They had me scared for a while but in the end, the Scottish referendum on independence went exactly as I could have hoped. The thought of breaking up such an important relationship as the United Kingdom would be heartbreaking, but it was clear that we live in a vastly unfair society. Just ask anyone Up North or in Scotland about it and it wouldn’t take long for London to be mentioned, just before the spitting begins.
I wanted people to yell loudly (and preferably with a thick Scottish accent) that inequality of investment and power needs to change and that if it doesn’t, they’ll start walking; that’s what Scotland did. You see, it seemed that this was an emotional debate where people simply didn’t want any more of a self-interested Westminster government (or the Government Of London And Its Surrounding Territories as you might call it) and the half-arsed botch job that is our constitutional system.
Yet Scotland stayed, but only by a hair.
Apparently 55% of the country voted ‘no’ to independence. That’s 6% in the right direction and exactly what you could hope for. After all – can you imagine the impact that a landslide ‘no’ would have had? None. Westminster would have simply done what it’s done for the last 300-odd years and simply carried on as usual, force feeding London with Britain’s cash and leaving people to grumble over their breakfast for another 300 years. I wanted unionists to win by a hair and for Westminster to feel like they’ve survived only by the skin of their teeth, shaking them up and giving power to the voices that want to make a change that would have been impossible in the previous malaise.
There’s still the threat of going back to ‘business as usual’ of course, we are British after all and would love nothing more than to stop the boat from rocking. Our nerves just can’t take it. So the fight is on now more than ever to try to make sure that we do everything we can to take advantage of such a unique moment in our history and make some changes for the better to better the lives of people for generations to come.
My pie in the sky wish would be for a formal setup of three equally powerful governments in Britain – the Welsh Assembly would become the Welsh Parliament, Scotland would retain its Parliament and England would have a Parliament all of its own for the first time (preferably in Sheffield or even York if you’re feeling historical). Westminster could continue as the ultimate governing body but it focuses on foreign policy and ‘bigger picture’ economics, whereas each country has highly devolved powers. The key is that they are EQUAL powers. Of course, that’s crazy talk but hey, we almost lost SCOTLAND for goodness sake. If we can table any crazy ideas, now would be the time.
It’s a good time for all of us to think about our future and it feels good when we do. If Alex Salmond and the ‘yes’ campaign taught me anything, it’s that a positive message can go a long way (turning an impossible dream into a 45% margin of support and bringing major cities like Glasgow to your side). But there’s still something that makes this bittersweet. A landslide would have indicated a united Scotland, whatever way it went. A close call would only leave Scotland more divided than ever before. The English seemed hurt on many levels and for many reasons as centuries of grievances crystallised into hard-to-stomach truisms. I can’t help but feel like more devolved powers cannot make up for what Scotland has suffered and, like always, Scotland has been the victim of these politics.
Like I said, the referendum went exactly as I could have hoped…I suppose.
Edit: David Cameron delivered an interesting speech this morning that actually makes me feel a little less crazy. (I do feel a little bit dirty for having similar ideas to David Cameron though but we’ll move on from that.) Check this out:
“Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs.
“The rights of these voters need to be respected, preserved and enhanced as well.
“It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of our United Kingdom.
“In Wales, there are proposals to give the Welsh Government and Assembly more powers.
“And I want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on how to make our United Kingdom work for all our nations.
“In Northern Ireland, we must work to ensure that the devolved institutions function effectively.
“I have long believed that a crucial part missing from this national discussion is England.
“We have heard the voice of Scotland – and now the millions of voices of England must also be heard.
“The question of English votes for English laws – the so-called West Lothian question -requires a decisive answer.
“So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland.
“I hope that is going to take place on a cross-party basis. I have asked William Hague to draw up these plans.”
All it needs now is an English parliament physically separate to Westminster (and to not be an empty promise) and BOOM! We have progress.