The Scottish elephant in the Westminster room

Blog #1

It seems to me that most of us south of the border are only gradually recognising the phenomenal importance of the Scottish referendum which is now just weeks away. Few Londoners seem have got beyond the traditional ribald responses (there are several, all demeaning to the Scots of course) and really started to think things through. That the serious media (if we have any left) and political parties have failed to provide a serious analysis is extraordinary and lamentable, as they concentrate on the cut and thrust of popular appeal rather than the substantive impact the decision will have on the population as a whole. I think the referendum result will have a major impact on the next election – and could be the most important single issue – and yet our leaders have breathed not a word about their post-referendum policies.

A YES vote will mean huge decisions for a new UK (or whatever we all it) government. The negotiating stance would be a crucial issue to address, not to mention the status of Scottish MPs elected in May 2015. Are we to assume Labour, Tory and Lib Dem policies on approaching these negotiations will be identical? It seems unlikely to me; rather it look like a huge can of worms and then some.

Then there is the Tory obsession with leaving Europe. Leaving the EU and being confident of holding our own as the European nation with the second highest GDP is one thing; but lose Scotland and leave the EU in the same timeframe? This seems to me a different proposition altogether. I personally can’t see how the Tory promise on delivering a referendum on the EU could be meaningfully enacted if Scotland vote to leave the Union. Imagine an independent Scotland being able to stay in the EU as the rest of the UK plans to pull out....

Do we really know what the Labour and Tory policies are on Defence in the reduced UK? Energy policy (without Scottish oil, surely fracking becomes a necessity), fishing and food policies and what is the status of Scots in the UK rump if they are not in the EU? Benefits, costs of education the NHS?

And if Scotland does leave the Union, what about local democracy in England? Wales and Northern Ireland will have independent legislatures outside of Westminster, and to some extent so will London, leaving a huge gap in democratic accountability in the rest of England. But even with a NO vote, this democratic deficiency will be hard to put to bed again. Given that the Scots will inevitably have an enhanced local settlement, the argument for a federal structure, with government located in the four countries (and possibly London as well) with Westminster given a purely UK wide focus surely has the force at this point?

The result of the Scottish referendum will affect the rest of the UK in terms of its relationship with the Europe & NATO, its economy, its local democracy and, quite frankly hundreds of other issues. While the political classes simply hope it never happens, I think there will be implications even after a NO vote. With less than a year now to the UK General elections, I would like to see some recognition from the Westminster parties that the Scots matter and the votes will affect the next Westminster election in many ways. Quite how they can continue to talk about the May 2015 election without ever referring to the Scots is a total mystery to me.


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