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UUP's Empey defends warning of violence in Scotland and Wales

By Allan Preston

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey has hit back after he was called "bonkers" for suggesting a Troubles-like conflict could break out in Scotland and Wales.

The row started when the former UUP leader argued in a House of Lords debate that if the Scottish and Welsh parliaments were more accountable to London, it could prevent similar conditions that started decades of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland.

He accused Westminster of repeating a failed policy of "devolve and forget". "Once powers are devolved Whitehall can pay little or no attention to what happens in those policy areas," he said.

"This was a fatal mistake in the case of Northern Ireland, when after 1921 oversight consisted of a desk somewhere in the Home Office manned by a junior civil servant.

"Our troubles might have been avoided with attention to what happens in those policy areas."

"Are we going to make the same mistake again now that there is a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly as well?

"I hope not, but I see little evidence that the lessons of the past have been learned."

Lord Empey proposed a "light touch oversight" which would see politicians in Edinburgh and Cardiff justify how they spent taxpayers' money to Westminster on an annual basis.

SNP MSP George Adam told the National newspaper that Lord Empey was in no position to preach about accountability as an unelected peer.

"This bonkers speech shows just how pointless and out of touch the House of Lords is," he said.

"There are no doubt others... who dream of making the Scottish Government go cap-in-hand to answer to Westminster - but it ain't gonna happen."

Lord Empey said he stood by his comments.

He said: "Whether some regional parties like it or not, we are still one United Kingdom and this - plus the large sums of money voted to the devolved institutions from Westminster - means that Westminster should be engaged in the governance of all the citizens of the UK.

"Which legislature in the world would vote on tens of billions of pounds and not, at the very least, know how it was being spent?"

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