The Tories are having fun with the West Lothian question, with Alan Duncan, among others, claiming that an MP from a Scottish constituency - e.g., Gordon Brown and John Reid - should never again become prime minister of the UK, for devolved constitutional reasons (see Tory Diary). There are so many reasons that this idea is funny but wrong, and here are two.
Several weeks ago, someone pointed out (I wish I could remember whom) that the WLQ is basically misconceived because substantive legislation passed on English (or English and Welsh) affairs soon migrates northward and westward. Thus, it's in the interests of the Scottish people that legislation passed in England is properly scrutinized by their MPs. There's some truth in this argument, but I also think it points to a greater truth about being a parliamentarian.
When I were a lad, the Tories revered Edmund Burke. When the good people of Bristol elected him their MP in 1774, he gave them a speech and finished it with these words:
To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience, -- these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.
Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament...
So, John Reid isn't a delegate from the Airdrie and Shotts constituency but a member of the British parliament. Despite devolution, that principle remains sound. Have the Tories ditched Unionism, then?