Scotland should have 109 MPs, not 52

The Tories and the LibDems are reducing the number of seats in the House of Commons from 646 to 600. As part of this, the four nations’ representations will be equalised to the same number of voters per seat (until now, the smaller nations have had smaller seats than England); for instance, Wales will see its number of MPs drop from 40 to 30.

Most people seem to think this is fair, and many English MPs are even calling for a further reduction in the number of Scottish MPs to cancel out the effect of Scottish devolution.

However, according to the Penrose method, also sometimes described as the square root formula, each nation should get allocated seats according the square root of the population to achieve equal voting powers for all people represented.

Here’s a table showing the figures for actual and calculated numbers of MPs:

Country Population Actual 2015 seats Square root seats
England 52,234,000 502 344
Scotland 5,254,800 52 109
Wales 3,006,400 30 83
Northern Ireland 1,799,392 16 64
Total 62,294,592 600 600

The square root method has been suggested for allocating seats in the European Parliament (although the current method used there results in similar results).

I guess it all depends on the status of the four nations of the UK. If they’re just seen as electoral regions of a single country, the CoLD coalition’s proposal makes perfect sense (but then devolution should probably be abolished); on the other hand, if the Westminster Parliament is seen as a supranational parliament for the union of the four sovereign nations of the UK, the Penrose method should be used.

If Penrose isn’t used, I presume it means Scotland will have more influence as an independent country, so unless the No parties put Penrose on the table as an alternative, I would strongly suggest voting Yes to independence.

Scotland’s foreign policy

Wales as part of Englanti
Originally uploaded by hugovk

Scotland hasn’t had a foreign policy since the Act of Union in 1707, and to some extent not since the Unions of the Crowns in 1603. It is therefore interesting to have a look at what kind of international outlook an independent Scotland is likely to have.

First of all, every country is to a large extent focused on its neighbours. Whereas from London the neighbours listed by a combination of closeness and size are France, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, the list of the neighbours as seen from Edinburgh goes something like England, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Germany, France, Netherlands and Belgium. In other words, Scotland is likely to pay much more attention to especially Norway, Denmark and Iceland than the UK; on the other hand, Scotland will probably not be as preoccupied with France, although I’d expect the relationship to be very friendly, perhaps even to some extent reviving the Auld Alliance.

Secondly, Scotland is likely to have a very close relationship to Canada, the US and other countries with significant numbers of citizens of Scottish descent. According to Wikipedia, there are almost 10m Americans and almost 5m Canadians of Scottish descent, which is likely to make these countries close partners. Other countries with significant numbers include Australia (1.5m) and Argentina (100k).

Last but not least, the UK’s foreign policy is to a very large degree defined by be effects of the British Empire. Scotland would be much less tainted by this (although of course Scots played a full part in the Empire). So whereas the UK has a difficult relationship with Argentina because of the Falklands and with Spain because of Gibraltar, there is no reason why an independent Scotland shouldn’t enjoy cordial relations with both Argentina and Spain. Scotland would also be a normal member of the UN without a veto in the Security Council and without nuclear weapons, so there would be less of an incentive to formulate a policy vis-à-vis all the countries of the World.

To sum up, I expect Scotland’s foreign policy to be focused on Scandinavia and North America, and to be friendlier and less global than the UK’s.

The two meanings of ‘British’

Nationalists and Unionists have been having a curious little spat for the last couple of days. I think it started with Ed Miliband claiming that Scots will no longer be British if their country votes to leave the United Kingdom. Nationalists were quick to reply that given that Scotland is geographically a part of Great Britain, Scots will always be British, no matter which state they’re living in.

I do believe it’s a bit of a silly fight to get into.

It’s a matter of fact that the word British has at least two meanings in modern English:

  1. relating to, denoting, or characteristic of Great Britain [where Great Britain can then mean either just the island or include also the small adjacent islands such as Skye and the Isle of Wight] — parallel to the modern use of Scandinavian
  2. relating to, denoting, or characteristic of the United Kingdom — parallel to the occasional use of Scandinavian to refer to people from the short-lived Kingdom of Sweden and Norway

The second meaning is probably more frequent than the first for the simple reason that there isn’t any other convenient adjective describing somebody from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it’s obviously this meaning that Ed Miliband was referring to. However, the first meaning seems more primary, and of course you can’t tell people in Scotland that they suddenly aren’t allowed to use this sense of the word.

I guess it’s related to the question of what the rUK will be called after Scottish Independence:

  1. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? It’s really not a good name when one half of Great Britain has just left.
  2. The United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland? Although Wales was part of England prior to the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain, I doubt they’d accept this.
  3. The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? I’d say this is the most likely result.

However, which adjective will people use to refer to somebody or something from The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? Although it will annoy the Northern Irish and the Scots in equal measure, I have a feeling many English people will continue to use British. I mean, what’s the alternative? Engwalnish?

A different country

307/365 bunting
Originally uploaded by dbtelford

This week-end’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London (and, I presume, most of England) have been somewhat strange to observe from Scotland.

Gauging from the photos I’ve seen and the comments I’ve read on Twitter, London has been drowning in excessive bunting, and companies have been trying to put the Union Jack on as many items as possible, even toilet paper (which in earlier times would surely have been seen as an act of lèse majesté).

However, Scotland has been remarkably free of bunting, street parties and British flags, apart from some events organised by the Orange Order in Glasgow (thanks, Labour).

It was probably not what the monarchists intended, but the feeling I’m left with is simply that England is a very different country from Scotland.