With almost 70 days to go until the Scottish independence referendum, the constant bombardment of propaganda, news and negative campaigning is only going to increase. Most of the fallout from the debate resides in Scotland but there has been a considerable amount of repercussions down south, most noticeably with the arguments for further devolution resurfacing. But what would all this mean?
On the 18th September Scots will give their answer to the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” If the result is ‘Yes’ then Scotland will leave the United Kingdom and further negotiations on currency, borders and the rest will continue between Edinburgh and Westminster, and Edinburgh and Brussels. However, if Scotland votes ‘No’ the devolved nation is guaranteed substantive new powers over tax through the Scotland Act 2012. But this is not the final stop on the devolution train; the three main Westminster parties all advocate further powers if Scotland votes no:
The Scottish Lib Dems offer a vision of a federal UK where powers are devolved downwards across the United Kingdom.
Scottish Labour’s devolution commission proposed that Holyrood should be able to vary income tax by 15p and have the power to increase the top rate, however, they said that the top rate should not be lowered in Scotland.
As for the Scottish Conservatives, contradicting Ruth Davidson’s original ‘line in the sand’ of the Scotland Act 2012, a recent commission chaired by Lord Strathclyde argues for new powers including having Holyrood raising 40% of the money it has to spend.
It seems that the Scottish referendum campaign has created some resentment in the south as Scotland is guaranteed more powers irrespective of the result. The UK is one of the world’s most centralised countries, which takes power away from local people making local decisions. As Scotland’s powers grow the rest of the UK must also have further powers devolved, whether that’s in creating an English parliament within a federal framework for the United Kingdom, or empowering the regions.
Recent comments by George Osborne and Ed Miliband support the idea of further devolution. But it is the Liberal Democrats, despite what the general population think of them, who offer a viable constitutional solution: federalism. This would allow Westminster to control issues such as pensions, defence, welfare and foreign affairs, whilst the nations/regions would have control over issues such as health and education, like the Scottish parliament currently does now. Many will cower at the word ‘federalism’, instantly associating it with the end-goal of hardcore Europhiles, particularly with Cameron’s recent Juncker debacle. However, federalism for Britain would allow us to pool our risks and resources like we do now, whilst accommodating for regional differences across the board.