THE BLOG

A Watching Brief

21/04/2014 14:27 BST | Updated 20/06/2014 10:59 BST

It's a big year for Scotland in sporting terms. Swiftly glossing over the Scottish national football team's non-appearance in this year's World Cup, Gleneagles in Perthshire will play host to golf's greatest international team tournament, the Ryder Cup, and Glasgow is the venue for the Commonwealth Games, welcoming participants from 70 nations, many with strong co-operative traditions.

Sporting events might provide the international spotlight but domestically it's the Independence Referendum that dominates. On 18 September people in Scotland will be asked to vote yes or no to the simple question, "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Independence. It's a word that carries implications. Implications for Scotland, the rest of the UK and for Co-operatives UK too.

Scottish co-ops already work within a mix of UK and Scottish legislative frameworks. While much of the underpinning laws on co-operatives apply across the UK, specific sectors have additional legislation and regulation to be aware of. Social housing co-operatives are regulated by the Scottish Housing Regulator and co-operatives working in education have to be aware of the policies of Holyrood rather than Westminster.

Devolved legislation and regulation means co-ops already need to understand where power is exercised. So the consequences of the referendum, while potentially far-reaching, simply mean another set of conditions to be aware of in the context of Co-operatives UK's organisational response.

The length of the campaign (the Referendum Bill was put forward on 21 March 2013 and passed in November of that year) has at least allowed for greater depth of discussion. Issues that often get lost in the heat of an election sprint have had time to be aired. But even this extended campaign is unlikely to provide absolute clarity either one way or the other. The best we can hope for before the vote is a range of competing scenarios.

Perhaps it won't be until the day after the vote that the fog will begin to clear. Even then it's likely that details on new powers, there has been much talk of changes to the devolved powers in the event of a vote to continue the Union, will take time to agree.

So whatever the initial outcome it's the negotiations after the vote that will be crucial to the future political set-up. It's at that point that Co-operatives UK will have the opportunity to determine the best way to respond.

The result of the referendum isn't something to take lightly but fortunately we do have some experience of addressing tricky issues of governance. And, it's in that spirit that we'll work with members to plot the best way ahead and work out how best to deal with those implications.