The referendum may be over - but what happens next?
So Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom for the foreseeable future. The referendum result was declared 55.3 percent for the NO camp and 44.7 percent for the YES camp. Further devolution is inevitable and it seems as if there's no going back to a centralised Westminster form of government. However, the situation's rather complex and cannot be answered simply. Who gets to vote and on what? Do the people want another layer of inept politicians cluttering up the system? Just how do we go about fairly devolving powers?
I say Scotland remains part of the UK for the "foreseeable" future because it's clear that the argument over independence is far from over. Such is the passion of this debate; both sides clashed in Glasgow's George Square the day after polling day, with the police having to intervene. This demonstrates a tragic division that runs through our nation; however this division will soon be more prevalent down south in England.
There has been growing discontent in England about the lack of representation that they have as a constituent country of the United Kingdom. This disenfranchisement has been growing since devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1998, leaving England as the only country without its own Parliament or Assembly. The issue of the Barnett Formula will be a problem if it is not dealt with. Under the deal, Scotland seems to be in a privileged position when it comes to public spending. There's an extra £1500 per head of public spending in Scotland than in England. This is unfair and there needs to be a correction across the UK.
So how do we stop these ancient divisions opening up and tearing apart a nation? Well for starters, the English need enfranchising with politicians to represent them directly. Many options are on the table to achieve this.
We could have a system of English votes for English matters; whereby only English MPs vote on English only issues and the Scottish MPs in the House of Commons cannot, as they currently can do. The real issue with going down this route, is that it would create two classes of Westminster MPs and this will create a problem where the Government of day may have a UK wide majority, but not an English majority, so they would find it quite difficult to pass English only legislation. This system will massively affect the Labour Party, should they get a majority, as they have some 40 MPs in Scotland who wouldn't be able to vote on issues affecting the English. In my opinion, this system has to be out of the question, as this will cause even further division a long way down the road.
My favoured system is a fully confederate UK. If "Home Rule" was given to the four constituent countries, it would allow the divisions to heal and for government to have defined remits. This would involve all domestic issues being under the jurisdiction of the devolved parliaments, with military, foreign affairs and internal security being under the Federal government in Westminster. Tax raising powers should be left to the devolved parliament; this would bring about business friendly competition and would be good for the whole UK, as businesses look at basing themselves under an attractive tax regime. This isn't an untested idea, as in Gibraltar, they govern on all domestic matters through the Parliament of Gibraltar and Foreign Affairs and Defence are dealt with by Westminster.
A fully confederate system is very controversial however, mainly due to the perceived cost of setting it up. We're talking about a new layer of politicians in England, which is enough to deter people. However there is a financial cost for democracy. As they say, "Freedom isn't free". I personally do not think this is such a bad thing. For me, the more checks and balances there are against executive central power, the better it is for the people.
There is also the question of what to do with the House of Lords? Now I'm not going get into the nitty gritty of the constitutional complications with House of Lords reform, as I could write an entire article on it. But whatever happens, the Lords should still exist as the Federal Parliament's upper chamber. I know many people must think that it is a useless arcane place where we stuff retired politicians and friends of governments of the day, but the Lords does serve us well as a way to temper the rowdiness of the Commons at times. I like to evoke the alleged conversation between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson while they were creating the US Government. Washington allegedly poured some tea into a saucer and placed the cup back on the saucer and said to Jefferson: "We have created the Senate to 'cool' House legislation just as a saucer was used to cool hot tea." This analogy is perfect to describe the need for an upper house.
The three establishment parties are promising all sorts of financial goody bags to appease Scotland. This should not be happening as there needs to be a fair and equitable deal for the whole of the UK. No longer do we want to see a disunited Kingdom. It's time that we saw the rise of England and it's equal status recognised in the Union.