Could England devolve?

WHEN devolution was first on the political agenda, some years ago, I was living in the North East. My reaction to the idea of Scottish independence was: Great - as long as we can be in Scotland.

WHEN devolution was first on the political agenda, some years ago, I was living in the North East.

My reaction to the idea of Scottish independence was: Great - as long as we can be in Scotland.

Now my life and future are thoroughly rooted in the soil of Suffolk, I see it a bit differently.

Now I understand why Gordon Brown is so keen on preserving the 300-year-old Union.


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Without England, Scotland would be a naturally socialist nation - and I do mean socialist, not New Labour.

England without Scotland would be at severe risk of near-permanent Tory rule.

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The curious partial devolution we currently live with has done quite well by Scotland, where education is still free and health provision better administered.

But it has left a curious anomaly south of the border which will start looking stark if Brown does indeed become prime minister later this year.

Scotland and Wales have their own assemblies, leaving Parliament at Westminster to oversee only England and (at present) Northern Ireland for many important matters.

Yet many of the MPs who take the decisions represent Scottish or Welsh constituencies - including the Scotsman Brown, whose seat is in Fife.

It is, quite plainly, illogical, undemocratic and inequitable.

One answer would be to disband the Westminster Parliament completely - or, rather, convert it into a purely English chamber on a par with those in Edinburgh and Cardiff.

Whether or not we then considered England and Scotland to be separate countries wouldn't really matter too much. Both would be semi-autonomous regions of greater Europe.

Which, for different reasons, probably doesn't sound too good to either Brown or the Conservatives.

Personally, I could see some merit in it. I also like the idea of flying pigs.

IT was a year ago this weekend that a lone pheasant wandered unannounced and unexpected into my garden for a look around.

I know this because I've never seen one here before or since - and it happened during the hour I was taking part in the annual Big Garden Birdwatch. And it's that time again.

For exactly an hour on Sunday morning I shall be standing at an upstairs window with notebook in hand, jotting down which birds I spot.

With getting on for half a million people taking part across the country, the event helps the RSPB log a mass of information that helps in the vital work of bird conservation. But it can also give you a fascinating snapshot of what's going on just in your garden.

I don't expect another pheasant visitation - but will I get a green woodpecker this time?

Last winter a woodpecker was a regular visitor, though it stayed away in the crucial hour. This year I've only seen one once, despite a plentiful supply of the fallen apples they love.

Last year a flock of greenfinches descended. I don't expect a repeat on Sunday, because they seem far scarcer this year.

And while I confidently expect to note good numbers of bluetits and great tits, I won't hold my breath for the gorgeous long-tailed variety. There are a few around, but fewer than a year ago.

Whatever turns up, the hour will fairly fly by. It's an interesting and enjoyable thing to do, with the added sense that you are taking part in something worthwhile.

If you want to join the big birdwatch, you can do it any time on Saturday or Sunday. Go to www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch for details and to report what you see. Happy watching.

FOOTBALLER Danny Cadamarteri has just returned to action for Leicester City after a six-month drugs ban.

He failed a test for ephedrine - which, as he points out, is the active ingredient of those over-the-counter decongestants most of us sometimes use.

Under World Anti-Doping Agency rules, which the FA has signed up to, his penalty for trying to fight off flu would now be a two-year ban.

And, as the 27-year-old Cadamarteri says: “A two-year ban would wreck the career of a player in the middle of his career.”

He suggests instead a sliding scale of suspended sentences, and adds: “There are different substances which could maybe incur a lesser penalty, while certain substances could incur a more severe penalty.”

That's too sophisticated for UK Sport. Their spokesman Russell Langley responded: “Being banned is the ultimate deterrent and we need to make sure deterrents are effective. A suspended sentence is not as strong a deterrent as a ban.

“Anyone found to have broken the rules needs to face the consequences. It's now a two-year ban.”

I'd like to think Mr Langley was drunk when he said that, but I doubt if he has that excuse. Maybe he'd just had too much coffee.

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