Monday, 18 May 2015

Tally Ho! The Tories are out to trap #Team56

I'm afraid I have to disagree with the estimable Paul Kavanagh, aka Wee Ginger Dug. Paul urges that the SNP's 56 MPs should be released from the party whip and be allowed to vote with their consciences on fox hunting in England in Unleashing the dogs of woe.

As I write this, I intend to argue why this is would be a monumental mistake without getting into the argument about fox hunting per se. There is, however, one argument from those who advocate SNP MPs voting to continue the ban on hunting in England which needs to be dealt with. That argument is that hunting with dogs is so cruel and barbaric that the ability to vote on the issue trumps every other consideration, including the SNP's long-standing position of not voting on England Only issues.

First, one has to ask why are the Tories planning to bring this legislation forward before their planned English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) legislation? The interests of a few thousand hunters are more urgent than dealing with the perceived affront to millions of English folk that their laws are, in part, decided by MPs from the other 3 nations of the UK? Of course not. They're doing it now to lay a big fat trap for the SNP and for no other reason.

The Tories have plumped to lay an issue before the SNP and, with the heady mix of poor, defenceless animals and the class emnity for the largely loathsome, upper class hunters; goad the SNP into throwing off an important principle.

Even if the SNP were to contribute to a voting down of the proposed fox hunting legislation, the Tories need only to reintroduce it once the EVEL legislation is on the statue book.  So for the sake of saving a few foxes in England for a few months, the SNP would forever be open to the charge of hypocrisy. 

The SNP will have to rely on the UK Government's wholesale lack of legitimacy in Scotland and will have a tough enough time using the meagre 'constitutional' conventions to protect fundamentals such as our human rights in Scotland, without throwing away any chance of being taken seriously when pleading the relative legitimacy to legislate between the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments on saving a few foxes for a few months. In no way can legislation on fox hunting in England be argued to have any knock-on effect in Scotland, budgetary or otherwise.

That said, I see no reason whatsoever why SNP MPs should not be free to speak in debates on the legislation and seek to persuade the House of Commons, as we might well do in future with any errant neighbour. Under no circumstances should they vote.

Such an emotive issue might well be just what we need to show the English left that, if you don't want the Tories (blue or red), then you have to bother your backside to organise an alternative and vote for it at general elections.