2 Lord Trimble debates involving the Attorney General

Scotland: Devolution Commission

Lord Trimble Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd October 2014

(9 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Wallace of Tankerness Portrait Lord Wallace of Tankerness
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I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord with regard to the importance of the use of the powers. I like to think that the Administration of which he and I were part made very good use of our powers. That is important. It is also important that that is sustainable in the longer term to ensure not only that Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom is maintained but that it will be a balanced settlement, which we are ultimately striving for, that is fair to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Lord Trimble Portrait Lord Trimble (Con)
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My Lords, how within the commission will there be a provision to enable the British national interest to be reflected?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness Portrait Lord Wallace of Tankerness
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My Lords, as I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, any agreement must be sustainable for the longer term and fair to other parts of the United Kingdom. I do not want to be tempted down the road of second-guessing the Smith commission but I have made it very clear that the one principle that cannot be challenged is that the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. That principle must be upheld in any proposals that the commission comes forward with.

Scotland: Independence Referendum

Lord Trimble Excerpts
Thursday 30th January 2014

(10 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Trimble Portrait Lord Trimble (Con)
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My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Lang on securing this debate and, indeed, on the quality of his speech. The debate has also been remarkable for the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Goldie and, of course, for the many other speeches that have been made. They ranged over a whole lot of topics that I will not say much about. However, after listening to the previous few contributions where noble Lords were wondering about the English Parliament, the bogus West Lothian question and others things like that, I suggest to Members that all these matters were discussed at great length and with great learning in the debates in this Chamber and this House on the Irish home rule Bills. Reading all four of them would be a very good idea and would provide a better understanding of the various issues. However, I shall not allow myself to be tempted further down that way.

I had my mind first turned towards this issue some 25 years ago. My noble friend Lord Kilclooney, who is unfortunately not with us, shortly after he had been elected to the European Parliament in 1979, invited me to spend a few days with him—I had been his election agent. When we were there, we bumped into the redoubtable Winnie Ewing. I discovered that John was on quite good terms with her, because the two of them got into quite a friendly conversation. She had with her two other chaps who I spoke to, and they turned out also to be members of the SNP, who were there on an information visit—they were obviously would-be candidates at some point. I said to them, “You know, if you chaps get your way and get an independent Scotland, it will pose a problem for us in Northern Ireland. What would we do? Do we go with Scotland or stay with England?”. One of them said, “Oh, good, it’ll be just like Dál Riata back again” and the other said, “Oh, no!”—so I was glad to see the SNP was clearly united on this issue.

I mention that just to say that this referendum and its outcome has very particular implications for us in Northern Ireland, and it may result in certain issues that are now sleeping coming awake again. Some noble colleagues often ask me what I think about recent developments in Northern Ireland and I say, “No, don’t worry about them; the only thing that I see on the horizon that might destabilise things in Northern Ireland is the Scottish referendum”. I hope, of course, that there will be a clear no vote.

A number of Members have spoken about family. I intended to say just a few words about family, too, because I think that it is relevant. I cannot emulate the noble Lord who took us through all the branches of all the elements that have contributed to him—I am afraid that we Trimbles have no history. Genealogical research in Northern Ireland is extremely limited, so very little can be said about that—we have some oral traditions, but whether there is any truth in them I have no idea. On the other hand, my mother-in-law is Scots. She grew up on a farm just outside Banchory in the north-east. My wife has more Scottish relatives than Northern Ireland relatives, and two of her sisters have moved to Scotland, one after marrying a Scotsman and the other one after marrying a chap from Manchester—but that is another story that is not relevant to this. Through them, I have two Scottish nephews and a niece, but of the three of them, one is at university in Cambridge, the other is a solicitor in London and the third is looking for work in Stirling. I think that we could all find that within our families, which just underlines the extent to which this referendum and this project will divide families throughout the kingdom.

I would be tempted to go through the various evolutions of the policy of the SNP. One of the amusing things about this debate is the way in which the SNP keeps changing its policy and what it wants to do. I was particularly delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, referred us to Alex Salmond’s espousal of the great arc of prosperity. Well, two of those countries effectively went bust; the third, Norway, did quite well. You could say that odds of one out of three might be attractive to a gambler, but they are not, I think, to a prospective Government.

I will now look not at the very obvious difficulties and improbabilities of the SNP position but will sum up what I think it hopes to do if it wins the referendum. It talks about independence, but it is independence where Scotland will retain the crown, and hopes to be in NATO and the European Union. It wants a currency union; it says that 30% of all cross-border entities will continue; and, of course, it wants to keep the Scottish regiments as well. What does all that add up to if you were to look at it? I know that it is highly improbable that this can be done, and there are huge difficulties about almost all the things that Mr Salmond mentions, but if it could happen, what would it be like? It would not really be “independence” as the word is normally understood. My noble friend Lord Empey said that it would be a client state. I had not thought of that phrase, but it looked to me like a sort of dual monarchy. Where have I heard of that before? Oh, yes: Austria-Hungary after 1860 and the dual monarchy there—which is not a terribly good augury for the future, you might think.

What strikes me is that this is devo-max: what Salmond would get is powers of taxation and more control over expenditure, but leaving all the external things pretty well in place. People say that if there is a no vote, there might be devo-max. If they go down that road, they will be giving Alex what he is asking for at the moment even after he has lost the referendum. That is without going into the question of whether devo-max is a good idea—the answer to which is, no, it is not. Again, to get the argument for that, go back to look at the Irish home rule Bills and see how each Bill, one after the other, cut down on the extent of economic devolution to the proposed Irish home rule parliament. It started off with what Salmond would now call devo-max but ended up with a very minimalist position. It all reflects on the highly integrated nature of the British state, which we unravel at our peril.

The reasons for devolution were quite different. I support devolution and would have touched on some other points as well, but I think we need to be very careful about this. If the worst comes to the worst, yes, there are some implications for us, but a number of suggestions have been made in this Chamber today which we should approach with very great care.