The result is inPosted: September 19, 2014
So the electorate of Scotland have made their decision … and have voted ‘No’ by a ratio of 55:45.
This was the result that I had hoped for because I had serious concerns about consequences for both sides if the Union was dissolved. I had not come to this conclusion without considerable thought and research. I had read the document produced by the ‘Yes’ campaign that outlined what Scotland would look like after independence … and I was struck by how it was long on promises and assumptions, and very short on methods and processes by which they would be achieved. For example, saying that your country will keep the pound and will join the EU assumed that the other parties to this would acquiesce without serious discussion and/or a possible refusal to do so. Likewise using Norway as a sort of template for a future Scotland did not seem to take into account the cost. Norway may well have a large oil revenue-funded sovereign fund, but taxes on incomes, goods, and services are high in order to pay for things like the social care system.
The ‘No’ campaign was – by comparison – rather negative, and in my opinion failed to really show how both parties to the existing Union were better together than apart. The promises made that Scotland would be given even greater devolved powers may well turn out to be a double-edged sword, and is already leading to greater demands for greater devolution in other parts of the UK.
So what happens next?
Initially, very little … but by the next General Election (which takes place in less than ten months time) I expect that quite a lot of changes will be planned if not enacted. If Scotland gets its greater devolved powers it will need to be matched by an increase in the powers of the Welsh Assembly. Furthermore the Midlothian Question will have to be answered … and I strongly suspect that it will lead to a ruling that only MPs representing English and Welsh constituencies will be entitled to vote on legislation that only affects those two countries. In the end one can foresee a move towards a more federal-style of government for the UK, and that is something that may well make the UK a much better place to live in.
A last few thoughts. Over recent years I have had conversations with people from Scotland and Wales who complained bitterly about what they referred to as ‘Westminster rule’ or ‘English rule’, by which I understood that they felt alienated from the decision making process that is carried out in the Houses of Parliament. I tried to explain to them that they – like me – elected MPs who sat in Parliament, but they seemed to resent the fact that Parliament sat in London, and was physically remote from where they lived and worked, and was out of touch with their needs and aspirations. I tried to explain that although I can see the Houses of Parliament from the top floor of my house, I felt that much the same as they did … but this generally seemed to cut very little ice with them.
Another contentious problem was the disproportional level of wealth that is perceived to be concentrated in London and the South-East of England compared to others parts of the UK. There is more than an element of truth in this … but the other side of the coin is the amount of tax revenue that the area generates and that is ‘exported’ into the rest of the UK. Estimates vary from £10 to £20 billion … and that enables things like the Barnett funding formula to direct additional devolved government spending into Scotland and Wales. Do I – as a Londoner, born and bred – resent that? … Yes! … But as a citizen of the UK I can see that it is more than equitable that it happens, and long may it do so.
Forward the UNITED Kingdom! We are better and stronger together!