Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Scottish Question

Lots of discussion about the future of the United Kingdom. Mr Alex Salmond tells us he believes that after 300 years, the UK should cease to exist. This is a very big issue for all the people of the UK, and its reassuring to me that we are now engaging with it seriously - and have decided to settle the question by asking the Scottish people whether they want to break from the UK. While I believe this is a matter of legitimate concern to all UK citizens, I accept that it will be decided by Scottish voters alone. Cannot see a practical way around that.

Personally, I do not mind much about the date of the referendum. My contrarian view of the world tells me that if its held in association with the 700th anniversary of Banockburn, it will look cynical, and backfire against those who played the 'cynicism' card. I also feel it should be held on the current voting register, and not extended to 16-18 year olds. Again, such a move would look cynical. But I do care about the question. Or rather that there should be just one question, involving two options. I do not believe in 'preferendums', which are usually advocated by those who are afraid to trust the people. "Do you want Scotland to withdraw from the United Kingdom, and become an independent state - Yes or No" ? That'll do. And the referendum should be binding. If the Scottish people do say Yes, immediate steps should be taken to give effect to the result. No idea what will be agreed, so at present, this is just my personal best guess.

Appeared on Sunday Supplement for a 10 minute chat about it with Paul Murphy this morning. Bethan seemed to want us to talk about the position of Wales, post a Yes vote. Since I do not believe there will be one, it was all a bit hypothetical. Must admit I find it difficult to consider seriously something that's not going to happen. Never been much good at 'What ifs'. Life's too short! But Paul did say he was in favour of an English Parliament - and regional assemblies. The only plus of this huge increase in the number of politicians is that they would be great job creation schemes! Actually, I don't support either of these developments. I simply do not believe its possible to have a workable 'federal UK' with one partner as dominant as would be England. Even if we were to have English MPs dealing with 'England only' issues on a Friday, I don't think it would work. (E.g. my constituents health issues are dealt with by the NHS in England). And regional assemblies would do nothing worthwhile - and both cost and confuse. But I see that the BBC has given Paul's comments a lot of coverage.

The Scottish Question is not new. What is new is that Scotland has a First Minister who wants to withdraw his country from the UK for the first time. And he's a charismatic politician, with an attractive way with words, who slides away from serious discussion like a tickled trout. But in England this 'cheekie chappie' image is beginning to look like smugness, and arrogance. The English are beginning to ask whether they really should be putting up with this - and that they might be better off without the Scots. The English are wrong about this. Alex Salmond will over-reach (he may have done already), and he will not be there for ever. I fully expect him to be replaced by someone who wants to work within the UK, so that together, the nations that make up the UK can continue to achieve more than if we travel down the path of separation.


Anonymous said...

Any guesses on what the Yes vote % will be? close, high or low?

And crucially - how have you done predicting other referendums?

Personally, I think the timing is crucial. Whether you like it or not "events" do effect people (see death of diana in Wales).

FloTom said...

What about the English question?

If Scotland does decide to become an Independent nation who will negotiate for England?

British MP's who have for decades ignored England?

Or maybe a British Prime Minister David Camoron" I don't want to be Prime Minister of England."

Only an English Parliament properly elected will have the democratic legitimacy to do so.

Time for an English Parliament now so England can be properly represented.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - My record is pretty good. I thought the March 2011 referendum on law making powers for the Welsh Assembly would be a walkover, as I did the AV referendum - when media was trying to generate interest by suggesting it would be close. As long as its an In/Out and its binding, I reckon easy victory for the 'Union'. Only danger is over-reaction South of Hadrian's Wall in response to Alex salmond baiting. But its clear that Michael Moore/David Cameron/Nick Clegg are aware of that.

FloTom - I do no think that Westminster MPs ignore England, or ever have done. I accept there is a logic of a 'federal' solution to the English Question (some respected friends argue this) but I just do not think its needed. The current (albeit imperfect) system is best - in my opinion that is. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one!

MH said...

I think you've misrepresented what Paul Murphy said, Glyn. He did not say he was in favour of an English Parliament. He said that Westminster is already, in effect, an English Parliament ... but that devolution to the English regions might be considered again.

There's all the difference in the world between devolution to England as a nation and devolution to the English regions without England itself having any political identity.

Chris Menzies said...

But both Cameron and Salmond want to fight the referendum on the Local Election Registe not the Westminster one

So in a close-run fight, the future of the UK may depended on some 20,000 voters who we would not trust to vote for our Government but we allow to vote on the unity of this nation

Glyn Davies said...

MH - If I had time I'd listen to Paul's comments again. Would never want to misrepresent him. Easy to pick up a comment incorrectly in a remate studio. I, too think that the UK Parliament effetively does serve as an English Parliament. This is imperfect, but I think that the pronciple of 'English Votes for Englisg Laws' would be very difficult to operate. Anyway, where I did disagree was the establishment of regional assemblies. No objection to some form of regional cooperation, based on local government but not the full works.

Chris - Yes, but I still think the 'Union' will win by a mile.

FloTom said...

Paul Murphy is a fool. British MP's no matter which Home Nation they are from are elected to a British Parliament to serve the interests of the British State NOT England Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland as countries.

Only English MP's elected to an English Parliament would represent the interests of England.

In the same way that Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland elect members to their Parliament or Assemblies.

Murphy's comments are typical of Labour. The only answer they have is the dismemberment of England. It has already been rejected.

England wants equality with the other Home Nations and its own Parliament as EVERY poll on this issue shows.

Westminster can only hold out against English opinion for so long before destroying the Union British MP's say they want to preserve.

Jeff Jones said...

Again we have a weekend with politicians called upon to make instant statements and judgements on an issue. The right approach would be to see what will happen when a referendum is held in Scotland. Even if there is a yes vote ( and I don't believe that there will be) there would still have to be a process of really complex negotiations on the practical issues surrounding any separation. Those negotiations would have to be approved by both Parliaments as the original union was in the 18th century . I agree with you Glyn that federation is a non starter. There is also no evidence of any support in England for regional government. Those who use the USA as an example should as I said to a journalist friend of mine this weekend at least have some knowledge of US history. Until at least the Civil war many Americans supported the idea of Jefferson that the USA consisted of a number of sovereign states who had come together in a federation and could leave that federation if they wanted to. Hence the idea that each of these sovereign states should have equal representation in the Senate. Jefferson and other Republicans who opposed Federalists such as Hamilton wanted the central government to be reponsible for as little as possible. I'm afraid what we are now seeing are the consequences of a devolution based on nationalism with a small n rather than good governance. The First Minister in the past has often stated that he is opposed to any tax raising powers for the Assembly. What could now happen in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum is a drive for devo max for all the devolved administrations. This might suit many in Scotland but could cause major problems for both Wales and Northern Ireland. Before making off the cuff statements about issues perhaps some polticians should remember the law of unintended conequences.

Anonymous said...

Not quite on point, but...

Welsh Government achieves the unenviable 'goal' of back-to-back zip Welsh universities in the top 100 world university rankings for 2011/12 whereas Scotland has three (Edinburgh, Glasgow and St. Andrews). Same ‘goal’ achieved in 2010/11.

Anonymous said...

Just a two factual corrections for you Glyn : (a) The United Kingdom was 200 years old not 300. The last Act of Union was 1801 and incorporated Ireland. It was of course revoked in 1920 will a home rule bill which gave us the current set up. (b) No constituent countries 'ceased to exist', they carried on with elected democracy. Just one question for you Glyn : Why is political the philosophy of the Conservative Party only applicable to nations joined together, and cannot be as applicable in independent states?