Now that the Scottish referendum has resulted in a vote to remain in the union by a surprisingly large margin of 55-45%, some thorny issues will have to be resolved. I had not realized until I started following the referendum what a complicated political structure exists in the UK leading to all manner of problems, one of the major ones being has come to be known as the West Lothian question.
As I understand this messy issue (and I know that some readers here are much more knowledgeable and will chime in and correct me if I am wrong), there are separate legislatures in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that get to vote on designated issues that pertain to just those regions. But at the same time, those regions elect members to the Westminster parliament that governs all of the UK.
This leads to two kinds of problems.
MPs elected from (say) Scotland can vote in Westminster on issues that affect an area in England but cannot vote on a similar issue pertaining to their own constituency in Scotland, since the regional parliament is the only one that can do so. This is the original formulation of the West Lothian question.
Another issue that rankles some people in England is that as a result of England not having its own separate legislature, MPs from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can vote on matters that affect only England, while the reverse does not hold, in that MPs from England cannot vote on internal matters in the devolved areas. One proposed solution, of only allowing members from England to vote in parliament on matters pertaining to England, carries with it the unsavory connotations of creating separate classes of MPs in the same parliament. Practically too it creates problems, one being whether this would exclude an MP from one of the three regions ever holding a cabinet post, since those positions will necessarily involve taking policy stands that affect England.
And there are other problems as Patrick Wintour describes, not to mention how to accommodate the last-minute promises made by prime minister David Cameron and the leaders of the other two parties to give additional powers to Scotland in order to coax people into voting ‘no’.
The vote against separation has settled one question but opened up others. Frankly, it looks like a mess.