Friday, 19 September 2014

The result is in

Be warned. The following blog entry contains political comment.

So the electorate of Scotland have made their decision ... and have voted 'No' by a ratio of 55:45.

This was the result that I had hoped for because I had serious concerns about consequences for both sides if the Union was dissolved. I had not come to this conclusion without considerable thought and research. I had read the document produced by the 'Yes' campaign that outlined what Scotland would look like after independence ... and I was struck by how it was long on promises and assumptions, and very short on methods and processes by which they would be achieved. For example, saying that your country will keep the pound and will join the EU assumed that the other parties to this would acquiesce without serious discussion and/or a possible refusal to do so. Likewise using Norway as a sort of template for a future Scotland did not seem to take into account the cost. Norway may well have a large oil revenue-funded sovereign fund, but taxes on incomes, goods, and services are high in order to pay for things like the social care system.

The 'No' campaign was - by comparison - rather negative, and in my opinion failed to really show how both parties to the existing Union were better together than apart. The promises made that Scotland would be given even greater devolved powers may well turn out to be a double-edged sword, and is already leading to greater demands for greater devolution in other parts of the UK.

So what happens next?

Initially, very little ... but by the next General Election (which takes place in less than ten months time) I expect that quite a lot of changes will be planned if not enacted. If Scotland gets its greater devolved powers it will need to be matched by an increase in the powers of the Welsh Assembly. Furthermore the Midlothian Question will have to be answered ... and I strongly suspect that it will lead to a ruling that only MPs representing English and Welsh constituencies will be entitled to vote on legislation that only affects those two countries. In the end one can foresee a move towards a more federal-style of government for the UK, and that is something that may well make the UK a much better place to live in.

A last few thoughts. Over recent years I have had conversations with people from Scotland and Wales who complained bitterly about what they referred to as 'Westminster rule' or 'English rule', by which I understood that they felt alienated from the decision making process that is carried out in the Houses of Parliament. I tried to explain to them that they - like me - elected MPs who sat in Parliament, but they seemed to resent the fact that Parliament sat in London, and was physically remote from where they lived and worked, and was out of touch with their needs and aspirations. I tried to explain that although I can see the Houses of Parliament from the top floor of my house, I felt that much the same as they did ... but this generally seemed to cut very little ice with them.

Another contentious problem was the disproportional level of wealth that is perceived to be concentrated in London and the South-East of England compared to others parts of the UK. There is more than an element of truth in this ... but the other side of the coin is the amount of tax revenue that the area generates and that is 'exported' into the rest of the UK. Estimates vary from £10 to £20 billion ... and that enables things like the Barnett funding formula to direct additional devolved government spending into Scotland and Wales. Do I - as a Londoner, born and bred - resent that? ... Yes! ... But as a citizen of the UK I can see that it is more than equitable that it happens, and long may it do so.

Forward the UNITED Kingdom! We are better and stronger together!

20 comments:

  1. Interesting comments. I always wonder about nations that split up, often due to ethnic differences. I'm no economist, but are they really better off economically than they were before the split? I think about the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris,

    The UK is such a mish-mash of different ethnic and social groups that it would have been almost impossible to decide who was a 'Scot' and who was not. For the vote, it was dependent upon where you lived. English people living in Scotland were able to vote in the referendum, whereas Scots living in England could not.

    My understanding of the situation in the former Czechoslovakia was that it always was a country of two halves, one of which was more industrialised than the other, which was more rural in outlook.

    Belgium is also a country united by its differences. The last time I was in Flanders there were Flemish-language posters on display complaining about the way that the Flemish felt that they were supporting/paying for services for the a French-speaking (and less affluent) half of the country. There are certainly Flemish politicians calling for independence for Flanders ... and had Scotland voted in favour of independence, they would have had an example that they could have used to support their campaign.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  3. good points made. We had similar issues with Quebec in the 1990s. Canadian federal system seems to work. Im Scottish Irish but really can't say yay or nay as Im not living in the UK.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Irishhighlander,

    Thanks for your kind comment.

    The Canadian federal model is quite a good example of what can be achieved if the will exists for small nations/states/regions to work together than separately.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think the UK parties now need to consider the fact that roughly 50% of the Scottish electorate don't feel that they want to be part of the UK. Why is this?

    Is suspect there are many reasons. You've touched on one of them, that many people feel that the UK government doesn't represent the views of many people in Scotland.

    Another reason might be that some Scots are concerned about what they feel is an increased pushing forward of English history and cutloure as "British" to the detriment of Scottish(and Welsh and Irish?)history and culture.

    Whatever the causes, what is certain is that a large percentage of the Scottish electorate is very unhappy with our society as it stands at the present.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Red_Cardinal,

    As I tried to point out, I think there is a general dissatisfaction within the UK with the present form and style of government we currently 'enjoy'. I have heard the same objections to 'Westminster Rule' in Norfolk and Yorkshire as I have heard from the Scots ... and for very similar reasons.

    I am not sure that 'English' culture and history are being pushed forward as being 'British' to the detriment of Scottish, Welsh, and Irish culture and history. The Scottish education system is independent from the English system ... and the Welsh education system has considerable autonomy as well. In addition Welsh is taught in schools in the Principality, and the speaking of Scottish Gaelic is encouraged in several parts of a Scotland. There are also Welsh and Scottish language TV channels. This would seem to indicate that non-English culture and history is alive and reasonably well.

    I agree that there is a need to do something about the general dissatisfaction with the governance of the UK, but it is a UK problem that needs everyone's input and support to solve. Splitting up the UK would not have been a solution.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well, at least you guys managed to settle the question without resorting to armed conflict. We tried that 150 years ago--very unpleasant (although strictly as wargamers we can appreciate it!)

    Best regards,

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  8. Some good points Bob. Speaking as a Northern Englishman long exiled in London I can echo your comments on the perspective of Westminster remoteness. To that I would also add that to a lot of people I speak to, don't see London/Westminster as being specifically English let alone favouring England/English culture in anyway.

    There's also growing resentment that voters in England have had no say in the matter of devolution/devo max and the Barnett Formula especially when other regions are equally as poor as Scotland.

    Hopefully we can now have a proper debate south of the border and not some rushed job that suits one party rather than another.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Chris,

    There were a couple of reports of fights breaking out in Glasgow tonight ... but that is not that unusual on a Friday night in most towns and cities!

    I did have a vision of British Army units being paraded and the command 'Gentlemen of Scotland fall out' being given, followed by those who were going to form the new Scottish Army marching off to the sound of 'Hieland Laddie' ... but that is not going to happen now.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nundanket,

    London not very English? Well, there are times when it seems very cosmopolitan when compared to other English cities. I understand that if the number of speakers of French in London are counted, it has a greater French population than all but the largest five or six French cities.

    I am hoping that the debate about the devolution of political power, funding, and spending to all the component parts of the UK will lead to the development of a federal UK, where people feel that they have a real say in the government of their locale.

    Westminster could be the location of the bicameral federal parliament, with regional/national assemblies situated in places such as Edinburgh, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, York etc. the former would deal with national issues (e.g. defence, foreign relations, the EU) and the latter regional matters (e.g. education, local policing, health services).

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  11. As a Scots/Irish decedent, I'm glad the way the vote turned out. However, never having been to Scotland makes my opinion without substance.

    If Westminster seems remote to many Britons, on this side of the pond, Washington DC feels like it’s in another solar system.

    Thank you for the rational discussion of a not always rational situation (thats politics in general I’m referring to).

    ReplyDelete
  12. Apart from any cultural or geographic differences that people in these islands perceive there is also a strong feeling all over the UK that the political elite of the major parties are removed from the reality of everyday life. Someone in Essex is as likely to feel that as someone in the Highlands. But taking the long view that has been the case throughout most of history.

    ReplyDelete
  13. William Stewart,

    Thanks for you comment. I always try to be even handed when discussing politics.

    It was certainly the decision that I had hoped for. I think the UK would have been diminished without Scotland ... and Scotland would have found independence far more costly than they expected.

    Having seen the TV news whilst I was in the US, I was struck by how little coverage of national rather than local news there was, which would seem to indicate that Washington and what happened there was more than a little remote to the average citizen.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  14. Alan Charlesworth,

    Very true!

    I have long been of the opinion that the majority of people who want to be elected to be a Member of Parliament should be automatically banned from standing! The political party system is also a major contributor to the problem of alienation of the electorate from the elected.

    Whatever happened to the independent (and independently-minded) MPs that used to sit in Parliament?

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  15. Divided you fall. Watch a movie like Braveheart and you start to feel for the Scottish independence but England and Scotland have been united a long time and have shared in making the greatest empire in history, consequently having the biggest influence on the modern world.

    Britain still is a highly influential and powerful country for good in the world. There are new threats from barbarism in the Middle East and Britain needs to face those threats united.

    As far as I am concerned, and despite the Irish Catholic part of my ancestry I would have been happy for Australia to have been more closely linked to Britain, if it wasn't that Australians coming to Britain became subject to the same rules as foreigners.

    Britain is a champion of the individual, freedom and even eccentricity. It shared the Westminster system and rule of law with many countries. It should stay united.

    ReplyDelete
  16. James O'Connell,

    I agree with everything that you have written ... especially the bit about Britain's relationship with Australia. It is regrettable that the Commonwealth was never developed into a proper political and economic union of equals. Such a worldwide organisation would have been something worth belonging to.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  17. Evening Bob,
    I only wish the Salmond had got his way, because the new country would have torn itself apart in a matter of years, and the Scots would have realised just how lucky they were. The one thing I have noticed about the old kingdom of Scotland was just how much they hated each other,the so called wars of Independence were more than a war against the English, but also a very nasty civil war.
    I currently work between England and Scotland,and one of the major concerns for my organisation is the steady rise of sectarian violence rearing its ugly head again in the Glasgow area.If there had been a yes vote, the Scots would no longer have been able to gripe about the English, well not as much. No doubt they would have turned their spite against the people of Edinburgh or other people, who are viewed as not being that Scottish.
    No doubt there will be more violence tonight as the Nats look for the 'traitors'who had the courage to save the union.
    Thanks Robbie.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Robbie Rodiss,

    You have articulated what I feared might happen had the 'Yes' campaign won the referendum. The 2011 census indicated that only 83% of the current population of Scotland was actually born there; it follows, therefore, that 17% of the population are not Scots ... and I did have - and still do have - concerns that some of the more hotheaded 'Yes' supporters might have taken out their frustrations on them.

    I know that there have been sectarian tensions within Scotland for a long time, and I doubt that the recent support given to the 'No' campaign by the Orange Order has helped improve matters at all.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  19. Also having no horse whatsoever in the race, I was glad to see the Union preserved. Increased regional autonomy is still a worthwhile goal, but the more we fragment ourselves the less we will accomplish in the long run towards promoting the greater good of all peoples, as opposed to our own narrow self interest.

    I think the citizens of most nations have become somewhat disillusioned with their representatives. The Ancient Greeks chose their representatives by lot - that is starting to seem like an attractive option at times!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Gonsalvo,

    The problem with the UK is the number of levels of government that are all supposed to enable some degree of local control ... and then don't seem to be coordinated.

    Education - an area that I used to work in - is a good case in point. My borough operated a non-selective post-11 education system of comprehensive schools whereas the next door borough had selection and a mixture of grammar, technical, and comprehensive schools. National government then introduced the concept of 'free' schools (schools that were outside of any local government control) and academies. The latter were supposedly non-selective schools run by 'charitable' organisations ... many of which were set up as not-for-profit companies. As a result of this we have an education system which has a mixture of local and non-local control with different types of school that are supposedly providing the same basic education but that most parents didn't understand ... and people wonder why it does not seem to be doing as well as it should.

    If the UK was split up into regions with about 5 to 10 million people in each region, each region would be large enough to have the ability to meet regional needs and the power to enforce their educational, policing, health care, and transport policies. National government could then concentrate upon national issues whilst sub-regions (with a population of approximately 250.000 per sub-region) could deal with purely local matters.

    Should the UK's politician be selected by lot? Well we would end up with a greater mixture of talents and points-of-view than the current ragbag of non-entities exhibit ... and that would be no bad thing.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete