all know so well here at Westminster, or should it provide for a form of power-sharing perhaps along the lines of a local authority committee system? There are arguments pro and con each of these types of solution, and I shall be most interested to hear your Lordships' views on this difficult but very important problem.

Then there is the whole question of the relationship between the Scottish assembly and this Parliament. We have emphasised in this context—and it cannot be over-emphasised—that we are determined to maintain the political and economic unity of the United Kingdom, so we have to be sure that we can achieve the right relationship here between the Scottish assembly and this Parliament and Government. Of course, my Lords, there are a whole series of other problems, too, that have to be resolved, but I have now indicated, perhaps, some of the most important ones. We are confident that all these problems which I have mentioned, difficult though they are, can be solved. However, we want to be sure that we arrive at the right solutions, so we have to move both with speed and with caution, with speed because we recognise the urgent need to bring forward our detailed proposals as soon as possible, with caution because we want to be sure that we resolve these problems in a way which will produce a stable and lasting solution and which will also bring great benefits not only to the people of Scotland and Wales but to the people of all parts of the United Kingdom. So, my Lords, we look forward to hearing the views of this House and are most grateful to the noble Earl for the views he has expressed and for creating the opportunity for this very timely debate.

3.15 p.m.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, the question of Scottish devolution has been both frequently debated and often referred to in your Lordships' House in recent years. So much so that your Lordships might well be forgiven for thinking that not only has the subject been exhaustively discussed but that it has been exhausted. This is not so. I am therefore very grateful to my noble kinsman Lord Cromartie for bringing up this subject at this most opportune moment and I am very delighted, as I mentioned earlier, to see the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, leading the debate on this subject from the Government Benches.

My Lords, this afternoon we are examining the subject of Scottish Home Rule from a totally new and most exciting viewpoint. Our deliberations, too, will be affected by some entirely new parameters—which have been referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, but not, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, unless I missed it—arising from the extent of progress towards local government reorganisation. The new viewpoint is, of course, that of knowing that Scottish Home Rule will happen. We are therefore not discussing whether Scottish devolution is a good thing or a desirable thing; we are discussing how best to shape the Home Rule which we are about to give to Scotland and how best to shape the administration of Scottish affairs within Scotland when the country has a legislative assembly of her own.

I hope that, as so often happens in your Lordships' House when we debate Scottish affairs, we shall each be able to keep our minds unhindered and un-blinkered by partisan preconceptions. I hope that we shall be sensitive to thought and to emotion in Scotland. I hope that we shall be honest enough to recognise sound constructive thought even in the views of those to whose ideologies we may be opposed. I would say that Scotland deserves nothing less of us today than our total and constructive honesty. The assembly which we are about to set up must be clearly seen by Scotsmen to be capable of shaping, directing and controlling Scotland's destiny. It must be clearly seen to be in the hands of Scotsmen and not to be subject to overriding pressures from Westminster. Where it joins in with the rest of the United Kingdom it must be seen to do so voluntarily and after due consideration, and not merely conforming for conformity's sake.

If a king divides his kingdom among his sons, it is not a gift if he does not divide his sovereignty. If a businessman gives shares in his business to his sons, it is no gift if he does not give voting shares. If a father shares out his goods and chattels among his children, it is no gift if he then insists that they remain in his (the father's) house. So if we really mean to give Scotsmen control over even some facets of Scotland's political affairs we have to hand the strings by which we control these affairs over the border and drop them there.

Scotland's assembly must be capable of shaping Scotland's way of life. This requires that the powers of the assembly must extend over a broad legislative field. In that connection, I am glad to hear that trade and industry is now included among the list of matters which will possibly be coming under the aegis of the Scottish assembly. This will mean not only the perpetuation of existing differences from England in religion, law and education but it will possibly mean the creation of new differences in law and life style between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. We must be prepared for this, because this is the whole nub and essence of what we are doing. The point of an assembly is to give to Scots the power of self-expression. It is by this means that we shall liberate the pent-up forces of creativity among Scotsmen and the latent power of political yearning within the Scottish nation.

If an assembly is to be capable of doing these things and of doing them effectively it will have to have some power over money; it will need power both over how money is raised and how money is spent within the country. The colonists of the New World first put this axiom into a catch phrase when they shouted, "No taxation without representation". There is the other side of the coin, which is equally true. No assembly can claim to represent a country in which it does not raise and spend the tax revenue.

My Lords, I offer this thought to the House, and especially to the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, because I genuinely believe one cannot give effective power to an assembly unless one gives it the power to raise and spend money. It was really the raising and spending of rates that gave, and still gives, verisimilitude to the deliberations of local authorities. It is the increasing proportion of Exchequer-raised and Exchequer-directed money which is being passed through local authorities' hands which has removed from their actions the appearance of reality, and has increasingly estranged local authorities from their own electorate. If you want a Scottish assembly to look real, it must tax people and spend the taxes.

Another prerequisite for a convincing assembly—and I was particularly glad to hear this referred to by my noble kinsman—is the need for the electors to be able to get the sort of people they want into that Assembly and, having got them there, to feel confident that those representatives will remain answerable to them, the electors. It is this feeling of confidence that the members of the Kilbrandon Committee sought to inspire when they unanimously recommended proportional representation as a means of electing a Scottish assembly. It immediately undermines our confidence in the honest intentions of the Government that they do not appear to concur.

Why not agree to proportional representation? There are no ancient traditions or customs that would be violated by its use; for this is a totally new assembly. It will be vitally important that the voice of minorities should be heard in the early and formative years of the Scottish assembly. This can be best ensured by proportional representation. Proportional representation was thought essential in strife-torn Northern Ireland in order to ensure this very thing—this essential and desirable thing—the just and proportionate representation of minority opinion in the affairs of State. So why has proportional representation been dropped from the suggestions in the White Paper? Can it be, although I hesitate to suggest the possibility, that the Government might be seeking some Party advantage by leaving out the Kil-brandon recommendation of proportional representation from their suggested arrangements for a Scottish assembly? I beg of them not only to deny such a libellous slur, but to prove that the libel is baseless by restoring proportional representation as the election procedure of the assembly.

Even among those who have been always in favour of Scottish self-government, and who have been most vociferous in demanding it, there is unease that it should be coming on the heels of a sweeping reorganisation of local government. Among people of all Parties, especially among those already working in the sphere of local government, one hears the worried murmur, "We are going to be terribly overgoverned". Of course, this is true. It is true, because the present shape of local government in Scotland was principally devised as a means of trumping the Home Rule ace. Certainly, it was shaped to try to achieve some of the objectives of devolution. I have always thought it was a mistake. We on these Benches supported the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in an Amendment designed to modify some of its worse aspects.

More and more people are now beginning to see it as a major disaster. They are squealing, just as the Gadarene swine must have squealed as they thundered towards the cliff, "It is too late to stop now. It is too late". It is not too late. It is never too late to do the right thing. I recognise there is now a huge vested interest involved. All the newly appointed holders of all the newly created offices at newly inflated salaries would be horrified if we cried "Stop", yet it is our real duty so to do.

However, there is a way to amend local government reform with the minimum of disturbance, and it is beautifully simple. One merely phases out the regions as one phases in the assembly. This means, of course, that the regional administrators then provide and, indeed, become the new assembly's civil servants—and such persons will be needed—while the regions themselves disappear, having served their use as a transitional arrangement. The district councils would then receive back most of the local government functions which they are now giving up to their respective regions. Possibly at that stage they would begin to take back some of the redundant officials and staff from the regions.

My Lords, there is very great concern among people of all Parties, and also among those of no Party affiliation, about this whole matter. This concern is most keenly felt by those actually engaged in local government. Unless Her Majesty's Government can demonstrate clearly that this concern is unfounded, or say now that a restructuring of local government will go hand in hand with the setting up of a Scottish assembly, great harm may be done. I beg noble Lords opposite, please do not be obdurate; please assure us that you will listen to the mounting groundswell of opinion against regionalisation with an open mind.

Finally, my Lords, in talking of a Scottish assembly we must remember that Wales is also at this time to be granted Home Rule. Therefore, we cannot think of the shape and power of the Scottish assembly without considering Wales also, and, indeed, the relationship between Ireland, Scotland and Wales within the framework of the United Kingdom. Clearly, if we are talking of devolution as a means of bringing a more meaningful democracy into our political life, and not merely as a way of pacifying the wild and woolly tribes on the Celtic fringe——


Does the noble Viscount mean us?

Viscount THURSO

Yes, my Lords, the noble Lord and me!—then, in honesty, we must admit that we are eventually moving towards a federal grouping of the nations which in combination become the United Kingdom. England, too, will have to think about self-government, and we in Westminster will have to ponder our own role also. Therefore, I say only this. Though the debate about the linking of our various British nations into a federal system will have to wait a while, yet that debate will most certainly take place. The writing is on the wall. Meanwhile, it behoves us to get the Scottish and Welsh assemblies off to a good and meaningful start, so that they will be valuable and maturing institutions when the time comes to link them federally. The task today is to call for real work, real responsibility and real power in the Scottish assembly.

3.29 p.m.


My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken, I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, for introducing this subject at this moment. I should like to start my speech by referring to my own perhaps not very distinguished part, but we spoke of the desire of all Parties to sweep this problem under the carpet. In this regard at least I have not been one of the sweepers, because it was, I think, in 1963, when I was Chairman of the Party in Scotland, that I set up the first of our committees to look at this problem, having already set up the first movement to reorganise local government. I then followed it, as a member of the Shadow Cabinet in 1968, when we set up the most distinguished committee that perhaps has ever sat in Scotland, under Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and that was a year before the Labour Party had even begun to think of the problem. So at least I was not responsible for trying to sweep anything under the carpet.

I was also amused by the remark of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that this was not a partisan subject. Certainly it is not, but it is none the less fascinating for that, because if you take the Liberal Party, I think we must give them credit for being perhaps the first in the field consistently to advocate some policy of devolution. I am sure for no Party political purposes whatever. If you look at my own Party, it was interesting that throughout the years of which I am talking, the leadership of the Party was nearly always almost solidly in favour of some form of devolution, but it was the Back Benches who were very much more doubtful, putting it no more strongly than that. Of course, we all had our cynics in our Parties in England; some were passionately keen for total devolution in Scotland and Wales, which they felt would ensure a Conservative Government in England for the rest of time. They were, of course, equally matched by the leaders of the Socialist Party, who were not at all keen on devolution in those days, perhaps for the same reason.


The opposite reason.


Or the opposite reason, as my noble and learned friend says. A number of my friends on the Back Benches in the Socialist Party were very keen indeed that something should happen, so I agree with the noble Viscount that this is not a partisan matter in that sense.

But the problem, as your Lordships know, has been a very important one for Scotland for some time. Everybody knows about the Scottish engineers in every ship sailing round the world, but not enough people realise that we in Scotland have not only our own law but our own Church, our own educational system, our own language—and I do not just mean the Gaelic; we have a number of things which other parts of the country do not have. We have the Scottish Office, which in my experience is an extremely competent and effective office. It has its warts like all other Government Departments, but it has developed, over nearly one hundred years of steadily increasing devolution of power, a skill and energy in Government which is perhaps unique in Europe in its way, and this is a great advantage that we have. We have our own national drink, if I dare mention it, not unimportant in its way, too.

But one of the real facts—and I am sure your Lordships who have travelled extensively round the world will share my view on this—is that wherever you go, quite irrespective of rank or Party or colour or religion, you have a nationalism among the Scots which is quite different and distinct in its way, however long they have been away from the country. It is not just a purely Scottish feeling; it is a real national feeling among the Scots.

It is also absolutely clear, whatever arguments can be made for or against devolution—and I hope that we are now coming to the end of arguing that this must not be done—there is a widely held belief throughout the length and breadth of Scotland that our interests are not properly looked after at Westminster. One can argue that this view is wrong; one can argue that they are misinformed, but the fact of the matter is that this they firmly believe. The second point is perhaps a little more difficult to express, but certainly one that I feel very strongly, having had a great deal of experience both as a Scottish Minister and a Scottish Whip. There is no single part of the House of Commons which is more wearisome, more boring or more ineffective, than the Scottish Grand and the Scottish Standing Committees. I am certain that a number of your Lordships who have had that experience will not totally disagree. They spend longer achieving less than any other Committee in the House; so much so that even the Scottish journalists have practically given up going because they cannot stand it any longer. This is inevitably reflected to some extent in the views that people in Scotland have about how we handle their affairs at Westminster, and the sooner we can delegate some of that legislation to an assembly in Scotland, I think the better it will be for all of us.

The third of these points—and I think the Government must think about this one quite carefully when they are making up their plans as to how devolution is to I be effected—is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get the right standard of ability among young Scotsmen to come into the House of Commons and play; their full part in that. The reasons are partly economic, partly the unsocial hours, partly the very long journeys that are necessary between Scotland and Lon- don, and then often very long journeys round constituencies as well. But whatever the reason for it, it is, I am afraid, the fact that it is getting harder and harder to find young men of ability to come and lake their share of the work done in London.

It is probably a shared view, by myself and perhaps the Government and many others in your Lordships' House, that in some way this new assembly must be able to act through its Secretary of State and in conjunction with Parliament. The noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt. explained that this was one of the problems. I wish he had been able to tell us a little more about how his mind is working, because it is in fact a very difficult combination, if one is to have an assembly with full powers in Edinburgh, to link that through the Secretary of State who is spending his time in the Cabinet in London. The mere distance is problem enough, and having been in that position, I know how much one is tied to London; therefore, one could not take a very active part in an assembly sitting at the same time in Scotland. The criteria that I think are important are these. We have to give this assembly, as noble Lords have already said, enough power to make it an effective House and make it feel that it is really achieving what Scots people want.

It is not simply a matter of finance, though this is important. Again the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, spoke about the difficulties of finance. There are considerable problems. Personally, I am not as certain as the noble Viscount, Lord I Thurso, appeared to be that all the taxation must be raised in Scotland. I should like to think rather carefully about that one before I handed that power over, with ' or without proportional representation. These are problems that have to be carefully thought out, and I was hoping that we would get a little more guidance from the Government at the beginning of this debate than we have had. If this assembly does not have considerable power over the spending of money, then it will certainly fail because nobody will believe that it is useful, and, what will be far worse, nobody of any merit or ability will join an assembly where that sort of power is not available.

The noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, talked about the type of power that might be delegated to the assembly, and, if I remember rightly, he referred to housing, education and health. I hope very much that on the Home Office type of legislation on the permissive society, about which there are widely differing views held in Scotland from those in England, Scotland may also be allowed to legislate in its own way. Further, I see no reason why, for instance, agriculture should not be different, as our conditions are rather different in Scotland—even wetter this year! These are some of a large number of items which this assembly will be able I competently to decide, and their inclusion will have a considerable effect on the sort of reception it will get from the Scottish people when the final draft of the Bill, or whatever it is to be, comes out.


My Lords, would the noble Lord give way for one moment for quite a serious point about finance? The great universities of Scotland are recognised world-wide, and surely, Scotland itself would not be able to maintain them out of its own revenues?


My Lords, I do not think that I should pursue the noble Lord down that particular alleyway, because we do not really know how much revenue will be available. There have been very distinguished universities in Scotland for as long as in England. They have been run very successfully in the past, and I have no doubt that they will be in the future.

May I leave that point and say a word or two on my thoughts about the question of devolution? I should be very happy to see a lot of the regional responsibili-ties of the DTI—to use the old term—devolved to Scotland, and I think Scotland could handle them very well. I should be sorry if we tried to take over the overseas trade side of the DTI, because it would be enormously costly to have separate Scottish trade offices all over the world at the same time as English, Welsh, Irish and Yorkshire offices, and wherever else the devolutionists want to proceed.

Certainly, this is a difficult and dangerous path that we have started upon. I know the political difficulties, but my own belief is that it would have been far better if the Government had decided to take their first steps in Scotland alone. This is not because I want in any way to down Wales, but Wales is not in the same state of national development, in its widest sense, as we are in Scotland. It would have been wiser to have a separate arrangement for Scotland, to see how it worked for four or five years and then to take the second step, rather than try to do both together. My strong feeling is that whatever is done for Scotland—whether or not it is right for Wales—the Welsh will immediately want and we shall probably get into a muddle.

There are many people who fear that if we take any step down this slippery slope we will end automatically in separation. My fear is exactly the opposite. I passionately believe that unless we take some firm steps and go far enough down this slippery road to make sense and to be effective, we are likely to have a great deal of trouble in the next decade or so. From the period of 1870 to 1920 in Ireland, the absolute refusal of the British Government to move an inch or two in favour of Home Rule for Ireland in some shape or form, the resistance—step by step and inch by inch—drove all the moderates in that country inevitably into the arms of one extreme camp or the other. I believe that to some extent, we are seeing the same process, in different circumstances, in Northern Ireland today.

Very few Scotsmen indeed want complete separation; a very high percentage want effective devolution. I hope that with the benefits which your Lordships' debate can give to the Government, and with perhaps a little more information from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, about the way they are thinking, we may arrive at a solution of which in a number of years we shall all be thoroughly proud.

3.46 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened this afternoon to a number of powerful speeches. Listening to the noble Lords who have spoken from all sides of the House, I asked myself for a minute whether there was any reason for me to change my political allegiance recently and join the Scottish National Party, because it seemed to me that the pass had already been won. Of course, though I do not propose this afternoon to be any more controversial than I have to be in the matter of these proposals, there will be complexity and controversy in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, emphasised the complexity of the proposals which the Government are to bring forward in order, so far as I can see, to ensure that Scotland shall have a Parliament, but that it must be allowed only to pass the right Acts.

I personally think that it will be an almost impossible task to give Scotland a Parliament, and also—if I may express myself in this way—to keep the Scottish Parliament under enough control so that the Union is preserved. If we could have a federal solution of the British problem this would be all right, but what one must accept is that if we did that we should have to divide England into five states, and English people do not want that. Therefore, what we are proposing is a quasi-federal solution, where Scotland and Wales have Parliaments but the Scots and the Welsh are still represented here, as are the English. Where else the English could go, I do not know.

But I must stress that, although I cannot but agree with the speeches that have gone before, what is being attempted will be so difficult that I do not know whether it can be achieved. Of course that is speaking before I know what the proposals are, which of course is not very satisfactory. However, we are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, for giving us this chance at least to debate this vast subject. I presume we are going to speak on it a great deal in the future as these proposals come forward, so perhaps all of us speaking today ought to speak rather briefly; otherwise, we shall have said everything that can be said. We are going to wait for the proposals that the Government intend to bring forward. We believe that they are bringing them forward in good faith, and we shall not prejudge them.

I should like to say a few words about the Strathclyde Region, and the regionalisation of Scotland. Other noble Lords have spoken about this, but I think that what most of us feel must be underlined. A year ago in this House the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, put forward an excellent Amendment which we passed back to the other place and which it negatived. Had the noble Lord's Amendment been accepted we would not be in this position. Perhaps I may give a local illustration of the island on which I live at present, the island of Islay, which is going into Strathclyde Region where Glasgow is the regional centre of government. It has struck me that you might as well put the Isle of Wight under the Greater London Council; in fact, it would make more sense, because the communications between the Isle of Wight and the mainland are good. There is probably one boat every hour and I have been there in a hydrofoil which takes only 20 minutes. But communications between Islay and the mainland mean that one has to take a plane—if British Airways feel like it—or a boat, which takes 2 hours 20 minutes to arrive at West Loch Tarbert, which is 100 miles of rather difficult road from Glasgow. The island of Islay is further from Glasgow than is the Isle of Wight from London, yet Glasgow is our centre of regional government.

I hope that even at this late stage the Government may have a change of heart. It is reasonable that people in the outlying areas of Scotland—particularly those in the outlying areas of the Strathclyde Region—should feel that their local government have been nearly taken away from them and has quite ceased to be local. To pursue the absurdity to the extreme, one might say, living in the Strathclyde Region with over half the population already, why not scrap the the whole thing and make the whole of Scotland one region centred on Edinburgh? It would make little difference to us whether the centre of local government was in Edinburgh or Glasgow, because it is not local anyway.

I should like to say one word about the assembly. I have seen it suggested—and it is being suggested in certain quarters and, of course, in another place where they have more of a "knockabout" than we have—that the Scottish National Party intends to obstruct the working of the Scottish assembly. I do not know where this idea emerged from, but I do know that that is not so. We think that for an orderly transfer of power from Westminster to Edinburgh it is essential that the assembly, in whatever form it is brought forward, should at least work. Of course, we will have our differences and we will be pushing for more self-determination for the assembly. That is what we are there for. We hope that we shall have a majority in the assembly, and we shall emphatically not be working to obstruct the assembly but rather to make it work as the first step towards full self-determination, which is how we see it.

I will not go into the matter of oil today, because we have a Bill coming from another place which exhaustively deals with oil and, anyway, I do not know much about oil. I think that those Scots, including myself, who feel that Scotland should have control over her own part of the North Sea oil are not being entirely unreasonable. We have seen various products in Scotland producing vast revenues for the Exchequer, and we have often seen that that does not benefit us very much. I am thinking again on the local level and am referring to the island of Islay where I live, which produces some of the most famous malt whiskies in the world. Every bottle of blended Scotch whisky has to have Islay whisky in it. This is a fact. Yet nobody knows—perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will tell me—what revenue the Exchequer or the Excise gets from the whisky produced in the Islay distilleries. I think the locals say it is anything between £50 million and £100 million.

I have heard every sort of figure quoted, but it has always been rather vague. We feel that even if 10 per cent. of that revenue was spent on improving the conditions of the people who live in the islands, and on the communications, which badly need to be improved, as well as on improving the roads which are so bad that one might say they were practically non-existent, some of that revenue might go back to the island which produces this very sought-after drink. That really concludes what I want to say today. In conclusion, I would say that this assembly can mark the beginning of a new era for Scotland. If we can work together and try to make the assembly work, we can produce a new Scotland which has hope in the future.

3.56 p.m.

The Earl of PERTH

My Lords, I want to thank the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, for having introduced this subject and for his cogent comments on it. I think that it is appropriate for me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, for addressing us today in his capacity as member of the Scottish Nationalist Party. I think that this is the first time that such an event has happened in this House.


The second time, my Lords.

The Earl of PERTH

My Lords, let us hope then that there will soon be a third time! The noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, said that he welcomed this debate as a very timely one. I am glad of that. However, it was not quite as easy as that. I was charged by the Scottish Peers Association as early as July to try to get a debate on this subject. I have been struggling very hard ever since and only now have we got the debate, and that (if I may put it this way) is thanks, perhaps, to the Oposition rather than the Government providing a day. I mention this point because I regret that I find—despite certain words which the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, used—that it is indicative of the way in which the Government think about this subject. I believe they have their priorities wrong. In my view there is no subject so important as that of Scottish devolution. In a way, I am sorry that we have not managed a two-day debate. There are not any English Peers taking part in this debate; there is one from Wales and two from Northern Ireland. It ought to be considered a much important subject in which all of the United Kingdom joins.

Earlier in the year, in a speech on the Queen's Address, the Duke of Devonshire said that he was haunted by the fear—if the noble Lord, Lord Pannell, wishes to talk I should be very grateful if he will do so outside the Chamber, as I find his remarks very distracting.


Will the noble Lord give way? I was merely taking up the point that he made. He thought that English Peers should intervene in the debate. Judging from 25 years in the other place, that is the last thing that Scottish Members ever wanted us to do!

The Earl of PERTH

I am very glad that the noble Lord now says that standing up, because I had heard these murmurs and could not make out what he was saying and I found it very distracting. Returning to the subject, I said how the Duke of Devonshire had said in a speech that he was haunted by the fear that the problem of Home Rule for Scotland and Wales would be the bugbear of the United Kingdom in the coming years, just as the Irish question was in the last 70 years. I agree with this: this is the thing we have to worry about. I feel that some progress has been made; the very fact that we are debating this subject today shows that. Of course, it is in the main thanks to the Scottish Nationalist Party and to the discovery of oil that people are taking it seriously.

I am still not sure that the Government are really genuine in what they say. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, used the words "very far-reaching reforms", "radical", and "urgent", but I get the feeling from reading the document that what we are being offered is a certain lip service and the throwing out of the few odd crumbs of self-government to keep us quiet. Your Lordships may ask: what do we want? I think I go along with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso: we want to run our own show within the United Kingdom. We do not want to be dependent on London's benevolence for our daily work and for our daily jobs. This, my Lords, is to me the yardstick by which we should judge the Government's White Paper decisions on devolution and by which we should judge the worth of the assembly.

I shall touch on three points this afternoon: one is the composition of the assembly, the other is its powers, and the third is the question of the Regions. On the composition, the Government in their White Paper say in paragraph 31(a): Membership will be on the same system as membership of the United Kingdom Parliament … I am not clear what that means, and I think it would be very valuable if we could be told. Does it mean that when there is a General Election there will be two candidates in each constituency, one standing for the English Parliament, if I may put it that way, and the other for the assembly in Scotland, with one the mirror of the other?

Whatever the outcome, the probability is that you would find, roughly speaking, the same people returned, the same Party in both cases. Which would be the more important, London or Edinburgh? I do not think we want something like that, my Lords; I think we want something different. In the White Paper, Appendix A., paragraph 6 on page 13 gives us something which I think is better. It suggests that there should be 100 members, that they should be chosen for a four-year period and that there should be some form of proportional representation. I think that is right: we do not want just a copy of what happens in Whitehall. It may be that we should have the same constituencies electing our members. But if we are to have 100 as opposed to 70, then there will be 30 over, and I suggest that those 30 over should be chosen quite differently. I suggest they should be chosen, for example, from the Churches, from the unions, from the employers, perhaps from the universities or even the local authorities. One-third would be a sort of "Cross-Bench group", and I think your Lordships know that that system works rather well.

So much for the composition of the assembly: now let us turn to its powers. The White Paper produces a long list of responsibilities which this new assembly would have, but if you read them very carefully, and particularly if you read subsequent paragraphs, I think you will find that one vital thing is missing from all that is proposed, and that is the power of the purse. I think that issue has been dodged and fudged. It is perfectly true that there is talk about a block grant, but that is not what we are talking about. From reading the White Paper, I think there is only one ray of hope on the point I am trying to make and that is the Scottish Development Agency which I gather—and anyhow the Conservatives have advocated this—will get money from oil resources; and I very much hope that we can have confirmation that this is what the Government intend as well.

What I want to know is whether the Scottish Development Agency will have its own funds for job creation and restructuring the Scottish economy against the time when the oil runs out. My Lords, it is going to run out, and if at that time we have not had an opportunity to restructure our economy, then it will be a tragedy, to put it in no other words. I do not know whether many of your Lordships have read a very remarkable document, produced by the Scottish Council (Development Industry) entitled Industrial Devolution, of June 28. If not, I commend it to one and all of your Lordships. It points out how, over these last years, we have been, to use their words, a branch-plant economy, with no industrial decision-making powers; a country of camp-followers, and not the home of industrial pioneers. That is what we used to be, but that has not been so over the last fifty years. I could quote much more about it, but I leave it to your Lordships to read.

I think that what the Scottish Council is saying here is the guts of the whole matter. Can the assembly restructure with its own funds? I am going to ask the Government to try to help us, by taking two concrete examples. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, knows that I warned him that I would take these two examples. The first one is in relation to steel. I think most of us agree that what we want is to have a steel complex taking advantage of the deep waters of the Clyde, somewhere in the Hunterston region. The British Steel Corporation has talked about it—and they have talked and talked. What I want to know is whether, if the assembly so decided, we could go ahead on our own and use the funds from the Scottish Development Agency for setting up a Scottish steel corporation. That is the first question.

My second question concerns forestry. Your Lordships will know that recently the Finance Bill suggested changes in the taxation system for forestry which will kill—and I use the word "kill" advisedly—any private individual who wants to continue in forestry, with new planting and the like. That may not matter very much to England; it is not of vital importance to them. But if you take the Scottish rural economy, I believe that 1 out of every 20 is employed on forestry, so if this change goes through it will be very serious.

My next question is therefore this. Under these conditions, would it be open to the Scottish assembly to decide that they were going to give a special subsidy to the forestry industry in Scotland, to enable them to go on constructively, for the benefit not only of Scotland but of the whole United Kingdom? I very much hope that we can get definite answers to these questions, because this will enable us to judge the sort of powers that we will have, or not have.

The last of the three points brings me to the assembly versus the regions, if I may put it in that way. Many other noble Lords have spoken on this subject and I must confess that I am encouraged and surprised by the unanimity. In paragraph 16 of the Government's White Paper there is a statement of the position of the Strathclyde Authority. They are giving evidence to the Government and The White Paper says: Strathclyde Regional Authority ߪ urged the Government to ' ensure that the new authorities are given sufficient time and independent power to establish and develop themselves and that in the meantime the discussions should continue '. I do not know to express my surprise at that, except that it is certainly a case of the tail wagging the dog. I think that for the Strathclyde Authority to look upon themselves as more important than the assembly is cheek. I find it very worrying. But that is in the White Paper and I think that to a degree it is being followed in Government policy.

My Lords, which is the more important? Many of us have agreed that Strathclyde. as it has been set up, is a monster. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, tried his best to kill that monster, but it is now much more difficult. I know it is more difficult. There is the human argument, the fact that people have been elected, chosen, have moved their homes and all the rest; or there is the argument that the Regions are concerned only with administrative questions and not with the legislative ones; so one should not worry too much. Is this really right? If in England there was a line drawn from the Wash to Bristol and North of that the whole of the Region was one—all of it. with all the industrial power and all the people that are there—and they, as it were, took on Parliament, would Parliament stand for it? I think it is wrong that this should be allowed and I very much hope that the Government will consider the practical suggestions made—I think by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso—on how to stop this happening, in relation to all the Regions, but particularly in relation to Strathclyde which is the one which must cause us grave concern.

One almost has—and, again, I think, the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, voiced this—the suspicion that the Government would not mind if there was strife between the one and the other, if there was a recipe for trouble in which fishing in troubled waters and confusion might not be a bad thing. Despite the difficulties which I know arise from the human point of view in changing course please let us do it. Again, and I am coming to an end, the Scottish Council Paper uses these words in saying that if the assembly is not given real powers, the sort that I have been talking about, … the necessary momentum of events may lead to a radical change of another kind in another framework. I should like to put that—and I think I am interpreting it rightly—in starker terms. I would translate as follows: If we do not get what we are asking for, there will be an ever-rising tide of nationalism and the Scots will take things into their hands, ready even to fight to gain their independence. That, I am sure, is what is meant by the rather more careful words used by the Scottish Council—and they are very responsible and are not an alarmist body, so I think that we must take their words seriously.

My Lords, I do not want things to reach this pass. I was very much encouraged by the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, when he said that you must go far at the start and not step by step; and then if we go far things may be better. We must have the right to control our daily lives. If we do not get this, then it will come about in a different way and in the coming there will be much sadness.

4.15 p.m.

The Earl of DUNDEE

My Lords I think that there are two good reasons, which have been growing more obvious and more cogent all through this century, why we should seek to have a new Scottish Parliament of some kind. One reason is the vast extension both in numbers and in executive powers of the Civil Service. I think that our Civil Service has very high standards indeed of devotion to duty, and with very few exceptions it has equally high standards of honesty. But any bureaucracy needs to be watched with constant vigilance by by the Legislature, and I think that this is becoming almost impossible for 70 Scottish MPs who now have to spend a very great deal of their time at Westminster, far more than they had to spend 70 years ago or even 30 years ago. It is almost impossible for them to make sure that the executive power of the bureaucracy is kept under proper control by the elected representatives of the people.

The other reason is this. I think that Scottish Members—certainly in another place, and perhaps also to a much lesser extent in your Lordships' House—are overburdened with legislation. They have too much legislation to perform in a reasonable time with reasonable efficiency, and it would enormously help Parliamentary government as a whole if we had a Parliament in Scotland. I do not say at the moment whether it should be a subordinate Parliament or an auxiliary Parliament, because I think that what we should all do at the moment is to try to find out what proposals will meet with the widest measure of agreement. All Parties have been thinking about this for many years. We all remember the active steps that my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas took about it ten years ago, and also the Labour Party, although the Scottish Labour Party was completely against devolution until right in the middle of the last General Election when they turned a sudden somersault, I think with the most wonderful acrobatic agility. But, before they went out of office, it was a Labour Government which appointed the Kilbrandon Committee, which reported on the matter more than a year ago. I think that our main purpose should still be to try to find out how much agreement we can achieve.

There is one point (and it is the only point on which I want to say a few more definite words) on which I am afraid I cannot be so amenable or accommodating. It has already been raised, I am glad to say, by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso. It is the question of proportional representation. Until the White Paper was published I think that we all assumed that any scheme which provided for an elected assembly or Parliament in Scotland would provide for proportional representation, because of all the recommendations in all the Reports, and not only the Majority Report, but also the Note of Dissent by the noble Lord, and Sir Alan Peacock. The Government very fairly set them out and quote them in the White Paper. The main Report recommends: Each assembly should consist of about 100 members elected by the single transferable vote system of proportional representation for a fixed term of four years. I like even more the way it was put by the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, in his Note of Dissent, which I have already quoted to your Lordships in another context in the last Parliament. He says on page 101: There will be a single chamber assembly of about 100 Members. They will be elected on the single transferable vote system of proportional representation. This is so we can be sure that minorities will be fully represented—which is particularly important in those areas where recent voting patterns suggest one Party could be in a ' perpetual ' majority. I think that contains more wisdom in a few short sentences than any other assessment of the subject which I have read. The Government White Paper again reproduces what they call "Scheme C", which is a variation of recommendations by, I believe, the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and Sir James Steel, whom the Government quote as saying: Scotland, Wales and the eight English regions would each have an assembly of about 100 members directly elected by the single transferable vote system of proportional representation for a fixed term of four years. I was therefore very disappointed to find that the Government, in paragraph 31 on page 9 in what they call "provisional proposals"—and I hope that "provisional" means that they have not yet irrevocably made up their minds about this because I believe it to be of paramount importance—say: Membership will be on the same system as membership of the United Kingdom Parliament, ie. a single member elected for a geographical area. This is simple to operate, easily understood by the public and provides for the clear and direct accountability of the elected representative to his constituents. I would be quite willing to endorse that last sentence. It is simple to operate, easily understood by the public and also provides for direct accountability of the Member to his constituents. However, if I had written this White Paper I should have added: "It is also completely out of date and entirely unfair, if there are more than two Parties contesting, and it is the most effective and ingenious method that could be devised for ensuring that the Labour Party may frequently obtain a considerable majority of seats with a minority of votes"—which indeed has happened in the Imperial Parliament five times in the last 29 years. This is a matter on which we ought to take a firm attitude. When we are starting a new Parliamentary system, there is surely no case for saddling the people with this out-of-date and discredited system of representation.

There are many reasons why this system is disadvantageous. For one thing, if there are more than two Parties—which I think would almost certainly be the case in Scotland, perhaps there would even be five or six Parties, I do not know—and two of them are predominant then those two predominant Parties would spend their whole time, under our present method of election, trying to get 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. of the vote swing which can convert quite a substantial minority into a good working majority. If both of these predominant Parties were spending their whole time during the lifetime of a Parliament trying to discredit each other so as to get 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. more of the votes next time, they could not be paying enough attention to the good of the country. I believe that is one reason why our economy in Britain has lagged so far behind the economies of other free democracies in Western Europe which have not retained out-of-date electoral systems such as the system we still have in Great Britain. Of course, 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. of the electorate may be the most intelligent or thoughtful percentage, but they may be the most thoughtless and unintelligent percentage. One cannot tell; however, they are certainly a very small percentage, and it is certainly more conducive to Parties cooperating in the national interest and refraining from excessive Party controversy that we should have a more up-to-date and scientific method of election.

I do not wish to pursue the matter at this moment, but I think it right to tell your Lordships that I believe this to be a matter of the first importance. I personally could not support any measure for devolution in Scotland which meant introducing into Scotland this out-of-date and unfair method of election, as is proposed in the White Paper.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, indicated me as coming from Wales. I do not come from Wales, but I represent the Kingdom of Gwent, which is an ancient entity, older than Wales. There is a great deal of independent feeling in Gwent, but for the moment we are content to remain within the Union. I shall strike a dissenting note from what has gone before in this debate, because I do not think the Government's proposals are nearly so innocuous as noble Lords may have led us to believe this afternoon; nor do I believe that they will have the effect that is hoped for. I do not feel, with respect, that they have yet grasped the root of the problem in Scotland, and, indeed, in Wales.

My mother was Scotch, or Scottish as it is now termed. As a small boy I sometimes wore a kilt of Hamilton tartan, and I well remember the regret with which I saw it pass to my younger brother. I have the happiest memories of long holidays in Lanarkshire and Aberdeenshire, and I have a longer familiarity with parts of Scotland than with anywhere else except my own region of South-East Wales and the West Midlands. But my mother thought that there was something unusual about Scottish people—though I must say I never noticed it; and my increased knowledge of people in other parts of the United Kingdom has confirmed that there is nothing about Scottish people which would not in normal circumstances be ascribed to ordinary regional or sub-regional variation. The study of origins and settlement patterns in Scotland of course supports this view.

Yet romantic tradition—and it is a recent tradition hardly earlier than Victorian times—demands that we should think otherwise. In 1885 the Scots had become deemed to be so different that a Scotch Secretary (that is what he was called) was appointed; and the next year the Scottish Home Rule Association was founded. In 1926 he was promoted to Secretary of State for Scotland and thereafter several Home Rule Bills were presented during the 'twenties. In 1939 the Scottish Office in its present form was created and as a result the first Scottish Nationalist MP was elected in 1945. Yet today, after all these special institutions have been created for Scotland, when Bills pertaining only to Scotland come regularly through the House, when there are frequent debates on Scottish matters spoken to mainly by Scottish Members, the Motion on the Order Paper today calls for "some form of devolution" being necessary. It seems to me that the meaning of the word "devolution" has been stolen by a kilted hob-goblin, and we all ought to have a really good look at what the matter may be.

We would be deceiving ourselves completely if we were to pretend that the demand for a separate Parliamentary assembly for Scotland, such as it has transpired that the noble Earl has been asking for today, is anything other than a nationalistic demand. The appointment of Secretary of State and the formation of the Scottish Office, and so on, can all be and are frequently rationalised as having been done for practical purposes; but the reality is that they were done for Scottish national prestige. People know this, or if they do not know it they feel it. Instead of these measures taking the heat out of the situation, as each time it was imagined they would, every measure directed at separate treatment has generated the demand for more. For a hundred years now, Parliament has increasingly endorsed and encouraged the notion of Scottish separation. It is interesting to note that in 1711 Daniel Defoe criticised the post of Secretary of State which was later abolished. He said it would prevent the union from becoming a reality by preserving the separateness of Scotland. The Scottish Secretary is in a hopeless position in opposing the Scottish Nationalists, because by virtue of his post he is quite a long way along their road already. So we should not be surprised that there is a Scottish National Party.

Furthermore, it is not perversity but logic that the Party in Scotland which is most attracted to the idea of a Scottish Parliament—the Conservatives—should have lost most heavily to the Nationalists; just as I correctly forecast that the Labour Party's devolutionary plans for Wales, which were aimed at retaining Carmarthen against the Nationalists would have the effect of getting the Nationalist elected; and, indeed, I see him below the Bar at present. The reason is that the more you embrace Nationalist beliefs the more credible the Nationalists become. Very little attention has been given to the question of whether the amount of devolution already acquired for Scotland has really done good for the Scots themselves. Even with all the independence of action vested in the Secretary of State and with an over-representation of MPs in comparison with people in England, the Scottish economy is always in the news for being particularly impoverished. That greater devolution would improve this situation is a claim made without any evidence at all. What has been happening is of course that with Scottish affairs being left more and more only to Scottish Members, the rest of Westminster has increasingly lost interest. That answers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, as to why Scotland does not get the attention that it should.


My Lords, may I say that the point the noble Lord made regarding my remarks was incorrect. I did not say that the Scots were neglected: I said that people in Scotland felt they were neglected, which is a different point.


I accept the noble Lord's intervention. My Lords, the practical effect of creating a Scottish Parliament would be to increase that lack of concern and the will for concerted cooperative action which matters a great deal especially in a country as small as this; and the men of vision who created the Union had it very much in mind. They must be turning in their graves.

I know that I am not the only member of the Labour Party to grieve deeply that an influential section of the Party has been so diverted, if only momentarily, by the apparent liberalism which they see in nationalist slogans such as "setting free" and "self-government" and other typical emotive phrases. They have been so taken with this that they have not seen the illiberalism inherent in the doctrine or even in their own plans for devolution. Surely if devolution of Parliamentary power is good for one part of the United Kingdom, it is good for all parts.

I have heard that there are plans for Scotland to have a Parliament with power to raise and spend its own taxes, but to send no fewer MPs to Westminster. So English MPs are to have even less say in what is done in Scotland, but Scottish MPs are to have power without accountability in England. It would be a means of maintaining a number of Labour MPs at Westminster. But it is an illustration of how trying to cope with the Nationalist cuckoo can drive normally democratically minded people to do what they would never contemplate in normal circumstances—I almost said "in real life". It will drive them into more and stranger corners unless, as I respectfully urge your Lordships, we try to understand this type of nationalism, its origins and its sentiments. Otherwise we shall not realise why the Nationalists cannot be out-bid, outflanked, or otherwise out-done by meeting their demands. They can only be out-argued, and I think it is far the most desirable course for everyone in the country that they should be out-argued, and, indeed, that Scotland should join the Union in full instead of, as now, being part in and part out and going further away than that the Nationalists should have their way and Scotland becomes independent.

I know that the Government promised certain things at the Election, and that they are examining certain ways in which a Scottish Parliament might be set up. But it is not too late to warn them that if they go ahead they will increase the Nationalist sentiment. That may be what they, or some of them, wish to do, and they think that in some way they are being liberal and generous. I am sure they have good intentions; but in fact they would be encouraging a creed which is more hostile and destructive than perhaps they know, because it is founded on a truly mystic attachment to historical enmities and nineteenth century theories of race which have been totally disproved.

In due course your Lordships may have the opportunity of debating a Motion I have down on the Order Paper on the phenomenon of Welsh and Scottish nationalism. It is a subject which deserves to be studied in depth and is of the greatest relevance to this debate. For instance, the reason for the difference in political complexion between the Welsh and Scottish Nationalist Parties becomes clear when seen in the context of feudal military history and nothing more recent than that. But I will content myself now (and I hope your Lordships) by saying that nationalism is not nearly as old an idea as most people seem to think, largely nineteenth century. It is a terrifyingly powerful creed—as powerful as a religion and more militant. Some Liberal ideas are embodied in it, and on the other side of the coin it has shown itself to be the most potent force for racial hatred, xenophobia and war that the world has known. The Common Market has really been forced upon Europe to stop us, who invented nationalism, from tearing ourselves to pieces with it. Economic union will ensure this, provided of course that we are each not too nationalistic in our demands over sharing the cake.

The Scottish Nationalists talk of economics, especially since the discovery of oil in the North Sea. They recite talcs of woe, all being the fault of the English—the noble Earl appeared to do this this afternoon. They also talk about the complexities of modern government and all those things on which my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt is such an expert. But it should be understood that their beliefs were never originally formed with the real idea of helping people in Scotland or the Scottish economy. What matters first to a Scottish Nationalist is that Scotland and England historically were separate territories, frequently at war. From that, rationalisations follow with theories of differences in race, national character and the rest, which arc said to be so marked that we can barely get on together. After that comes the talk of self-government, which is seen as a matter of national status, and then come economics. Violence of a militaristic kind lurks in the background—it has been referred to already by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. A Scottish Nationalist recently wrote me a letter, much of which I agreed with, though not on his salient points. But as I was reading it and thinking what to reply, I came across the phrase: and if we do not get our independence, you will realise that Scotland's cities are very suitable for guerrilla warfare".' I wrote back and told him he was immoral, but I do not know whether he realises it.

I do not think there is a more ridiculous creed than historico-romantic nationalism, nor hardly a more unpleasant one. The curious thing is that if the alleged differences that Nationalists are always quoting were real and occurred in any other part of the world we should all be condemning them and doing our best to mitigate the resulting friction. But thousands of people subscribe to such false beliefs, and even encourage them, because they have been brought up to them as convention and have never questioned them. Thus, the Kilbrandon Report on its first page refers to the Scots as a "race", after which there is scarcely need to read further. Here we are in this tiny island, all mixed up like currants in a pudding and a Royal Commission actually endorses the notion that because a line was drawn here or there in the aftermath of some mediæval fracas the people on either side of it are of different races and therefore should be governed differently. My Lords, this is bad advice, given for a bad reason. If the Government want to take it, perhaps it is because what they are going for, stage by stage, is an independent Scotland. That would be the line of least resistance, in spite of the close cultural ties between England and Scotland, because romantic nationalism is more powerful than cultural ties and is more in fashion as an outwardly liberal cause.

I must say that there is something very engaging if not very dignified, in the picture of Robert Bruce, William Wallace and Bonnie Prince Charlie, all dressed by George IV's tailor, towing a separated Scotland out into the North Sea behind an oil drum. And I would wish the separatists luck because, although I detest their phoney cult, I admit their logic, which is that if one believes that Scotland is a nation, then a real self-governing territory it should be, instead of its inhabitants being governed by the present departmental hotch-potch—I beg the pardon of the Scottish Office—by which I suspect that the Scots get the worst of both worlds, or by a contrived prestige Parliament which would not last long before the next upheaval.

My Lords, separation would be a tragedy because a political union is always stronger and gives more opportunities than its several parts; and the Union with Scotland, as with the inclusion of Wales earlier, has been the most humanly rewarding and materially enriching association for everyone in these islands. I care about it. It matters to everyone. It is coming to the time when people in Scotland will have to choose which way they go, for nationalistic measures, although they may be dressed up and presented as regional ones, only exacerbate the situation. There will soon be no room for quasi-Nationalists or for sentimental semi-separatists, and I would go out and explain that to people in full, and why, and give them time to think about it and then see what they say. I have a great faith—I hope not too great—in reason triumphing eventually over subjective prejudice, and I trust that my speaking in this debate will contribute to that; and with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, who said it just now in a different context, I would say it is never too late to do the right thing.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, I followed with great interest the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, who is associated with Wales, and I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, in that I wish that in this debate we had more of your Lordships speaking who are not intimately associated with Scotland, as I and many others are. This is not a narrow subject to be confined only to those people who live and work, as I have done for 30 or 40 years, in Scotland. It is a matter which concerns the whole of the United Kingdom and I should have welcomed very much indeed speeches from any other Members of your Lordships' House who do not necessarily have interests and work in either Scotland or Wales. However, we have had extremely interesting speeches and I have been enormously encouraged by the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, whose theme throughout his speech was that he wishes, and the Government wish, to maintain unity.

My Lords, I wish to maintain unity. What the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has said about the dangers of narrow nationalism is something which we in our lifetime have seen developing in so many parts of the world with such disastrous results. It will be absolutely tragic if we suddenly find this situation arising here. The noble Lord has rightly said—and I do not want to prolong the debate by going back into the past—that, after all, we had 300 years of war between England and Scotland. In your Lordships' Library is a copy of the Treaty of Union. It would be tragic if in 1976 or 1977, or whatever the date might be, we had to break that Treaty of Union simply because of administration or, in many cases, because of a wrong view of what we in Scotland are really wanting, which we would be able to get by far simpler methods.

We have had very interesting speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and I shall not speak for very long. But I want to ask one or two questions and make one or two comments which I hope may be helpful to the Government. There is, as Lord Crowther-Hunt said, this great problem of finance. I make no suggestion about how the assembly in Scotland shall be financed, but it is certain that 5½ million people will not be able to finance what we hope will be all the great developments in Scotland, and we must have and, so far as I am concerned, will welcome, close co-operation with the United Kingdom on finance. Equally, in trade and industry it would be most unfortunate if a narrow form of national development were to replace the big developments which are going on in Scotland today and which involve the United Kingdom and those further afield.

Any artificial nationalistic restrictions on trade or industry, or developments of any kind, would be greatly to the disadvantage of Scotland. Not only would they be to the disadvantage of Scotland, but they would also be to the disadvantage of the whole of the United Kingdom. I am most anxious that we should develop all of our industries, whether they are new industries in the electronics field, or in oil, or wherever, on the basis that this will be to the benefit of the whole of the United Kingdom, and possibly to the benefit of other parts of the world as well. From the point of view of management, whether these industries are based in England or in Scotland matters, in my opinion, very little indeed. What matters is that they should be well managed, that they should develop and that they should make a great contribution to the general economy of the country which, as we all know, is in a very parlous state at present.

If I may turn to the question of local government, it is very unfortunate that the timing of the Kilbrandon Report and the timing of our plans for an assembly should have been reversed. Speaking as somebody who is involved in local government but who by May of next year will no longer be involved, what I mean is that we are passing over all our responsibilities in I hope as good a manner as we possibly can to the new tiers of local government and that it is a great pity that the suggestions for the assembly and the suggestions for the reorganisation of local government should have clashed in this way. I am one who supported the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, when we had our debate on the reorganisation plans, particularly with reference to the Strathclyde Region. It is a great pity that the reorganisation cannot be altered now. I can see the difficulties, because I know how far matters have gone; it would be difficult to stop the reorganisation and to create the four Regions that we wanted when we discussed the matter. Possibly it could be done but it would not be easy, and if the creation of four Regions took place there would be a period of great disruption. Nevertheless, it will be extremely difficult to fit the Strathclyde Region into the plans for an assembly.

I wonder whether the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate can tell us how the plans for the new assembly will fit in with the Regions. Will there be new constituencies for the Scottish assembly which are based upon Parliamentary boundaries or upon the boundaries of the tiers for local government elections? How will the voting be arranged? Will there be a Parliamentary vote on the present basis of one man, one vote? Will there be voting for the Scottish assembly on another basis? Will there be voting for the regional representatives on a third basis? Will there be voting for the district councils on a fourth basis? We do not yet know how the community councils will be elected, and that is an additional factor to take into account.

My Lords, if these complicated matters are put before the electors, then, quite frankly, having taken part in something like 14 contested elections in my life and knowing what a nightmare it is to get the electorate to understand even the most simple electoral forms, there will be a real problem. I do not agree with the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, when he speaks so strongly on the subject of propor- tional representation. This is not the moment to discuss that system, although it has been discussed many times. However, do not let us forget that there are countries in Europe which have always had proportional representation. I think I am right in saying that in France there were 22 Governments between the end of the Second World War and the time when General de Gaulle took over the French Parliament, and one of the reasons for this was that the French were so fed up with their Parliamentary system. This could happen anywhere. I would not be in favour of having proportional representation to the extent to which it is carried on in certain European countries, although the alternative vote or some other modified system might be advisable.

My Lords, I do not wish to encourage a great number of Parties in Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, knows as well as I do that one of the things which we are best at is arguing. You can argue about almost anything in Scotland, particularly if it has a religious flavour. To encourage people to argue indefinitely and to argue with each other, and to encourage them to think that each small group has a right to be represented in Parliament would, in my opinion, create complete chaos. Therefore I say to myself, "Let us make this as simple as possible". We had a slogan during the war which ran, "Is your journey really necessary?" I feel inclined to ask, is all this organisation really necessary? I think that anything the Government are able to put forward to simplify matters will meet with great support.

One other problem with regard to devolution I should like to raise concerns the rural areas of Scotland. Compared with the industrial belt, they are enormous in area. None the less, the great proportion of the population lives in those industrial areas. This is a well-known and well-appreciated fact. Will there be any way in which in the assembly the importance of the rural areas in the devolution plans can be strengthened? The Highlands and Islands Development Board helps the Highlands enormously, and I think that everybody would say that it has been very successful. Those of us who live in the rural areas of the South—in the Border country, the great areas of Dumfrieshire, Wigtownshire and Ayrshire—have very few people to speak up for us. However, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, knows that I speak up quite often! In our Border areas we suffer very much from not having any real say in the government of Scotland, for the simple reason that although we cover a big area of Scotland we are sparsely populated. I hate to see the people leaving the villages and the rural areas to go to work in the towns, all because of transport difficulties. Transport is indeed a problem in country areas and nowadays, because of the rise in the cost of petrol, it will be absolutely killing to the country people. I have been questioned about this already in my own area. People ask what they are to do. We have no public transport in the Borders. Our nearest airport is 50 miles away and our nearest station is 50 miles away. Every time that I drive my car to board the train at Berwick or Carlisle I have a journey of 100 miles. That also applies if I drive to the airport in Newcastle. It will be a very big expense for all of us, and I hope that so far as the question of devolution is concerned the imbalance between the rural and urban areas will be looked at very closely. If it were, I think it would be a great help.

May I suggest to the Minister that when the Committee on devolution to which he referred is considering these matters they might look into the question of the rural areas in relation to the influence they might have; and, let us face it, if the development of agriculture and other developments in rural areas are to go ahead, our rural voice in the assembly will have to be heard in no uncertain terms.

Finally, my Lords, I do not want Scotland to put up barriers to protect a narrow nationalism. This is something which, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, said, is bedevilling the world today. In the past, Scottish people have spread themselves all over the world. No part of the United Kingdom has been more enterprising or more far-seeing. We have provided the United Kingdom with Prime Ministers, great scientists, doctors, scholars and members of many other great professions. I do not want the threat of nationalism to restrict our contribution to the United Kingdom and to world affairs.

I have heard of horrid things being done today to English children being educated in certain Scottish schools. How widespread this kind of quarrelling is I do not know, but in any case it should not exist. It is monstrous that children coming from England, their parents perhaps having been transferred to Glasgow or some other city in connection with one of the big developments, should, on attending Scottish schools, find themselves being laughed at or being treated in some way differently from other children. I hope this will be stamped out at once. We in Scotland have always welcomed people from the United Kingdom and from overseas. In the very early days, going back to the days of Mary Stuart, Frenchmen and Frenchwomen used to come to Scotland and we sent our students to universities in Paris and other parts of France. Today, we have visitors from all over the world coming to Scotland—from Europe, from America, from the East—and they spend their time with us sightseeing and travelling. This year I have had two Israeli friends who have spent three weeks touring round and stopping anywhere they felt inclined in Scotland. They have told me they had never been happier and they had never had a more kind or generous welcome. Let us do nothing to spoil our reputation for hospitality and friendship.

The Government have a difficult job to plan devolution. As the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, said, the Report came out with at least six different plans and also quite a large minority volume. I believe the Government are right to stress the vital importance of the United Kingdom and the need to preserve our Parliamentary system. I am sure that we on this side of the House all wholeheartedly support this. With this basic principle accepted I believe it will be found that we on this side of the House will do all we can to help the Government and the noble Lord to plan wisely; but it is wise policy, not wild slogans, which are needed today.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, the Motion before us today calls for some form of devolution, and I suppose we are all in favour of some form of that. I think the call for some form of devolution is the healthy reaction of people to a society which is increasingly dominated by large scale organisation, sometimes multinational organisation, where economic activity frequently condemns people to dull impersonal tasks, and in the field of politics the greater degree of centralisation diminishes the significance of the democratic processes. It is in this situation that "small is beautiful" becomes a favourable idea, and the anti-growth school in economics begins to take hold. In industry there is a demand for devolution in the sense that there is a greater cry for worker participation and involvement, and in politics we seek new constitutional arrangements to satisfy this demand. The Scottish assembly is the latest exercise in satisfying the demand for making democracy more effective.

I think we are in great danger—at least, we were in great danger until the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, spoke—of claiming too much for the Scottish assembly. I was—as I always am—deeply moved by the eloquence of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, who with his usual eloquence exaggerated the possibilities and the potentiality, and the great release of creative activity which would inevitably flow from the establishment of the Scottish assembly. In fact, I believe that one of the reasons for the present upsurge of Scottish nationalism is not due to a desire for self-government, but is substantially due to the relatively poor performance of the Scottish economy; and it may be that because of our obsession with constitutional change we shall overlook some of the devolution which is possible without the complicated processes that we are discussing this afternoon.

Like the noble Earl, Lord Perth, I was interested in the submission of the Scottish Council for Industry. I am a member of the executive of that Council and have some responsibility for the policy document to which he referred. The Scottish Council for development and industry stated that what they were concerned about was not so much the constitutional changes in the Scottish assembly; they were concerned about economic devolution because, as has already been said, regional policy has been directed in the past towards creating more jobs, and more jobs are frequently created by decisions made else- where. As a result, Scotland has been a great centre of the branch plant economy.

But creativity and innovation by management is not exercised in that kind of environment. So if we are to achieve economic devolution there must be a new attitude to moving headquarters of industry into the regions, and not simply regarding the regions as places to put the branch factory. So before we claim too much for the Scottish assembly and make the constitutional changes, let us examine what is now possible in terms of devolution. Economic devolution such as I have described is now possible and should be put in the forefront of any discussion on devolution.

Secondly, I should like to say a word about what I regard as cultural devolution, for lack of a better term, since I believe that any form of constitutional change must only be regarded as a means to an end. It should, in fact, be concerned with its impact on the condition of our nation and its spiritual resources. I live in Scotland and have lived in the heart of the industrial area of Scotland and, if I may say so in your Lordships' House this afternoon, I have been impressed by many of the speeches that have been made today. But many have been based on a rural background, and it is significant that the majority of the people in Scotland live in the industrial areas. The people living in those industrial areas have shown less enthusiasm for the current fashion of Scottish nationalism than people in the rural areas. I believe we should think a little about what the Scottish assembly might in fact achieve.

In Scotland today we suffer from a great number of ills, and it is very easy for the Scottish Nationalists to claim that these ills can be attributed to English rule. The feeling is that if we could only get rid of this English rule all our problems would be solved, which of course they would not. I came through the City of Glasgow on Monday evening. It was a dirty night, as it frequently is in Glasgow. It was snowing and sleeting and I watched women, who had taken their children Christmas shopping, with their babies by the hand, waiting in a freezing atmosphere, trying to get home, because municipal transport workers had decided to call a strike as someone had been dismissed for having a bad attendance record in the municipal garage.

I was interested in the decision the other week of the Hoover Company which came to Scotland and had just decided, after an 11 weeks' strike, that it would suspend any further investment in Scotland, including a £15 million investment in Lanarkshire with the prospect of 3,000 jobs. I was interested, too, that to make themselves less vulnerable the Hoover Company decided to transfer part of their plant elsewhere in future. But with, I suppose, a great resurgence of Scottish feeling, the workers determined not to Jet them transfer any plant elsewhere. These ills are self-inflicted.

We could also discuss the terrible tragedy of the teachers' strike that is going on with considerable encouragement from the Scottish Nationalists, denying thousands of children the opportunity of sitting their examinations this year. This is being done in Scotland; it is not happening in England. Scottish Nationalists claim that we are all right; we can coast home on North Sea oil, on the slogan, "Will you be a poor Briton or a rich Scot?"—a selfish slogan which is alien to the whole traditions of the Scottish people. So we have to be careful of the kind of things we are encouraging in getting on the bandwagon of Scottish nationalism.

The cultural revolution, or devolution, which I should like to encourage consists in fostering these organisations and institutions which protect and cherish our national heritage, in cultivating these qualities in our national character which have gained us respect—respect for our democratic national Church, the preservation of the best elements of Scottish law. We have a culture in Scotland and we should cherish it, and resist some of the factors in modern society which are destroying that culture. The present upsurge of Scottish nationalism, the demand for self-government with its selfish slogans bordering on occasions—as was said by my noble friend Lord Raglan—on racism does nothing to improve the economic situation in Scotland. It has created uncertainty about investment. I met a Glasgow lawyer the other day who told me of a contract which had passed over his desk that day from an overseas company and contained the interesting clause, "In the event of Scotland seceding from the United Kingdom, the above contract will be declared null and void". This may sound amusing but it happens to be a fact.

The present enthusiasm for Scottish nationalism is sometimes well motivated and supported by reasonable people, but it has its other face. I do not believe that the separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom can isolate it from the troubles of this world. Yet I believe that the establishment of an assembly can hasten this eventuality. There is in the United Kingdom at the moment a mood seeking the disintegration of the United Kingdom. It is part of the antidemocratic process that is going on. There is a great danger in the upsurge of separatism and nationalism of destroying the centre. I know that the Scottish Nationalists may rejoice in that prospect, but it is not a prospect that fills me with joy.

I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who will be winding-up here tonight, the question: Do you think you will satisfy the current tide of the Scottish Nationalists who thrive on the fact that each day in the Press and on TV there are reports of Britain's desperate plight, while the Nationalists offer the prospect of safety and security based on the vast incomes of North Sea oil? They will not regard as enough an assembly with the proposed powers. It will be only the first step towards the achievement of complete independence, and it will be extremely difficult to prevent that taking place. It would be useful if there were a great educational exercise carried out in this country, placing before the people in Scotland the effect and impact of separation. It certainly does not mean that there will be some sudden increase in wealth in Scotland itself.

There are difficulties in the proposed assembly and there are vast areas of conflict. Some of them have been brought out in this debate and, like others, I am sorry that there are few English Members of your Lordships' House present, for we are discussing a constitutional change which affects the place of the United Kingdom Parliament. If the assembly is to discuss the matters presently handled by the Secretary of State—education, health, prisons, housing, agriculture and so on—what is the position of the Secretary of State in that assembly? Is he to be an elected member of' the assembly? Is he answerable to the assembly and does it not diminish—if these powers are to be discussed and responsibility is to be discharged in Edinburgh—the influence of the Secretary of State in the United Kingdom Parliament and in United Kingdom politics? What is to be his relationship with the United Kingdom Cabinet of which he is a member? Let me take the position of the 71 MPs who are to be retained in the proposals. If the assembly in Scotland is to discuss agriculture, health and other matters, which are the province of the Secretary of State, does that mean that the 71 Scottish MPs elected to the Westminster Parliament will be discussing health, education and other matters in relation to England? It is an extremely complicated and difficult situation and I wish the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, well in resolving some of these problems.

Obviously, the new assembly will have powers to levy taxation and allocate resources. Aneurin Bevan once said, "politics is about priorities", and I suspect that a Labour-dominated assembly would have very different priorities from those of Westminster. Yet Kilbrandon insists that the whole structure be cast within the ultimate power of an English, or a British, legislative assembly. I can see continual tensions emerging in that situation and even a national Clay Cross situation may not be ruled out.

There is another danger that the new Parliament—and this has been mentioned by several Members of this House who have spoken today—will run into difficulty with the regions. One speaker said today that it was arrogant of the Strath-clyde Region—and I speak with some sympathy for the Strathclyde Region—to suggest that the assembly should be delayed until the new regional authorities had established their position and had taken up office in May 1975. I think it is perfectly reasonable, now that Parliament has agreed that the new regions should exist and should operate, and people have found posts and have been appointed to their tasks, to suggest that the assembly should be delayed until the new regions have become well established. Otherwise, you may have a vast bureaucratic jungle with powers not too clearly defined. New organisations of this magnitude take time to settle. I feel that this may contribute to bringing democratic government into disrepute, rather than strengthening it.

My Lords, Kilbrandon proposed a Scottish assembly and the two major Parties, largely under Scottish Nationalist pressure, have fallen into line. Kilbrandon diagnosed the problem as being a demand for self-government due to dissatisfaction with government structure, when in my opinion it was due, first, to dissatisfaction with economic performance; and. secondly, to general dissatisfaction existing in the land with the two main Parties. I suggest that the assembly will not itself solve these problems. The major Parties are committed to the assembly, and I suppose it will be set up. I wish it well. All of us who are working and active in Scotland will try to make it work effectively. But I can see very grave dangers in the line we are now taking. It could readily lead to a demand for ever-increasing powers being given to the assembly, leading to the ultimate disintegration of the United Kingdom as we know it.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, like others who have spoken I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, for enabling us to express our views on devolution for Scotland by putting this Motion on the Order Paper. In the course of our debate I have felt that I was likely to be akin to the Scottish soldier taking part in a march past with his mother looking on; she suddenly turned to her neighbour and said, "Look. Maggie, they are all out of step but our Jock". But I have taken some comfort from the words which have fallen from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat.

My Lords, as has already been said, the Motion calls attention to the necessity for some form of devolution of government for Scotland. I cannot believe that there is any such necessity. For some minor adjustments in the existing arrangements there may be a case, but none, in my judgment, for the scheme set out in the White Paper. The Royal Commission on the Constitution was set up, I think, in 1968; the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, said it was 1969. At any rate, the Royal Commission reported in October, 1973. Even for a Royal Commission, four or five years is a long time to deliberate before submitting its Report. It seems to me possible that the cause was that they could not find very much wrong with the existing arrangements, at least so far as Scotland was concerned.

Since the Scottish Office was established in Edinburgh in 1939, as we have been told, a very wide measure of administrative devolution has taken place. The White Paper—I am referring to Cmnd. 5732—lists the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for the formation of policy and its execution in regard to agriculture, education, local government, health, housing, environmental services, social work, police, fire services, and a great deal more. I will not bother your Lordships by referring to the others, but I would ask your Lordships to compare what is said in paragraph 5 of the White Paper with the list appearing in the Appendix, page 12, paragraph 3. We are told in that paragraph that legislative power is to pass to the Scottish Legislative assembly. But I refer your Lordships to paragraph 2 of the Appendix: The ultimate power and sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament would be preserved in all matters ߪ At present, all Scottish Bills are dealt with by the Scottish Grand Committee, by the two Scottish Standing Committees, and, thereafter, are submitted to Parliament for approval. I am not aware of any occasion when Parliament did not so approve.

So far as legislation is concerned, the duties and responsibilities of the Secretary of State are merely to be transferred to the assembly, and those of the Scottish Members of Parliament at Westminster, so far as Scottish affairs are concerned, are transferred to the members of the Scottish assembly also. United Kingdom Departments with significant responsibility in Scotland now have offices in Scotland, and have had them for a long time. They have worked in the closest co-operation with the Secretary of State and his officials. I understand that the work of those with offices in Scotland is to be transferred to the assembly. In that connection, I notice that frequently in the White Paper the assembly is called the "Scottish Government". Two electricity boards have always been the responsibility of the Secretary of State, and they will no doubt also be transferred to the Scottish Government.

My Lords, so far as finance is concerned, the Scottish Government are to get a fair share of United Kingdom resources. Hitherto, under the Goschen formula and others, we received more per head of population than elsewhere in the United Kingdom. As a Scot, I can only hope that that may long continue, but I have my doubts on that point. Here again, things remain very much as they are, with the exception that the Scottish Government will be allowed freedom to allocate expenditure according to their chosen priorities. Possibly they will be given limited powers of independent taxation. I am sure that that is something that will be much welcomed by the Scottish taxpayers.

My Lords, is this transfer of duties and responsibilities from one set of elected Scottish Ministers and elected Scottish MP's to another set of elected Ministers and elected MP's really worth all the fuss and expense that will result? I understand that plans are already being studied and sites looked at for the placing of a new parliament building somewhere in Scotland. But is it really true, as is stated, that the proposals in the White Paper will bring great benefits to the people of Scotland? Will the proposals really give them a more decisive voice in the running of their own domestic affairs? I wonder! I am quite sure that there are many others who are wondering about that, too. For the power of the purse, notwithstanding the fair shares (which I understand will be decided by an Exchequer Board), will remain at Whitehall.

The scheme for devolution comes not from any feelings of generosity or of great friendliness towards Scotland by the Government or any other Party, but is a result of the apprehension created by the appearance of the body called the Scottish National Party. I do not believe that these apprehensions are fully justified by the course of events over recent years. As we have been told before, the Scottish National Party was founded in 1928. Two of its members contested seats in the 1929 Election. In April, 1945, there was a by-election at Motherwell; this was a marginal scat held by the Conservatives in 1931 and by Labour in 1935. It was won by Dr. Macintyre of the Scottish National Party with a majority of some 600. It was a very surprising result and caused some concern in the dovecotes of the Parties. So far as the Conservative Party was concerned—and fortunately from my own point of view at least—our leader at that time was a man not very easily excited or upset, who treated the result as a little frolic on the part of the Motherwell electors. He was right; for at the General Election some two or three months later, Labour regained the scat with a majority of no fewer than 7,800 votes.

In the 1945 Election there were eight Nationalist candidates; in 1951 there was but one. The Party, so far as I can discover, did not contest an Election again until 1964, when it put 15 candidates forward, without meeting any success. They went on trying, with 23 candidates in 1966, but again without any success. Then came the great surprise. In November, 1967, at Hamilton, a by-election caused by the retirement of the right honourable Tom Fraser, who had held the seat from 1943 with majorities in the vicinity of 10,000 or more, was won by the Scottish Nationalist Mrs. Ewing with a 1,799 majority, Again there was concern in the traditional Party headquarters.

In the next year—that was 1968—the Prime Minister set up the Royal Commission, while at the Scottish Conserva-tive and Unionist Conference in May of that year, my right honourable friend Mr. Heath put forward proposals for a Scottish assembly. Three times did the Scottish Annual Conference consider and debate this matter of the assembly. The first time many of the older members spoke, together with many of the younger, but the winding-up was left to Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and the result was never in doubt, since he is so regarded at this Conference that what he says inevitably carries the day. But in the following year, when the younger members of the Party were given free play and none of the elders took any part whatsoever—Sir Alec was not present—the result was a very great defeat for the assembly. In the next year it was again debated—with Sir Alec on the platform but taking no part—and the vote was in favour of the assembly. So there is no very great consensus of agreement there.

We come to 1970. The Scottish Nationalists put up 65 candidates; 42 lost their deposits. Mrs. Ewing lost Hamilton, where the Labour majority was 8,500 odd, and the turnover so far as Mrs. Ewing was concerned was over 10,000. But they won the Western Isles, so they had one Member of Parliament. In the Election of February this year, with 70 candidates, the Nationalists won seven seats; in October, with 71 candidates they won 11 seats. One for whose political judgment I have the greatest possible respect, the late Viscount Stuart of Find-horn maintained that whenever we had a Socialist Government in this country, there would be an upsurge of Scottish Nationalism, for whatever may be our views on the Labour Party's policies on nationalisation, we certainly do not like the control of our Scottish enterprises being taken away to England. If one looks at the increases in Nationalist candidates, from one in 1951, to 23 in 1966, to 65 in 1970 (in which year a Labour win was also predicted), the noble Lord's judgment appears to have been largely vindicated.

The two Elections this year followed the same pattern exactly, though the success of the Nationalists, mainly in agricultural constituencies, was no doubt helped by the farmers' grievances with both Labour and Conservative Parties; accordingly they were induced to vote in protest for the Scottish National Party. They were also helped by the confident assertions which the Party gave in connection with Scottish oil and the wealth it would bring to Scotland. The truth, of course, is that there is no such thing as Scottish oil. As I understand it, when oil was discovered in the North Sea, areas were allotted by international agreement to various countries, the countries having their shores on that sea. One of the areas came to Britain. It is, however, fortunate for Scotland that the wells discovered in the British area are closer to our shores and therefore make it more convenient and economical to land the oil there. I hope that it may well bring increased prosperity with it.

There was one other matter which I think may have helped the Nationalists. That is the fear, unfounded though it was, which was nourished among the fishing populations of the Moray Firth and the North-East coast, that, upon our entry into the Common Market, the fishery waters around our coasts would be open to all the fishermen of the EEC countries. Be that as it may, one really would like to know the attitude of the Scottish people to the assembly as set forth in the White Paper. How is it to be fitted in with the new local government arrangements? Can we find candidates of the desired quality to man our district and regional councils, the proposed assembly, and at the same time provide 71 Members for Westminster and a suitable number to watch over our interests in the European Parliament? What is the estimated cost, not only in regard to remuneration of the members of these various bodies, but also in regard to the services which they will require for the adequate performance of their duties?

The Royal Commission took immense pains in an endeavour to ascertain the attitude of the Scottish people to the proposed assembly and to obtain their views as to its functions and other matters concerning it. But your Lordships will all have found, from reading the White Paper—particularly paragraphs 15 to 18—that the results of their efforts were inconclusive and very disappointing. Some of the highly knowledgeable people and bodies which they consulted were in favour; some were against. Some wanted delays. There was no agreement on what the powers and functions of the assembly should be. Individual members of the public showed little interest; only 170 letters or papers were received. There was no clear majority for any solution, while many expressed no view.

That is the state of informed opinion in the country. So far as ordinary people are concerned, while I meet and mix with all kinds of people, I have never yet had a question put to me about this proposed Scottish assembly. Truth to tell, I find that the ordinary citizen is quite disillusioned, in common terms he is fed up, with politicians. They seem to be constantly moving about with this or that. They have recently reorganised the Health Service. I have been spoken to about that, and then I have been told that we politi- cians seemingly place more importance on administration than we do on medical, surgical and nursing skills and care. We have also reorganised local government. I have been spoken to about that, too, mostly in very uncomplimentary terms, with particular reference to the Strath-clyde region. The silence on the assembly speaks perhaps more than words.

It has been said many times that no one really knows what the assembly will do. No one I know wants it. It will not create more health, more wealth. It will not increase the standard of living of the people. It will not help cure the curse of inflation. It will cost a lot of money, leading possibly to further taxation. No one can prove that it will be more efficient than our existing system of Government. So I interpret the silence of the man in the street, the ordinary citizen, as arising from indifference. He sees little in it for himself or for his family. The politicians, he seems to think, must be kept amused, so let them get on with their little game of musical chairs. For myself, I find the whole conception of a Scottish assembly rather nonsensical, and worthless nonsense at that, so far as the needs of our country at the present time are concerned. It may well be preparing the way, as has been said by others who have spoken, for the complete separation of our country from England and the rest of the United Kingdom.

5.41 p.m.

Lord O'NEILL of the MAINE

My Lords, it is with some trepidation that someone from Northern Ireland rises to speak about matters Scottish, but I have done so on several occasions since I had the honour to come to your Lordships' House; and as I gave evidence at the Kilbrandon Inquiry I feel entitled to say just a few words from my "devolved" knowledge. After my first year at Stormont, I was so impressed with the possibilities which a provincial Parliament gave to a provincial area, that I was unwise enough to make a little speech in my constituency which led to a headline the next day in the local paper, "O'Neill in favour of Scottish Nationalists". That was in 1947, so I have not come to these views lately. In my view there has been a long delay on this subject, and I think "your Lordships know why this is. The Tory Party could not face the idea of being ruled by a permanent Labour Government in Edinburgh, and the Labour Party in London could not face the idea, as proposed by Kilbrandon, that the number of Labour seats at Westminster should be reduced. Therefore, there was this unholy alliance, and this delay.

I think I am right in saying that there was no debate on Kilbrandon in another place. One of the great privileges that we have in this House is that little gallery we can go to in the other place, and last summer I heard Mr. Jo Grimmond I think on no less than three occasions on Thurs-days when the business of the House was being discussed, asking that Kilbrandon should be debated. So far as I know it was not; but it was in this House, which I think shows the value of your Lordships' House. In that debate I suggested that in order to get Scottish devolution going it would be far better not to carry out that portion of Kilbrandon which suggested that the number of seats at Westminster from Wales and Scotland should be reduced, and I am glad to see that that suggestion was in fact carried out in the little White Paper which came out so conveniently just before the Election.

The noble Earl, who so kindly made it possible for us to discuss these matters tonight, said that he was in favour of real devolution. He was kind enough to show me his remarks, because I am afraid that I arrived a little late. How much I agree with him. May I suggest—and I do so with great humility in view of what has happened in Northern Ireland in the last five or six years—that full Stormont Parliamentary powers should be conferred on Scotland. Just because that system failed in Northern Ireland, there is no reason at all why it should fail in Scotland which, thank heavens! is not burdened with the same problems as Northern Ireland. Take, for instance, our Ministry of Agriculture: we have an excellent Ministry of Agriculture—and I am delighted to see that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, agrees with me. We stamped out brucellosis in Northern Ireland but, so far as I know, it still exists in Scotland today. If it does not, I am out of date. We have an excellent Ministry of Commerce which has done a wonderful job for Northern Ireland. The British Industrial Development Office in New York, under the aegis of the British Consulate General there, was set up in 1960 under an excellent Scottish civil servant and under his deputy, who was my former Private Secretary in the Northern Ireland Government. They did a wonderful job in attracting branch factories—which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, seems to be so much against—to the development areas in the United Kingdom, and surely it is better to have a branch factory than to have no factory at all.

I was very disappointed when the British Government abolished the British Industrial Development Office in New York three years ago, and I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that even today, after all our difficulties in Northern Ireland, we now have a Northern Ireland Industrial Development Office in New York because you, my Lords, abolished your own British Industrial Development Office in New York. I have no doubt whatever that as soon as the Scottish Parliament is under way, they will immediately demand that a senior civil servant should be sent to New York to attract these so-called unnecessary branch factories, which may well be the lifeblood of Scotland in the future.

Several noble Lords—including, I am glad to notice, the noble Earl who has just returned—came out in favour of proportional representation. I feel absolutely certain that this would be of benefit to Scotland. Once again let us consider Northern Ireland. There was a fear three years ago that devolution would produce a permanent Labour Government in Edinburgh. We have had a permanent Unionist Government in Northern Ireland, one-Party rule, for fifty years, and it does not work. It would be far better to try proportional representation, and if you, the British people, were prepared to force this upon the people of Northern Ireland, quite rightly, why should you not allow the Scottish people to have it as well? I believe that as soon as the new Scottish Parliament, or assembly, is under way it will demand to have proportional representation, and it may well be that it will come in God's good time, but I think that it would be an act of grace to confer it upon the Scottish people straight away.

Obviously—and many people have said this before—Scottish Nationalism has been fuelled by Scottish oil. We must accept that, it is a fact of life; but nevertheless I believe that it would have come. I am sorry, speaking from these Benches, that the Tory Party allowed their clothes to be stolen by the Labour Party because they do not have the courage to continue with their own plans for devolution in Scotland. However, that is a matter of history. Despite the death bed repentance of the Party opposite, it seems to have worked; we have only to look at the results of the last Election in Scotland.

So my message is this: because devolution failed in Northern Ireland, there is absolutely no reason at all why it should fail in Scotland and Wales. I wish it well. I hope that it will be well and truly launched with generosity by the central Government here in London, and not done in a niggardly way so that the new assembly has to demand more and more power as it goes along. I hope that this will be a new venture, a new era. I have said before now that if countries such as Canada, Australia, and America can be run on the federal system, there is no reason why a country of over 50 million people should not be run on the federal system here in Britain. We must all hope that it will work. It is inevitable. There is no point in jobbing backwards. I personally think that it should have happened ten years ago.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords I am going to follow my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine by asking for the indulgence of this House in having the trepidation to speak on Scottish affairs. But Northern Ireland and Scotland are inextricably mixed up in this question of devolution of the United Kingdom. I believe that whatever solution the Government provide for Scotland, it will have a great influence on matters which arise in Northern Ireland. I welcome the emphasis of the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, on the importance of the proper position within the United Kingdom Parliament of each of the devolved Parliaments because on that depends the unity of the United Kingdom; and beyond all other things, for my part, I am absolutely against any dissolution of the United Kingdom as a whole.

I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, emphasised the importance of full Parliamentary democracy and full and proper representation in the Mother of Parliaments in Westminster. I believe that the Government and all Parties here will have to recognise the under-representation that exists for Northern Ireland in this Parliament. It was certainly one of the problems which made easy the attacks on the Executive which was set up under the 1973 Act. It is a civil right belonging to every United Kingdom citizen that he should be fully represented, with properly elected representatives, in the Mother of Parliaments, to deal with matters which are centred here.

There are many forms of devolved Government and the Kilbrandon Report, when it first came to examine Northern Ireland, was impressed by the success of Stormont. I should like to join battle with my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine when he says that Stormont was a failure. Stormont was an enormous success. Nobody has any right to say what the state of Northern Ireland would have been had there not been a devolved Parliament for it in 1920. It is pure speculation. What we can say is that the development for Northern Ireland, in matters which were specially tailored for Northern Ireland, were tremendous. The Civil Service was developed in a way by which I believe all parts of the United Kingdom should benefit. The Report of Sir Edmund Compton as Ombudsman said that the citizens of Northern Ireland had as good—and in many cases better—Administration than the rest of the United Kingdom. So I feel it is quite wrong to say that Stormont was a failure. It was a great success. That it failed proves what a delicate instrument Parliamentary democracy is; and the fact that a concerted effort was made to ensure that a proportion of the population withdrew its consent to be governed by that Parliamentary democracy does not mean that it was a failure, or that that system was a failure.

The first effort to withdraw consent was, of course, made in the revolution organised by the IRA. I do not believe that in 1969 we in this country fully realised that this was to be the end. But surely the Ulster Workers' Council strike proved exactly the opposite; another large proportion of the population of Northern Ireland withdrew its consent and therefore it failed. What was proved was that Parliamentary democracy required the consent of the people and not that the system was a failure. Therefore, I ask the Government not to throw the Stormont principle out of the window without careful thought. But I say to the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, that there is no doubt that if Scotland has some form of executive, and providing it does not replicate Stormont, it will be easier to insist on some form of executive sharing in government in Northern Ireland, because if we have full democracy in Westminster this Parliament has the right to say what sort of democratically evolved government we should have in other parts of the United Kingdom. It may be different in Wales or in other regions, and we must not be too rigid in our approach to this matter, remembering at all times that we must have consent or, rather, that there must be only a small proportion of any population which withholds consent to that type of evolved government.

I feel, first from experience in the old Stormont and, secondly, from my short experience in the Assembly, that it might be worth while if I told your Lordships one or two of the principles which I feel were brought out during the various controversies. First, the Assembly must be democratically elected. It is not of great importance which way the elected members are elected; what matters is that they must be fully democratically elected and that the people believe them to be so. The second element, which really had a very big influence on undermining the authority of the Executive—and there were many other items—was the feeling that it did not matter whether or not the Assembly supported the Executive; the Executive could be held in place by the Government of the United Kingdom. Therefore, I say that the Assembly must be able to support or withhold support of the Executive, however it be formed. Thirdly, I believe that the Executive must be able—maybe not by a simple majority: maybe it should be a two-thirds majority or some other mechanism—to threaten its elected representatives with dissolution in order to get some form of discipline of them.

My Lords, if proportional representa- tion is chosen, may I appeal to the Government not to accept the large proportional representation constituencies that we have in Northern Ireland? They are far too large for any member to serve a community properly. The effect of having a large area, especially if one part of it is populous and one has a majority of votes, is that the Members—seven of them in our case and eight in other cases—are inclined to service an area where the population is concentrated, which is very definitely to the disadvantage of the people. It is, after all, the people whom we are trying to serve.

Further, if one has large areas which stretch right across the country—my constituency is about 90 miles—one finds it difficult for a member to take independent action, because if he depends on being elected he cannot in certain circumstances go against the electorate in his constituency. If the constituency is so large that every action the Government takes offends some very powerful section within it, it removes the independent judgment of the elected member. After all, whether they like it or not, elected members are specialist welfare officers looking after the very detailed legislation and administration which has to go on in the country today. If we do not have a complete copy of Westminster, then it is very important that we do not have something that can be compared to Westminster. Let it be totally different. If it is totally different, nobody can start to chip away at it, or to question whether or not it is a Legislature, or a Cabinet. This, again, was a factor in our downfall.

I should like to recommend the Government—and this involves a very important principle which was raised by a noble Lord whose name I cannot remember—to consider the position of the Secretary of State. In my view, the Secretary of State can have no position within the assembly itself. His position must be within the Cabinet of the Government of the United Kingdom. But, more than that, I believe that there must be a buffer between the Secretary of State and the Government of the devolved Parliament. I am not absolutely certain about this, but I believe that the Government of the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, had a very difficult task placed on them after the February Election, in that they were directly responsible, sitting right on top of the Northern Ireland Executive. Unless you have a buffer of, may be, a quorum of Privy Counsellors—what we used to have is the Governor; I am not suggesting that that is the answer, but there should be a neutral buffer—then all that will happen is that members of the Government of the devolved Parliament will appear to be nothing but lackies of the Secretary of State, and this will be a negation of what is being attempted.

I should also like to recommend very strongly this point on taxation. Even in the old Stormont, where we had only a very small amount of room in which to manoeuvre in regard to taxation, this produced a discipline which was totally lacking in the Assembly and in the government of the Executive afterwards. Therefore, while the amount of taxation to be available to the devolved government is a matter of great debate, what is not open to discussion is the fact that there must be some element of financial discipline enforced by reason of the necessity to raise taxation. It makes for very much better discipline.

Some noble Lords raised the question of getting a suitable quality of material to come forward. This is all tied up very much with the question of prestige and with the powers that are devolved. We have enormous difficulty in getting people of sufficient quality, and I believe we shall need to have a very big think about how much we pay and how we provide the proper prestige for people who undertake these tasks. Noble Lords here know exactly the length of time and effort which we all have to put into our public duties, and how very little reward there is for it. I feel we shall need to have a really solid look at this matter, and it may mean looking at the whole of our Parliamentary salaries, the whole of the structure, right down to district councils and dealing with the matter on a proper basis, rather than on a haphazard basis.

My Lords, I feel that in the proper devolution of power lies the future of the United Kingdom. If we get a proper relationship between devolved Parliaments, we then have a great chance to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom—and it would be a major disaster were that not maintained. In Northern Ireland we had a political catch cry which I think applies to the United Kingdom now: United we stand and divided we'll all".

6.3 p.m.


My Lords, I want to join in thanking the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, for opening this debate and giving us a chance to air our views. I should like to apologise to him if I have to leave before he makes his final reply, as I have a longstanding engagement later this evening. I am one who considers devolution inevitable, and I have done so for some time—and I am fortified in this by the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. I listened with care to what the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, said about the office to be set up under the Privy Council. It sounded to me an extremely cumbersome thing, with a very large number of people operating, perhaps separately, in London and in Scotland. More than once—in fact, very much more than once—the noble Lord emphasised the enormous amount of work that would need to be done, and from that I draw the conclusion that it would be utterly impossible, if it was proceeded with in this way, for devolution to become effective before 1979. It might come in 1978, but as I see it, it is bound to be a very long time hence.

I feel that events are moving so fast now that unless we take the bull by the horns and go all out to get this done with a measure of speed, we shall be in for a lot more trouble. In this matter I agree entirely with the appreciation of the situation by my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas. We are on a slippery slope, as he said, and we have got to see where we can stop. But we have got to stop quickly, and not continue on the slope for too long. The proposal of the Conservative Party in their Election Manifesto was to have an assembly with its members nominated from the district and regional councils, which could have been set up in a year. I regret that it has not been possible to go forward with that idea. That would have enabled the assembly to be set up within a year, needing only a comparatively simple piece of legislation. The assembly itself could then have hammered out its proper scheme for a fully-elected assembly, and there would have been no recrimination afterwards that we had in any way been dictated to by the English.

My Lords, I could continue at considerable length along those lines, but time is getting short and there is one specific point that I wish to make tonight in relation to the Scottish universities. My noble friend Lord Glenkinglas mentioned this matter. Already all education in Scotland, except the universities, is devolved to the Scottish Education Department, and the universities are under the financial control of the University Grants Committee. That is a United Kingdom body which, in its turn, is financially controlled by the English and Welsh Department of Education and Science. God forbid that any attempt should be made to put the Scottish universities under the Scottish Department of Education! In Scotland there is quite a body of opinion which thinks that this should be done. At the same time, to my mind it is unthinkable that an English Department should be seen to have, or even be thought to have, a final decision. There is one very simple passage between these two hazards: it is the formation of a Scottish University Grants Committee for which the Government, through the appropriate body, would provide the proportional share of the total grant for all the United Kingdom universities. This would preserve the integrity of the universities and recognise the universality of university education.

As my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas has said, the Scottish universities have a long history. For over 300 years we had three or four universities to England's two; and the quality of the education was recognised and appreciated throughout the world, not least by that most English of Englishmen, Dr. Johnson. There are now eight universities in Scotland—about the same number as there were in the United Kingdom when the first University Grants Committee was formed. My Lords, the British system of the University Grants Committee has been copied by countries all over the world: not just by the countries of the Commonwealth, but by many other countries—by the United States, and by some South American countries; and I believe certain European countries are tending towards the same thing. They admire our system, and the fact that it takes the university out of the political I field almost entirely but still allows them to contribute to the welfare of the country and to come in on all political matters. Their integrity must be maintained. I beseech the Government that, in any form that Scottish devolution may take, steps will be taken to ensure the continuing integrity of the Scottish universities of which we are so justly proud.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I was glad to hear speeches in opposition to the idea of a Scottish assembly; because I was beginning to think that in this House there had been the biggest conversions since a Chinese General baptised his troops with a hose. There is no need for conversion on the part of my noble friend Lord Thurso and myself in that the Scottish Liberal Party—and the English Liberal Party too—have for many years recognised, not from prejudice but from liberal thoughts (as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, if he were in his place may say) and a practical application of politics. We in Scotland, in spite of Parliaments having been joined since 1707 and the Crown since 1603, the only two dates I can remember, have retained this identity. We have retained the feeling of Scottishness and we are now in a position where the Scottish National Party, not from logic or liberal reasons in all cases, but through the play of emotion and perhaps a lack of understanding of the facts, has nevertheless forced on the two major Parties the recognition that this feeling of identity and the need for its expression is there in Scotland.

Of course, we have heard from Wales and from Northern Ireland that it is there too. I am happy that the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, is in his place. I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for whom I have an enormous respect. may be a little too steeped in the older tradition of United Kingdom government, but if we can add to this conversion it would do some good. We must recognise that the people in Scotland have long looked at England and at London and have seen the centre of every sort of power in London. Whether it be social, financial or political, all power is here in London. There is not a centre of Parliament in Scotland, and this is what they want. With enormous respect for my personal, though not political, friend the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, the Secretary of State is not a sufficient substitute. His role must be seen as in the United Kingdom Parliament and the Scottish Parliament must be called upon, in my view, and it must have a Government and a Prime Minister. I was sorry that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, spoke, because he said exactly and so much better than I could what I was going to say about Northern Ireland. In spite of the appalling history of strife there, the mechanics worked well. I know a little about agriculture and I think he is right that, long before we came to any realisation of the value of silage for example, in Northern Ireland, they were on to it; and certainly they were so much more competent in attracting industry than were the Scottish Office.

I hope that the Ministers will look carefully at the excellent evolvement and use of power in Northern Ireland and will apply it to Scotland. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, say that Trade and Industry obviously was going to be part of the Scottish Government (and I use the term advisedly) for it must be so. It is of great importance, and without it the whole thing would be a sham. I was glad, too, that the question of taxation would be considered. The noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, had fears. I thought he showed rather a paternalistic attitude to the assembly or Parliament, which I do not think the Secretary of State is going to be able to show; because unless he recognises that this is a centre of Scottish power and representation, they will take over all his powers. The Government today must go at this; they must realise that unless they produce something real and not a sop and something which has not political overtones, it will be overturned in another way which everyone in this House would regret.

My Lords, I have one or two points I wish to make on other speeches. I hope that the excellent speech of my noble friend Lord Dundee will be endorsed from the Front Bench, from the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and that there conversion to proportional representatioin will be announced, followed by an announcement from the Government that they, too are converted to what is logical and real. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, shakes his head. Did I not say that the Old Guard were ready against any advance? We must have proportional representation. In every case where we have had trouble it has been forced upon the Government: and unless we have such representation in this country as a whole we will continue to get the trouble that the Government are striving so unsuccessfully to deal with.

I do not want to say much more except that the devolution of power to Scotland fits in totally and completely with the idea of our becoming a real part of the European Economic Community. The bigger the unit, the more the people who are being governed need a centre of power of their own to put their point of view. It is logical that the bigger the unit we go into, the more effectively the power must be near the people in the countries which are a definite unit like Scotland. I have spoken for six minutes; this is far too long, and I can hear the howls of agreement. I will sit down hoping that the Government will really think about this matter, will set up a Parliament in Scotland and will think again about regionalisation; because one of the great troubles, as the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, will know, is that Wheatley was set up at the wrong time. It was set up before Kilbrandon and Crowther, with the result that we in the Scottish Liberal Party changed our evidence when we came before Kilbrandon and said that obviously the correct unit was a Scottish assembly and a Scottish parliament; and this is logical today. I think the Government should take their courage in their hands in this matter. No matter how many contracts must be renegotiated, it will not be as expensive or bad as the sort of government we shall have if we try to put the United Kingdom Parliament on top of the assembly or Parliament, on top of the Regions, on top of the districts, and on top of community councils. The Government should stop it now and set up an assembly first.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, for this opportunity of discussing what to us in Scotland is a very relevant and major problem. I should like also to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, for what I personally consider was their outstanding contributions among other excellent speeches in this debate. At this hour, I must make only a brief contribution. Finding the best and most effective form of devolution worries me slightly. The noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, said that to a large extent the problems in Northern Ireland arose from the wilful refusal over many ysears of the Wesminster Government to grant any form of home rule or, as we have it now, devolution. From my point of view I have had to do a great deal of research into the Kilbrandon Report and various other documents, and I found a large amount of relevant and detailed material which for me posed as many questions as the Report settled.

On the first of these questions, I have heard little this afternoon, apart from the noble Earl, Lord Perth, of how this settlement of running our own show in Scotland and self-government, not to mention self-determination, will affect the lives of Scottish people within the next five or ten years, because I believe these will be the problems affecting us certainly as much as devolution. But will self-government or an assembly make a better job of encouraging the Scottish economy? Is the economy or the wellbeing of the Scottish people merely a case of being more Scottish or just different from the English? I believe the main problems facing Scotland now are not entirely constitutional but almost entirely economic. Solving them will be difficult, but if the Scots can produce viable and well-thought-out answers to the restructuring of the Scottish economy, then Scotland—and of course the United Kingdom—will be that much stronger. The noble Earls, Lord Perth and Lord Lauderdale, have been urging the implementation of the admirable Oceanspan concept for many years, and I should like once again to add my support to their untiring efforts.

The second question, which has not been answered entirely to my satisfaction this afternoon—nor indeed did I find a satisfactory answer in the Kilbrandon Report—refers to finance. Paragraph 459 of the Report raised the very thorny question of the net inflow of funds into Scotland from England. In 1969 I believe the Treasury made a stab at this figure and found there was a £460 million net inflow in. one year. This amounted to nearly 30 per cent. of public expenditure in Scotland. Naturally, this figure is bitterly disputed by all kinds of opinion in Scotland, but I am not myself aware of more accurate estimates. Certainly it gives a measure of the Scottish economic dependence on England. I should like to think that the restructuring of the Scottish economy can be carried out from the profits arising from what is still United Kingdom oil lying off the Scottish and Shetland coasts. But there is no guarantee that the profits and not just the revenues will be the method by which the restructuring can be effected. Oil will not necessarily be the panacea for all Scottish woes, but it can be the starting point of a solution, and for that we can at least be grateful.

The tide of national feeling we have seen sweeping through Scotland in the last four or five years, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, pointed out, represents a great threat of disunity in the United Kingdom. I believe that separatism, or any form of federalism, will very seriously weaken our links within the United Kingdom. I believe there may be similar disquiet in the rest of the United Kingdom, and particularly in England. Much of the devolutionary talk in Scotland I have found to be far too imprecise. There is talk of self-government and self-determination, but these mean different things to different people. But from some attempts to discover the opinions of the Scottish people by opinion polls—and of course these can be misleading—it appears that about 70 per cent. of those who were questioned in Scotland felt that a Scotland with devolved powers was desirable, whereas only 10 to 15 per cent. were prepared to pursue devolution and felt that it should come to Scotland come what may, even though the accompanying financial restructuring might at first cause a lower standard of living. This is a very small minority and I believe it is indicative of much of the feeling of separatism sweeping through Scotland, accompanied by woolly thinking. This seems to point out that this minority feels that we could run our own lives and our own economy, but that it must not involve any financial loss to the Scottish people. This thought is foremost in my mind and, happily, it seems to be in the minds of many other noble Lords.

What system, I wonder, could provide an effective solution to the problems of devolution if we must have it?—and I think we must. I would tend to go along broadly with the conclusions reached by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbrandon, and his colleagues. These seem to me to indicate the best, most practical and most effective form of legislative devolution, but firm guidelines would be required as to the responsibilities of the United Kingdom Parliament and the Scottish Assembly, or Parliament, or whatever it might be called. with what we hope will be its full powers in certain prescribed subjects. I would hope that it could have full powers over local government, housing, planning, roads, agriculture and, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, also mentioned, over trade and industry. Will the assembly receive its financial "muscle" from an Exchequer Board, independent of the United Kingdom Government, as I understand is the case in Northern Ireland, which receives its financial support from taxation? We need firm guidelines on this before committing ourselves. I would hope that such a method would satisfy the desire to control the finances of Scotland by Scots themselves. If some of these questions which are in my mind and also, I believe, in the minds of many thinking Scots, can be partially resolved, then the unity of the United Kingdom need not be threatened. I hope and trust that the need for devolution can be met by an assembly, but I still agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that with local government as at present constituted in Scotland there is a great danger of being gravely over-governed.

The Kilbrandon Report concluded: The Government has developed a momentum of its own"— that is referring to the United Kingdom Government— which seems to leave people out of account. If this is true—and the electorate may well feel that it is—then the blame probably attaches to all we Parliamentarians here at Westminster as well as to local councillors. I should like to add my support to the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, when he said that devolution would take some of this pressure off the wish for a wholly unthinking and emotional separatism or federalism or some worse form of government that we have at the moment. Whatever happens, the economic problems must be solved by the Scots themselves, and if devolution helps with this then I would support it entirely. But should the Scots decide to carry on a sterile and bitter constitutional argument with England and also with other Scots, then devolution will solve absolutely nothing. I personally have absolute confidence in the ability of Scotsmen—I live in Scotland and hope to continue living there for the rest of my life—to solve the economic and constitutional problems, but may this solution come sooner rather than later!

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but after listening to some very fascinating contributions I should like to make two brief points. First, I was a member of the Committee which, under Sir Alec Douglas-Home, looked into this matter some years ago. At the conclusion of that Committee's work, I signed the Majority Report advocating a degree of devolution and an assembly, admittedly after a great deal of heart-searching as to whether this was the right course. We did not then know the form that local government reorganisation would take; and this is my first point of concern regarding any form of legislative devolution such as we have been discussing. It is a year ago since I was responsible for putting through your Lordships' House the Scottish Local Government Reorganisation Bill. I do not wish to say too much about my personal views on it, except to say that I doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will shortly be defending the continued existence of the Strathclyde Region with any more joy than I had in trying to persuade your Lordships a year ago of the justification for it. Perhaps I should leave the matter there.

I am very much concerned about a matter which has been referred to by a number of speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. I refer to the great heap of local government structures that we are creating. We are indeed piling Pelion upon Ossa: certainly there are two other layers underneath, and in between there are a variety of layers. I think this is a very real problem. We are creating an additional bureaucracy and an additional layer of politicians. I think that we shall have many problems; people will be confused about the carrying through of these different elections and voting for so many different layers of Government. We have to find the people prepared to stand and fill all these places. This is a major problem, although it does not affect what is politically inevitable; namely, that devolution of this kind must come.

I endorse virtually every word of the outstanding and realistic speech of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe. He was one of the few speakers to refer to the place in all this of the Scottish economy, Scottish industry and commerce. The proposals for devolution have tended to come—or rather the greater part of the enthusiasm for them in their present suggested form—on the whole from politicians, academics, economists and lawyers. That is not to decry their part in this, we need them, they are vital to the process; they are of no use to us unless we have a sound, healthy and prosperous economy, industry, trade and commerce.

The voice of industry, trade and commerce has been somewhat silent on this question. I suspect that the reason is, on the whole, that those in business tend to be somewhat concerned as to the arrival of a new and additional form of administrative machinery with which they in turn will have to deal. I cannot subscribe to the view that more government is necessarily good for business; very often it is the other way round. Government is there to help business, but it is apt to try to become unduly involved in business. Therefore there is a justifiable concern on the part of business in general in Scotland at what this will mean for the creation of a new structure of the kind that is being considered. Without a healthy, prosperous economy, what is the use of all the Constitutions in the world? I believe that now, in the light of all that has happened, some form of devolution of this kind is a political necessity. The problems are many; I have mentioned two which worry me personally, and I can say only that I do not think we envy the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, in his task of carrying this further, but we wish him well in it.

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, at this stage of the debate it is very hard to be original. Most parts of the subject have been discussed by your Lordships and I know the House is waiting to hear the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, so I shall definitely be brief. Living as I do, as also do my noble friends Lord Lyell and Lord Mackie of Benshie, in an area which has suddenly gone Nationalist for the first time in its history, it is obvious to me that the vast majority of these new Nationalists around my home do not want all that the SNP stands for. Nearly all people in Angus have relations and friends South of the Borders; they do not think of them as people living in a different country. When, as now, times are hard there will always be a tendency to be fully aware of how bad things are locally, with the troubles of one's personal life and work. These people, being far away, think in a Dick Whittington sort of way that the streets of Whitehall and Westminster are paved with gold, and there grows a wish that those soft-living people down there could see conditions North of the Borders.

We all know that conditions for the people of London and other large cities in Britain are not very much different from those of people in Scotland. And despite the claims of the SNP about the rich English milking the poor Scots, it is, as we all know, just not true. The great export of Scotland to Britain is Scots manpower and brainpower. British industry, the British Colonies and Empire, and the Armed Services all owe a great deal to Scotsmen coming down and doing very well in competition with their English brethren. Scotland, with only 9½ per cent. of the population of Great Britain, has always, as has been said in this debate, had more than her actuarial share of the national expenditure. I am told it is estimated by the Treasury that she gets some 20 per cent. more per capita expenditure than England—a considerable figure.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, in an intervention, asked about education. Scotland, with only 9½ per cent. of the population, even now after the great university explosion in England, has 15½ per cent. of United Kingdom university places, and Scots graduates actually amount to some 13¼ per cent. of university graduates throughout the country. The Scots are not falling behind in these matters. That said, the fact still remains that most Scots think they can manage things better. Well, my Lords, they will soon, if the plans discussed in the White Paper are speedily implemented, get the chance, and the Conservative Party has, as your Lordships know, been working on plans for a form of devolution in Scotland since 1968.

I am pleased that my noble friend Lord Polwarth, who was on my right honourable friend Sir Alec Douglas-Home's Committee, is able to be here today. As my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas said, he has been working on this matter since 1963. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, was very fair in saying we had been catnapping and had had our clothes stolen. I do not think that is true. If anything, the Party opposite has themselves taken a peek at our clothes, and I welcome the conversion of the present Secretary of State to the necessity for a form of devolution. It is to be hoped that plans to implement these discussions into law and life will be energetically pressed.

My noble kinsman Lord Perth remarked that it took this side of the House to provide an opportunity for this debate, and that he had been trying since July to have such a debate. My noble friends Lord Glenkinglas and Lord Polwarth both emphasised in this matter that time is probably not on our side. The sooner we have an assembly in being, the better pleased we on these Benches will be. We support, as your Lordships know, the idea of this assembly having block grants so that it will be able to plan its own priorities, instead of having this done for them as at present. We support the idea that some of the detailed stages of Scottish legislation could be dealt with by this assembly, and I feel that direct election to this assembly has the best chance of starting it off on the right footing.

I noted what my noble friend Lord Dundee said about proportional representation; despite the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, I shall not endorse that remark. This is something which ought to be discussed and thought about a bit more. We shall, if necessary, prod the Government into action; if there is too much delay we might find ourselves having three different sets of elections in the same year. That has not been mentioned tonight. But we would all be horrified about three different types of elections in the same year. I was therefore delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, say that the Government would push ahead as fast as possible. He then uttered a slight word: the speed would be tempered with caution. I was glad to hear the speed was going to be there. I am sure that with the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, the caution will always be taken into account.

Before sitting down I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Cromartie for introducing this debate on this important subject here today, and to congratulate him on the spirited way in which he has done so. I do not envy the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, having to answer tonight so many points which have been made so very well, or having to choose where among the galaxy of tartan talent—and a bit of shamrock added as well—to award his bouquets. But I sincerely believe that this form of devolution will be an exciting constitutional development. Despite all the thought and work done by the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, the noble Lord, Lord Kilbrandon, my right honourable friend Sir Alec-Douglas-Home, and the Government themselves—as shown in the White Paper—we shall need to give much more time to this subject when the Government produce their Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, queried whether this was, in fact, going to be adequate—would it satisfy the aspiration of the Nationalist? No one can answer this hypothetical question. I think that there is a good chance that it will satisfy most, for the reasons which I have already expressed. Then I hope that Scotland will, within the larger framework of the United Kingdom, again enjoy some greater measure of choice in their own affairs which will gladden many hearts and, I hope, confound those wreckers who would dismember our country.


My Lords, this is not the first time I find myself in the position at the end of a Scottish debate of being faced with an almost impossible task—one of attempting to reply to all the points which have been made or to comment on the points which have been made, and, at the same time, to keep my reply within reasonable bounds. I am afraid on this occasion I must make a certain departure from my previous line of action: I am not going to attempt to refer to every noble Lord who has taken part in the debate. I would, however, wish to start off in a democratic fashion by paying attention to the views of the minority. Three noble Lords have taken a line different from the rest of your Lordships—my noble friend Lord Raglan, my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe, and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. They received the proposal for a form of devolution, as in the case of Lord Taylor of Gryfe, with muted enthusiasm, or as in the case of Lord Strathclyde with no enthusiasm at all; and apparently my noble friend Lord Raglan has the intention of getting a new kilt and proceeding through Scotland with a fiery cross to represent against this iniquity which the English are proposing to thrust upon them.

I enjoyed the remarks of my noble friend Lord Raglan; I thought this was one of the most interesting speeches I have heard in a very long time. My enjoyment was not diminished in the slightest by the fact that I did not agree with a single word of it. In the first instance—and this is a theme which was not confined to him—he expressed the view that the Government were attempting to meet the demands of the Scottish National Party. Nothing is true in that belief at all. I would remind your Lordships that the previous Labour Government set up the Kilbrandon Commission—and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was correct when he spoke about the year 1969, but my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt was also correct when he spoke about 1968, because the chairman, Lord Crowther, was appointed, if I remember rightly, in November, 1968, but the rest of the Commission were not appointed until the following year. But in both 1968 and 1969 the position was that there was no resurgence of Scottish nationalism in Scotland. There was one Member of Parliament from the Scottish National Party: Mrs. Ewing was there from Hamilton. Long before Mrs. Ewing lost her seat in 1970 at the ensuing General Election I took part with her in a television broadcast from Grampian Television in Aberdeen. I had the pleasure of taking her back to Dundee because she had missed a train at Aberdeen, and we had a long discussion. It nearly ceased to be a friendly journey because I predicted to her with complete certainty that when the General Election came along she would lose her seat. I proved to be right. I did not, in fact, think there were going to be any Scottish Nationalists, but, of course, Mr. Stewart came in from the Western Isles. So until 1974, this year, there was only one Scottish Nationalist. So there is no Scottish Nationalist upsurge which directed the setting up of the Kilbrandon Commission.

What was accepted, and what this Parliament will ignore at its peril, is the fact that there is undoubtedly—there can be no dispute at all about this—a demand from the people of Scotland, irrespective of their political allegiance, for a more obvious part in making the decisions that affect their daily lives in so many fields. It is one thing to recognise that there is this demand, and another to interpret this as a demand for a break-up of the United Kingdom. I want, first of all, to emphasise that the view of this Government remains quite definitely that we are opposed to any form of separation and we attach to the Union a real and permanent value: we are at one with all those noble Lords who have spoken of the value of maintaining the Union.

I noticed—and I should have begun my remarks by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, for having given us the opportunity of this debate today—the noble Earl said that he was not going to use the emotive word "separatism". If I might refer to the Scottish National Party contribution to the debate from the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, his reception of the Government's proposals surprised me by its very friendly nature. I thought we might have been subject to a root and branch attack, but his reception was exceedingly friendly indeed. I also welcomed his undertaking—and I hope he speaks with authority on behalf of the Scottish National Party—when he said they would enter into the assembly with every intention of making it work. I am prepared to accept that he is the spokesman of the Scottish National Party provided that is, in fact, the line they will take. He also avoided the word "separatism", but he spoke in one of the other general terms which seem to indicate that it is the view of the Scottish National Party that there should be a completely separate, independent Scotland.


My Lords, of course the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, gave the Government's proposals a friendly reception because the Government are going his way.


No, my Lords. The Government are going the way of the people of Scotland. Of course, if the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, is a Scot he must be included. If it should turn out that my noble friend Lord Raglan is right, and that this is just a step on an inevitable journey towards the break-up of the United Kingdom, it will only be so if it is quite clearly shown by the vote and the voice of the people of Scotland that that is what they want. That has not been shown up to the present time. I do not believe it will ever be shown that that is what they want, but if it should be shown then nobody has the right to stop it.


My Lords, will the noble Lord agree that the only way that it can be shown properly is under a system of proportional representation?


My Lords, if the noble Lord will possess himself in patience, I may manage to touch on the subject of proportional representation before I sit down. My noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe greeted these proposals with muted enthusiasm. The noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, emphasised that he agreed with much of what my noble friend had said in relation to economic devolution within Scotland, and I must say that that part of my noble friend's speech was one with which I can find no cause to disagree. Both noble Lords have played so great a part in this particular field in Scotland that we must pay serious attention to anything that they say on this subject.

My Lords, I have dealt with the minority aspect. The remainder of your Lordships made it perfectly clear to Her Majesty's Government that they welcome devolution, so I do not think it is necessary to say anything in favour of the proposals, other than that it is the determination of Her Majesty's Government that devolution will be put into operation in the way which is most likely to work. It was because of this that my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt emphasised the need for caution as well as speed; but caution does not mean that there will not be speed. I think that I should make it perfectly clear that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government that legislation to give effect to devolution proposals will be put before Parliament in the next Session.

The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, criticised the Constitution Unit and said that he thought it was a rather cumbersome affair. I can assure the noble Lord that the Constitution Unit is working very well indeed. The speed which is desirable is quite obviously being observed, and I am certain that when the proposals of the Government emerge—and they are not so very far away—it will be quite clear that the Constitution Unit has done a first-class job.

My Lords, I envy the beauty of the language in which the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, can put forward general views with which all of us find it impossible to disagree. I wish that I could reply in similar general terms, but your Lordships would not accept that. However, while admiring the beauty of the noble Viscount's language, I was a little horrified when he came to the question of postponing the reorganisation of local government, and his suggestion that as a first step one should take away the local government officials who will be looking after it and turn it over to civil servants at St. Andrew's House, who at some later stage would become local authority officials.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has misunderstood me. However, I shall leave it to Hansard rather than go into it now.


My Lords, nothing will please me more than to find that my horror is unjustified. However, it certainly sounded as if that was the suggestion. The noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, stated correctly that there is a general view in Scotland. The noble Lord made it perfectly clear that he was not saying that that is his view but that there is a general view in Scotland that our needs are not looked after properly at Westminster. Undoubtedly, this is one of the things which lies behind the demand for a form of legislative body in Scotland. I cannot agree with him about the difficulty of finding suitable young men to come to Westminster.

One of the times when this is quite obvious is when a constituency Party, no matter which Party, attempts to get candidates—except perhaps attempts to get the last 100 Liberal candidates. But I am quite certain that with the first 200 Liberal candidates they are in exactly the same position as the Conservative and Labour Parties. There is no shortage of suitable applicants for consideration to fight even the unlikely seats. Sometimes it is easier to find somebody to fight the unlikely seats, which may to a certain extent meet the point of the noble Lord. However, one just has to look at the new Members from all Parties who have come in as a result of the Elections this year to realise that we can still get good young men to come forward. I believe that one of the effects of the Assembly will be to make it easier for some of these young men, who perhaps turned down the idea of coming to Westminster, to serve Scotland in an assembly which meets somewhere in Scotland.

One point which a noble Lord raised was the question of the responsibilities of the assembly, and whether it would be responsible to the Secretary of State. Another noble Lord—I do not remember who it was—asked whether the Secretary of State would be a member of the assembly. It is not envisaged that the assembly will be responsible to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will be a member of the British Government and it will be his duty to look after the interests of Scotland in those fields which must continue to be exercised from Westminster. However, he will not have a responsibility to the assembly, nor will the assembly have a responsibility to him.

My Lords, on the question of the trade and industry functions, I found extremely interesting the views which the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, expressed in relation to these matters, from his vast experience at the Department of Trade and Industry. I wish to say that I should like to have another look at them in Hansard tomorrow, because I think that I may wish to pass these on to my friends. I come now to the contribution from the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I must admit that I was a little disappointed that there was almost a carping note in the noble Earl's remarks. He started off by pointing out that the Government do not seem to be seized with a sense of urgency, since he has been trying since July to get this debate. May I remind your Lordships that Parliament rose before the end of July and did not resume until the end of October. Therefore it would have been very difficult for the noble Earl to have got a debate in your Lordships' House during that period. In fact, the debate is taking place within less than a period of seven weeks of Parliamentary time since the matter was first discussed. May I say that even in your Lordships' House—I make no comment about how it may happen in another place—that is remarkably speedy. On that matter, therefore, I do not think the House can be faulted at all. Nor can the Government be faulted, because it is in the tradition of your Lordships' House that these debates generally arise on a Motion from the other side of the House, and preferably, when it is a Scottish Motion, at the initiation of the Scottish Peers' Association, of which the noble Earl is chairman.

The noble Earl referred to a number of points relating particularly to the Scottish Development Agency, and he tied these up with steel and forestry. If I may deal, first of all, with the forestry point, the question of taxation powers is a major issue and what will be decided on forestry taxation will naturally depend on the decisions which are taken in the wider sphere. Whether it would be desirable or necessary to provide a special subsidy for forestry in Scotland would have to be decided by the assembly in the light of the precise scope of its powers, as finally worked out, and the various other demands on the resources available. I have no doubt that the significance of both State and private forestry in Scotland will be very clearly in mind in any consideration that takes place, and if it is any consolation to the noble Earl I think he will agree—because I am certain that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, would agree—that the greatest strides in forestry in recent years have been taken during periods of Labour Government, because we attach very considerable importance, particularly for Scotland, to the expansion of forestry.

I now come to the main heads to which people spoke during the debate. The two subjects which I think concern most of your Lordships are the reorganisation of local government and the place it occupies in relation to an assembly, and the method of election to the assembly—the subject of proportional representation or otherwise. On the subject of local government reorganisation, I cannot guarantee that I noted everybody as they spoke, but I did note that the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe and the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, all referred to the subject of local government reorganisation. The last intervention on this subject was from the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth. I made notes about what various people said in the course of the debate, and under the name of Lord Polwarth my comment was "Strathclyde" followed by three exclamation marks.

In one sense I believe that the debate is a little early. Having regard to the importance which so many noble Lords have attached to local government reorganisation and its relationship to the assembly, it would have been better if the debate had taken place after Mr. Gordon Campbell had taken his seat, because so far as I know Mr. Gordon Campbell is the only person who attached any enthusiasm to the defence of the Strathclyde Region. It did not surprise me when the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, said that he would not say anything about his personal views, or when he found difficulty in defending these proposals before your Lordships.

My views on the Strathclyde Region are well known. They have not changed in the slightest because I am on this side of the House; and the views on Strathclyde of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland are well known. If it could conceivably have been possible in February to postpone these elections, we should have done so with enthusiasm. It was impossible at the I beginning of March to get legislation through to prevent the elections taking place. In the time that has elapsed it has been even more difficult to contemplate the chaos which would arise if we attempted to alter this position.

Local government may well be one of the important fields in which the assembly will have legislative powers, but I should be very much surprised if, when the assembly came into being, they regarded the most urgent task facing them to be the problem of reorganising local government once again—and I think we are probably lucky in that. This scheme having gone through, it is in the interests of Scotland that those of us who thought Strathclyde would not work should be proved wrong, because there will be no satisfaction in having a system of government which is not working properly. But what is quite clear is that when it has been running for two, three or four years, it will be much more obvious to the assembly what steps need to be taken at the appropriate time to meet the resulting change in local government. I think none of us believes that without the assembly a reorganised form of local government would last anything like as long as its predecessor. I myself publicly made a prediction that I thought there would be a change in the system before ten years had elapsed. There will be other tasks which I am quite certain the assembly will regard as having a prior claim on their legislative attention, before they embark on the thorny path of reorganising local government once again.

Is it necessary to defend the reorganisation of local government? Remember that almost everything that has been said has been in relation to Strathclyde. There is so much misconception about the powers and duties of the bodies. The assembly is to be a legislative body. In some way, whether by means of a Cabinet system or a committee system, it will have administrative responsibilities, just as Ministers at Westminster have administrative responsibilities, and just as Westminster has legislative responsibilities. The bringing into operation of an assembly does not alter that at all. The local authorities will be given powers from Parliament, whether the British Parliament as at present or a Scottish Parliament as it may be. Sometimes these powers will be mandatory, in which case the local authorities will have to carry them out; and sometimes (and more often) they will be permissive, and it will be for them to decide the extent to which they use the powers. That will not be changed. Therefore I can see no logical reason for creating the chaos which would arise, apart altogether from the complete disruption of the Parliamentary programme which would be involved in attempting to get this very complicated legislation framed and carried through before May 1975.

So for these reasons, not because I, or any other Scottish Minister, have any personal love for what we have got in a reorganised local government, but because of the sheer practical impossibilities of an alternative, the form of reorganised local government will go ahead.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, he is now making it clear on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that it is their intention that the assembly should be responsible for the boundaries of all the local authorities within their area; that the boundaries of local authorities should not in any way be a United Kingdom responsibility, and that all the functions and tasks of local government will come under the Scottish assembly? Is that quite clear?


My Lords, I am not writing the next White Paper tonight! The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, must contain himself in patience for a little longer. On this matter I do not think that at the end of the day he will find any cause for dissatisfaction. I cannot go beyond that.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in view of the representations made to the Government by the StrathClyde Region, and in view of the fact that what is now proposed in the Scottish assembly is a major constitutional change in this country affecting Westminster—


My Lords, may I point out to the noble Lord that I think he is occupying a Bishop's Bench.


My Lords, I apologise. May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whether he is proposing in the assembly a major constitutional change which affects the powers of Westminster and the powers of a Scottish assembly, something which does not happen very often in our constitutional history, and is saying that this is urgent and must be pushed through quickly? In view of the representations made by Strathclyde, that they be given the opportunity to settle down before the assembly is created, does he not consider that reasonable, rather than visualising a 10-year period, such as he has suggested, where there could be continued conflict?


My Lords, I have tried to make it clear that I do not see any conflict between the assembly and the Strathclyde Region; and I would remind my noble friend—if I am recollecting correctly—that these representations from the Strathclyde Region were made before what has been referred to as the belated conversion of my Party to this matter and, as somebody else said, "fortunately before the General Election". The Strathclyde Region have not pursued these objections, because I think they accept that they will be given, both by this Parliament and a Scottish assembly, a fair chance to see how the scheme works, if for no other reason than the one I put that the assembly will find other more urgent tasks to turn its hand to in its first year of existence than taking on that very thorny one. They might even have the Scottish equivalent of a body set up to investigate the reorganisation of, local government, and if it took as long as the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, from 1963 to 1973, to get, into operation. Strathclyde may well get what it has asked for.

May I come briefly to the method of election? The White Paper on democracy and devolution did not discuss the electoral arrangements for the Scottish assembly, beyond stating the Government's intention that it should be directly elected and that election to it should be on the same basis as to the United Kingdom Parliament. The Kilbrandon Commission recommended a system of proportional representation. It is the Government's view, however, that the present system is simple to operate, easily understood by the public and provides for clear and direct accountability of the elected representative to his constituents. I accept the point that the 1973 Northern Ireland Constitution embodied proportional representation, but the special circumstances calling for that solution in Northern Ireland are happily not apparent in Scotland.

My Lords, I was particularly interested to hear the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, on this subject, and I am certain that what has been said, particularly about the difficulties of large constituencies, will be studied by Her Majesty's Government. I will, however, make quite certain that the strength of opinion which has been put forward in support of proportional representation is brought to the attention of my friends. I am sure they will not be unduly influenced by the apparent conversion—although a caveat has been entered by the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton—of the Conservative Party to this principle.

I could not help reflecting that there was a long period between the wars when this country had a three-Party system, when the Liberals were returned to Parliament in a strength even greater than was thought might be possible at the recent Election. However, it never occurred to the Conservative Party then that the existence of three Parties was justification for having proportional representation. I wonder if the conversion is related to the fact that the Conservative Party, at least in Scotland, are reconciled to the prospect of being permanently a third Party, and perhaps increasingly a minority Party, and that they would therefore be the beneficiaries of proportional representation. On the subject of a permanent Labour majority in Scotland, we must set against that the views of the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, who finished his speech with the comfortable hope that the assembly would have a Scottish National majority. I cannot share his hope in that matter, but at least there is not now unanimity of the view that there would be a permanent Labour majority in Scotland.

On the subject of the Scottish Development Agency, to which some of the questions of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, related, I would draw the attention of your Lordships to a statement which was made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, in reply to a question from one of the Scottish National Party Members. I am not supposed to quote what other people say, so I will confine myself to quoting what the Secretary of State said, which was: That honourable Member should cease his speculation about rumours. We shall be publishing soon a consultative document which will be available to everyone. We shall be grateful for constructive criticism from all parts of the House in respect of it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 11/12/74, col. 501.] I would therefore just say that it ought not to be very long—in any sense of what people regard as not very long—before that document is available, and I think that many of the answers on the economic, industrial and trade matters will be found in it.

My Lords, I am quite certain that it will not be many months before we have another debate on devolution for Scotland. At that time we will almost certainly be discussing much more detailed proposals from Her Majesty's Government. It is now four hours and 25 minutes since this debate started. I have sat through every minute of it and I have enjoyed them all, except the last 33 when I have been on my feet. I am quite certain that the Government will treat this debate in the way mentioned by my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt, when he said that Her Majesty's Government looked forward to the debate and looked forward to what noble Lords would say. I can assure your Lordships that what has been said in this debate will form a not unimportant part of our thinking on devolution for Scotland.

7.16 p.m.


My Lords, before I ask leave to withdraw my Motion, I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have taken part in what, in my view, has been a most excellent debate. One does not necessarily agree with everything that everybody has said, but it has all been interesting and I think of very great value. I should like to thank all noble Lords very much indeed. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.