Opinion: now that the Games are over…

For a very long time I have been of the view that the outcome of Scotland’s Independence Referendum this September will be a 60:40 split for the Union. Of course, it’s possible that something dramatic will happen in the next few weeks to change this, but I doubt it. I get the impression that most voters have made up their mind, and despite a higher than usual number of undecided, I can’t see the Yes campaign succeeding. That does not mean however that nothing will change. It seems to me, as a committed Unionist, that everything must change post referendum, if our Union is to thrive in the future rather than just survive.

The Yes campaign has been an interesting, if at times unholy, alliance of disparate groups and political causes – everything from Europhiles concerned about the possibility of a UK EU exit at Tory hands, to anti EU radicals attracted more by notions of a radically socialist Scotland. At times the claims from this latter element in the Yes campaign have bordered on an Utopianism removed from reality. Elements of the Yes campaign have consistently been dismissive of any hard questions posed to them, treating reasonable questions like an illegitimate lack of faith in the tartan heaven that awaits after September – if only we will believe.

Frustration aside, if we Unionists have any sense, post referendum, we will come to thank our nationalist brothers and sisters for teaching us not to take this Union for granted. We must redouble our efforts to bring about constitutional change and a renewed emphasis on fairness within the UK that Liberals have always held dear.

One constant refrain of the Yes campaign (one which has found resonance even with No voters) is discontent with Westminster politics, and the British establishment’s resistance to political, economic and constitutional reform. Whilst this discontent can be found in parts of the UK – it has found particular focus in the Independence debate. The sight of unelected peers still legislating in 2014 seems nothing short of a scandal, along with its accompanying pattern of political patronage. The still growing North South divide, and the failure of successive governments to invest in infrastructure which will draw the north of Britain closer economically and strategically to an overheating South East remains a potent issue. You may not know that the main route north to Scotland on the east coast to Scotland, the A1, still retains long sections of single carriageway north of Newcastle. It tells a story.

If a Federal UK is the answer, which surely it is, we also need to build political and cultural institutions which will cement our Union, as well as providing for devolution of centralised power all over the UK. If we believe in this United Kingdom, then we must get off our complacent behinds and form a cross party constitutional convention once this referendum is over, which will in turn devolve power to the regions, and at the same time strengthen that which holds us together. The basis of this must be reformed democratic institutions. What about a UK Senate for example?

The current dismay at Westminster and British politics reveals itself in different forms across these islands. Too often, Westminster has shown itself incapable of reform and responding to the needs of the electorate. I am convinced that until we find a way to progress reform in a cross party campaign this reform will remain a distant hope. As a Scotsman, I have to say we desperately need many of those in the wider political scene in other parts of the UK, to hear the cries for reform from north of the Border, so that we never have to go through anything like this divisive never-end-um campaign again.

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  • The society many Scots is the same kind of society many of us in the rest of the UK want: a kinder, fairer nation where power is distributed more widely both within society and geographically across the country. The trouble is, what is stopping us from getting it is the unbreakable grip of the two old parties on the political system and their unwillingness to change both our corrupt FPTP voting system as well as other aspects of the fossilised Westminster democracy.

    Sadly, with the Lib Dems at only 7-9% in the polls, we are now even further away from getting the fairer society we have always dreamed of.

  • A contradiction that I cannot fathom is that the SNP supporters want to reject rule from Westminster but want to embrace rule by Brussels.

  • Peter: the very phrase “rule by” marks you out as a UKIP sympathiser. There is no”rule by Brussels”, the EU is a federation of member states. Brussels is the capital of Belgium,but even most Belgians do not feel “ruled by Brussels”, because Flanders and Wallonie have a high degree of autonomy.

    Scot Nats aspire to see Scotland as a member state and to be represented in the EU Council independently. What they do not want is to be dragged out of the EU against their wishes.

  • jedibeeftrix 4th Aug '14 - 8:24pm

    “There is no”rule by Brussels”, the EU is a federation of member states.”

    Right now, yes, and less every day for the eurozone.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 5th Aug '14 - 9:38am

    I agree with Scott Rennie’s analysis. Sorry that visitors from other parties don’t always see the sense in Scott’s direction of thought. These are not party political points but points all parties should work together to deliver [especially SNP]. Ed Miliband is probably the best leader of Labour to work with other parties but unfortunately the Tory leadership is too split to work with other parties on reforms. So the Union needs all parties who can, to work together.

  • Alex Dingwall 5th Aug '14 - 2:31pm

    The problem Scott is that while the Scottish party has continued to pursue Home Rule there really is no groundswell in the rest of the UK for the radical change needed to bring about a Federal UK. The AV referendum and the fiasco of the House of Lords reform show us that neither the Conservatives nor Labour are really serious about a Federal UK.

    In respect the joint statement today from the three UK party leaders about additional powers if Scotland votes No, it is worth noting the response from the architect of the current Devolution settlement Canon Kenyan Wright,

    “The central issue at stake in the referendum is simple: Where should the ultimate power to make decisions that affect the lives of people in Scotland lie – at Westminster or in Scotland? As I should know, devolution – however ‘max’ it may be – is not the way, for two fundamental reasons. First, devolution is incomplete. It leaves vital areas directly under the control of Westminster. Take just one example of many – if the UK, as seems more and more likely, leaves the EU, Scotland will be dragged out too, at great cost.

    “Second, devolution is insecure. The wording of today’s ‘offer’ is very revealing. It indicates that greater powers would be “granted to Scotland”. Granted indeed? By whom?

    “Scotland’s history is marked by Claims of Right, all of which rejected as a matter of Right the powers claimed by the “Crown in Parliament” to decide for Scotland.

    “Devolution is power, not as a right, but by gift – or more accurately by loan, since gifts can’t usually be taken back. Westminster would retain the permanent power to grant, alter, or rescind. Devolution leaves the UK as a whole fundamentally unreformed.”

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