Thursday, October 22nd 2015. The day that Westminster ended, finally, any pretence that the United Kingdom consisted either of “One Nation” or of four nations joined as equals.
Now we live in a state in which one of those nations maintains a right and power over the other three and representatives from those latter nations have fewer rights to speak, to influence and to legislate than their colleagues and, by way of extension, voters from those nations have less control over how their state is run.
On the face of it, I should have no problems with Scottish voters being legally prevented from voting on English issues. I did, after all, spend two years trying to achieve precisely that goal.
The difference is that I want those Scottish representatives to stand up and leave the room never to return. Not to turn up and be told to be silent while their betters speak. And certainly not to have those same “betters” turn around and use their sheer weight of numbers to comprehensively crush any attempt made by those Scottish representatives to have a say over their own Scottish affairs.
EVEL has also put into serious doubt the viability of any non-English MP ever holding a major Ministerial position. How could they run a department or propose a policy direction when hangs over them would be the possibility of being barred from actually voting it through? How, indeed, could they become Prime Minister if they can’t actually speak for the entire country or even their entire party?
The timing, too, will undoubtably raise ire. There will be some who voted in the referendum last year for the “faster, better, safer change” they were promised. I’m sure that they assumed without question that this offer meant “for Scotland”. Instead, we have been given the latest botched cobbling in a long run of botched cobbles designed out of panic and fear rather than out of any sense of bettering the lives of the people of Scotland and of the UK. This plan will serve only to increase the sense of divison within the Union. If we are no longer relevant to the running of the UK, why bother being a member of it?
The solution, assuming that we’re not gaining independence for the time being, is to simply bite the proverbial bullet and start accepting that an unequal Union will not be fixed by random, unequal transfers and discriminations. Instead of a patriarchal system whereby power is concentrated at the very top and only begrudgingly devolved down to nations and regions we need to place power back into local hands and devolve up only that power which makes sense to deal with the issues at hand.
For example, it is considered perfectly normal in many democracies for a local community to use locally collected taxes and councils to fund and run a local GP’s surgery or medical clinic. Up a level, regional councils or confederations of regional councils can plan and run larger hospitals and the national government (or coalitions of national governments) could be tasked with strategic planning, specialist treatment centres and negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to get the best possible deals on medical supplies.
As I noted in the submission to the Smith Commission I wrote for Yes Clydesdale, the fact that England is so much larger than the other nations of the UK is absolutely no barrier to a federal like structure. Many countries around the world deal quite adequately with far larger population differentials and some, like Spain and Russia, are even comfortable with a certain degree of differential in what kind of power and how much of it is devolved to each sub-state.
We have the potential of shaping the United Kingdom into a collegial alliance based on trust and mutual benefit. This is surely far better solution to any perception of imbalance and unfairness. If, as I still steadfastly advocate, Scotland is to become an independent country then it certainly should leave the Union from a position of understanding that our mutuals paths have grown simply so divergent that the devolution of power up to Westminster simply no longer makes sense.
We should certainly not leave, or be forced out, by the petty revenge of a government with no mandate north of the border who are simply seeking to remove any potential threats to their own hegemony and their insecure need to remove power from anyone other than themselves.