It may be a vote on fox hunting that forces the latest British constitutional crisis.
Fox-hunting has been contentious in England since Tony Blair’s Labour government voted to ban the practice in 2004. The anti-hunting position combines a potent mix of class consciousness and modern elite environmentalism. Yet, not only did the hunts continue after the ban, but they actually increased. Hunt enthusiasts, which include a substantial proportion of the rural population as well as the ‘squirearchy’, want to continue hunting as their fathers did, and their fathers before them, and see no reason why elites from central London should be sticking their nose in it.
But what makes this interesting for our readers who don’t have a set of “pinks” in their closet is the role the Scottish National Party is playing in a vote to alter the ban. The Guardian reports:
Downing Street is expected to revisit the issue in autumn after the proposed introduction of English votes for English laws (Evel) in parliament. This would make clear whether a majority of non-Scottish MPs were in favour of weakening the foxhunting ban.[…]
[A spokesperson for David Cameron] said: “It’s now for [SNP Leader] Nicola Sturgeon to explain why they are going against their longstanding principle that she set out very clearly in February of this year of not voting on matters that purely affect England and why they are going against the principle of something that applies to Scotland will not apply to England and Wales.
Since the granting of “devo max” to Scotland last year after the failed referendum, the authority of the Scottish parliament on local issues is greater than ever. And yet the SNP appears to be torpedoing a law that might well otherwise pass on English-only votes. This raises the dreaded “West Lothian question”—why do the Scots get their own Parliament to vote on their own local laws, but still vote on English domestic matters in Westminster?
To the SNP, apparently, nationalist principles are well and good, but not as important as preventing the killing of animals in England. To put it another way, they seem keen to play nationalists on questions of Scottish authority, and yet good leftists on questions of reinforcing traditionally Labour causes in Westminster. The newly-assertive Cameron government (and the English public that elected it) may not be of a mind to take that for long.