LibLink: Menzies Campbell: Federalism is in touching distance

Sir Menzies Campbell, whose Commission drew up the Liberal Democrats’ proposals for more powers to the Scottish Parliament, has written for the Scotsman saying that he thinks federalism is closer than we could ever have imagined.

Who would have thought two years ago that politicians and civic groups across the United Kingdom would have so vocally debated, let alone whisper, the need for a fully federal UK? Whilst Liberal Democrats were first out the blocks with our plans for radical change, others have followed in quick succession.

IPPR, STUC, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Murdo Fraser of the Scottish Conservatives, the Financial Times, Prospect magazine, and others have given varying nods towards federalism as being the best future for Scotland and the UK overall. We can safely say that we have spurred our partners within our family of nations to look at reform with fresh eyes.

First, it is clear that more powers for Scotland are guaranteed. Our delivery plan will guarantee change swiftly after a No vote, with draft legislation as quickly as Burns Night 2015. This is a guarantee of common endeavour and consensus – the same spirit which secured the Scottish parliament.

Second, the loosening grip of Westminster is already leading to radical change in all parts of the United Kingdom and the many cities which have seen more power handed back to them through the UK government’s city deals. So we can see that there is a growing UK wide thirst for change.

I believe that the United Kingdom is best served by continuing a partnership which has served us well; by recognising that constitutional reform is necessary to ensure that the structures of the United Kingdom reflect the aspirations of its people and the demands of a modern democracy. I have always said that Scotland does not need to wait to begin a federal relationship with the UK. Scotland can be the key to the door of political reform for the whole of Great Britain.

We will not need to wait long before we can see a modern federal United Kingdom.

You can read the whole article here. 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • The only problem with this positive spin on proceedings is that while the Lib Dems actually believe in federalism these recent converts are only espousing a federal solution as last ditch attempt to save the Union. In addition, the promises of Gordon Brown, (a back bencher with no official role to negotiate) and the three party leaders has been made on the hoof with no reference made to either their parties or parliament, let alone a wider constituency. If this is the basis for great new wave for democratic change, please forgive my cynicism.

  • Right, but how does a No vote translate into support for this? It doesn’t. No to this second rate solution will be taken as a No to all change, just like how the No vote against the second rate solution of AV was used to shut down any and all democratic reform.

    Maybe, just maybe, a really narrow No win might see this federalism kept on the table. But reformists cannot rely on that, and must not simply hope that the votes of others will create the ideal situation for us.

  • David Cameron, speaking last evening on BBC2’s Newsnight, was quick to shut down the idea that the promised new powers after a No vote would automatically mean a change in the situation down south.
    There may be too much grassroots pressure for change, or the anomalies in the system become to obviously absurd, but don’t expect much help from Labour or the tories on this. When real constitutional reform is on the table they run a mile.

  • “…he thinks federalism is closer than we could ever have imagined.”
    “…IPPR, STUC, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Murdo Fraser of the Scottish Conservatives, the Financial Times, Prospect magazine, and others have given varying nods towards federalism …”

    And a nod is as good as a wink is it?

    If “varying nods” is as good s it gets do not hold your breath after Friday.
    Clegg the party leader who made a SOLEMN PLEDGE on tuition fees now makes a VOW on devolution (Daily Record) but the reaity is nothing stronger than “varying nods”.

    Only a YES on Thursday will guarantee anything.

  • Tony Dawson 17th Sep '14 - 8:36am

    The people of Scotland are being asked to vote tomorrow on a proposal to do something of which they have no idea in respect of very important details. They have no idea about the currency, about EC membership, about the start-up costs of separation and how these would be shared between the new Scotland and the rump of the UK. They have no idea whatsoever as to how crucial assets will be shared. They are voting for a menu with no prices. Let me give an example.

    The Nuclear bases in the lochs off the Clyde where i once lived and worked fall clearly within the boundaries of Scotland. If Scotland seceded by force of arms, they and everything within their boundaries would become the property of Scotland immediately, irrespective of whether ‘independent’ Scotland wished to be a nuclear power or not. But the people of Scotland do not have a clue as to whether thy will emerge from a split based upon referendum with a percentage share or all of these assets (fixed AND mobile!) and, if a percentage share, how and when they would negotiate a financial settlement. Similarly, the idea of the new ‘Scottish Navy’ depends on a possible negotiation regarding ships and equipment which hasn’t been dreamed of yet and the content and outcome of which is imponderable.

    There clearly needed to be, as well as a simple referendum question, the production of a several-thousand-page-long pre-referendum negotiation document, giving a reasonable idea of what the share of various assets after any ‘split’ would be, as well as clarifying issues of controversy through a grown-up process between the parties or independent arbitration. David Cameron has said that there needs to be an EC referendum following protracted negotiations of a new settlement with the EC: such a settlement should, surely, run to a small book? Logical consistency would require any ‘Yes’ vote tomorrow to be treated as only a vote in principle for the ‘book’ of division to be drawn up with a final referendum a year or so later on the actual contents so that people could say ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay’ about something real rather than the dishonest mixture of emotional twaddle and biased ‘facts’ which many in both sides have peddled in recent months.

    There are all sorts of other things wrong with this process from which one can only infer that the Coalition partners who allowed the referendum to proceed on the present terms were grossly complacent about the potential outcome and negligent about the Union which they claim to hold so dear. Having a referendum on a timetable where any ‘Yes’ outcome would be implemented immediately after a General Election which would likely be determined by Scottish votes for MPs who would soon cease to be MPs is one such. No one in their right minds who thought ‘Yes’ could possibly win would have agreed to such nonsense. Making this referendum the first ever vote of 16-year-olds also demonstrated a folly among those wanting to maintain a Union. Young people are, on balance, naturally inclined towards the rebellious ie will add to the ‘Yes’ percentage.

    Even the question is slightly biased, especially in a vote which has been so predicated on a (predictably) emotion-based rather than fact-based ‘ campaign. “Yes” is a ‘nice’ word. “No” is not. So, among the undecideds who ‘plump’ at the polling stations in any vote ever held, there is a small bias in favour of “Yes” if this particular simple choice is put. A question saying “Should we STAY or should we GO” addressing the same issue would get a different numerical outcome for each side with the identical electorate because “Stay” is a nice comfortable word while “Go” implies a step outside into uncertainty. But, of course, none of this mattered because the referendum with it’s inevitable restoration of the status quo, was an irritationto a Cabinet whose heads were based in the clouds of ‘higher things’ and could safely be largely left (until the panic of the past fortnight) to second-raters to plod along with to an inevitable conclusion.

    The way the ‘No’ campaign has been conducted makes even the disastrous AV-Yes campaign appear to be vaguely competent by comparison. The responsibility for this lies clearly with the ‘Leadership'(sic) of the UK’s national Political Parties. Whatever one thinks about individual policy blunders within the Coalition ‘package’, any or all of these can eventually be reversed. But to permit the Union, the basis or our nation to get ANYWHERE NEAR being truly threatened by a referendum shows a degree of incompetence and complacency by those involved which is far above the threshold for immediate resignation by any honorable Cabinet. Of course, nobody expects this to happen because to use the ‘H’ word in a sentence involving UK politicians is yet another reason why people kept in the dark on true issues will vote for change.

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