I will start with a question. If the new clause is passed and Mr MacNeil goes to the other place, will that make him a time Lord? I hope that he presses the matter to a vote, because I can think of nothing that characterises the SNP more than this proposal for separate time zones.
As far as I can see, there are only two ways in which this new clause can operate. If the United Kingdom Parliament decides to change the time, it would give the Scottish Parliament the opportunity not to do so, in which case there would be separate time zones. Alternatively, the Scottish Parliament could decide to change the time on its own without the United Kingdom Parliament doing so, in which case there would be separate time zones. I see no logic for giving this power to the Scottish Parliament, except if one wants separate time zones. It is ludicrous.
The comments of Sir Alan Beith are key in this argument. The new clause would make it much more likely that this Parliament, with an overwhelming majority of English Members, would vote for what suited it and leave the Scots to either follow or not. That would undermine the position of Scottish MPs in representing their constituents’ interests in this place. The proposal is absolutely and utterly absurd.
We must also take into account what I consider to be the al-Megrahi argument. Part of the reason for the release of al-Megrahi was simply to show that the Scottish Parliament could do it. It had a power and wanted to show that it could use it, so it did. Giving the
Scottish Parliament the power to change the clocks would present it with a strong temptation to do it just to show that it could, and to drive as big a wedge as possible between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. That is a very real danger.
We should consider what sort of time difference the SNP would want. I think that it would probably go for something like—