We must fix our broken devolution or this union is over

John Campbell says our constitutional crisis can only end once we deliver devolution across the whole of the United Kingdom.

 

There is a constitutional crisis within the UK. But it’s not due to the amount of power Scotland has as a devolved nation. The crisis is due to the imbalance of power which exists across the UK as a whole. Scotland has many devolved powers, the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies a little less, and England none at all. We cannot possibly expect constitutional stability without setting the scales straight.

The solution to saving the Union lies within the Union as a whole – not within just one component part. Attempting to quell nationalism whilst working exclusively within Scotland is like trying to mend a broken watch whilst restricting yourself to alter only one component part, whether that’s the broken bit or not. It goes beyond impractical – it’s impossible.

In my last article I made it clear that Scotland was sleepwalking into separation, and over the past month that walk has turned into a sprint. Every day, Scots turn on their television to see the day’s news from Westminster. A doctor’s strike which doesn’t affect them. The expansion of school academies which don’t affect them. And it will soon be debates about tax which won’t affect them. This lack of distinction of “what issue is whose” is the reason the SNP have managed to gain so much traction in meddling with reserved matters, most acutely Scotland’s place in the EU since the referendum. It is no wonder why ordinary Scots have started to view nationalism as the next logical step.

Decisions about our towns and cities should be made in those local authorities. Decisions about Scotland should be made in Scotland. Decisions about England should be made in England. And decisions about the UK – as a whole – should be made within the UK. Establishing devolutions of equal strength will allow each nation to bring relevance and accountability back to our democracy.

Devolution for each of the UK’s nations is the only way in which we can come together and sit in Westminster as representatives of equal power, equal interest and equal relevance. Every debate in the House of Commons should be of equal relevance to all people in Britain and each constituent part. That’s how we’ll make the Union work. That is what will make Britain the best country on earth.

Third world development. Defence. The Bank of England. Let these be the issues of the Westminster news. Let it be for our shared cause that we walk with understanding and pride to the General Election ballot box. Let it be the agenda of the United Kingdom – in which all British citizens play an equal part – be the news of the day.

Some criticise Westminster for being too England-centric, but no wonder. Because of the mess we have blindly created, the English are forced to use Westminster as their own parliament as well as the UK’s. This situation is unsustainable.

There is a real cost to Scotland’s saga of constitutional crisis. And that is the fact that for years now we have been talking and acting upon almost nothing else. Schools, Police Scotland, and the NHS have under the SNP managed to build up an impressive portfolio of broken promises and incompetence. Unless we change this, it will either remain the same, or lead to independence within the next five years. Any person claiming to be happy with this current arrangement is a rare breed, and has a hard case to fight for it being in line with the ambitions of the Labour movement.

The Labour Party did not create change by waiting for the next election or opinion poll. It led. And everything our movement is about can only be done by leading, arguing and winning the Union. I want to see this come from both party leaders – whoever they may be – north and south of the border.

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10 thoughts on “We must fix our broken devolution or this union is over

  1. ” Scotland has many devolved powers, the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies a little less, and England none at all.”
    I stopped reading right there because England has always had all the de facto powers of an independent state.

  2. “John Campbell says our constitutional crisis can only end once we deliver devolution across the whole of the United Kingdom.”

    Why have cotton when you can have silk? Why limit your ambitions to lesser Devolution when you can have full Independence?

    Whats so great about limiting the powers and funding to a Parliament when you can have a fully funded fully functional Parliament?

    What is this desire within unionists to be less rather than more?

  3. “In my last article I made it clear that Scotland was sleepwalking into separation”

    You didn’t make anything clear. Scotland isn’t sleepwalking its actually waking up from a 309 year self induced hibernation.

    “Attempting to quell nationalism whilst working exclusively within Scotland is like trying to mend a broken watch whilst restricting yourself to alter only one component part, whether that’s the broken bit or not. It goes beyond impractical – it’s impossible.”

    Attempting to pretend its Nationalism you want to quell and not self determination and National autonomy is perhaps why people don’t view your writing as anything worth responding positively to.

    “A doctor’s strike which doesn’t affect them. The expansion of school academies which don’t affect them. And it will soon be debates about tax which won’t affect them.”

    See this is really confusing. You seem to be saying and correct me if I’m wrong that you want problems from outside of Scotland to affect Scotland directly.

    Do you want Scotland to suffer because somebody else is?

    “This lack of distinction of “what issue is whose” is the reason the SNP have managed to gain so much traction”

    Of course it is! Its referred to as lack of self determination and lack of autonomy! Hells teeth who are you again?

    “is the reason the SNP have managed to gain so much traction in meddling with reserved matters, most acutely Scotland’s place in the EU since the referendum.”

    A Scottish Government that doesn’t respond in any way to matters which directly affect Scotland is not a Scottish Government any Scot should want in place its not a Government at all it would be a puppet regime.

    “It is no wonder why ordinary Scots have started to view nationalism as the next logical step.”

    Not Nationalism but self determination and autonomy. Its Nationalism we are trying to get away from. The kind of blood and soil Nationalism which wants Devolved authorities to be puppet regimes to serve a central authority.

    “Decisions about Scotland should be made in Scotland.”

    WTF? You’ve just referred to that principle as “Nationalism”! and “Sleepwalking”! Jesus H Christ are you for real?

    “And decisions about the UK – as a whole – should be made within the UK.”

    FFS! You cant have “Decisions about Scotland should be made in Scotland.” “Decisions about England should be made in England” AND “And decisions about the UK – as a whole – should be made within the UK.”

    Its one or the other not BOTH!

    I gave up after this.

    I have read some articles on here which frankly make me want to question the sanity of the author but this one doesn’t.

    There is no question as to the insanity of its author.

  4. Reasonable enough viewpoint though not one I share. And then you had to ruin it with your last two paragraphs. “SNP bad, Labour the way forward”. Predictable rubbish.

    By the way I think our schools and NHS are brilliant. I’m the father of two primary aged children and have extensive recent experience of both. I’ve had no direct experience with the polis but see that crime is noticeably down. |The can’t be doing too badly?

  5. John – you are right that the union isn’t working as it stands. The main reason is simply the huge population difference, and the democratic deficit that creates in Scotland.

    But the answer isn’t more devolution – it is a new type of union.
    A confederation of 4 equal nations, with only the bare essentials held at UK level.
    A common currency zone, a fiscal balancing mechanism, a British army, and various other common interests sensible to hold at that level.

    Labour has the chance to take the lead here, and a English Parliament would be a massive vote winner for Labour in England. They need bold policies to find a way back in an increasingly right wing and nationalist country.

    The alternative is full independence for Scotland – which I would vote for as well as many other Labour supporters if there is no worthwhile alternative in sight.

  6. Interesting – but the problem is that there seems to be little demand for an English Parliament. Until there is, it’s hard to see a solution which will avoid the dreaded “Indyref2”.

    1. There might not be any demand for an English parliament among the British establishment, but the English voters would snap your hand off for one if they ever held a referendum down here like the one that was held in Scotland in 1997. That’s why they don’t intend to offer us a referendum at any point in the foreseeable future. Too many people in the Wastemonster/Shitehall village would lose their privileged positions.

  7. The most impressive portfolio of broken promises I’ve read is the Wee Black Book.

    What a shame, though. Very good point to be made about asymmetrical devolution and how some of the English outside London feel they have less democracy than the “non-English”(for lack of a better collective term) regions of the UK. Unfortunately, all you can harp on about is SNP Bad. In the process, undermining the proposal for an English Parliament. Why should one be created, if the Scottish Experiment is considered a failure and a Bad Thing?

    Anyway, I think the real problem with British democracy is Westminister. 37% of the votes and 51% of the seats. Indeed, had an English Parliament been created at the same time as the others, I suspect the UK might have flown apart even faster, particularly if the EP was set up with the same modified d’Hondt system as Scotland.

    You see, the beauty of the List system is it practically guarantees a voter’s vote will go towards an elected representative. If they don’t get the constituency MP they wanted, their choice will probably get a List seat. Thus, they have someone in parliament they voted for and feel they can write to. At the Holyrood vote of 2011, less than 3% of votes went to parties that never got any seats. Over 85% of voters can say they elected someone. Under FPTP, between 40 to 75% of any given constituency’s voters don’t get a representative they voted for – even in the seat with the biggest majority(Knowsley, 78% LAB), there is still 22% who voted for somebody else.

    It’s the same problem(on steroids) with the argument for replacing the Lords with a proportionately-elected senate. At some point, the more democratic institute(s) will conflict with the primacy of the Commons. At least with a British Senate, the Premiership could be shifted over to whoever commands a majority of Senators – not an option when the challenger is an English First Minister who’d won a system-breaking majority in a system rigged to prevent those, potentially working with three other First Ministers to undermine or even bypass the PM/Commons and engineer a Czechoslovakia-style mutually amicable divorce.

    I have no personal opposition to a Senate-led UK Parliament or an English Parliament – but I suspect the crooks in the Commons might have a few issues and the cronies in the Lords definitely would. Either way, it creates the conditions for another constitutional crisis down the line and it might be better to address that up front.

  8. What incredible waffle.
    Our English neighbours don’t want an English Parliament—they already have one, with a vast English majority and a whipping system to keep the rest in line.
    Our English neighbours know the Lords could have been abolished or reformed, decades ago under Labour, Tory and coalition governments—-it never was.

    The “powers that be” in the UK all reside in London. They are quite content with an English Parliament there; a BBC and other media reflecting their views, based there; all Big Business based there; all finance and banking based there. This includes the historic and present leadership of Labour.

    If you think this is “democracy”, keep voting Labour/Tory/Lib Dumb—oh, not forgetting UKIP, perhaps soon to be England’s Official Opposition ( though they are also a shambles).

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