By in Politics

The Scotland vote changes everything!

A Vote for 'No Change' Changes Everything!

Scotland voted 55/45 to reject independence and remain part of the United Kingdom along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, Alex Salmond conceded defeat and said that the matter was settled for generations to come. You'd think that would be the end of political wrangling and Scotland and the rest of the UK could now go back to normal. Oh no, the vote last night was not the beginning of the end, it was not even the end of the beginning. Now the real "fun" begins.

The Federal Genie is out of the Bottle

Because the vote looked to be so close over the last week or so, the leaders of the leaders of the 3 main parties in England- Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat all pledged that in the event of a No vote they would rush through legislation to give Scotland more powers (known as Devo Max). These powers would include increased discretion over tax and spend. Sounds fine but it raises important questions:-

- If Scotland has more independent power- why shouldn't Wales, Northern Ireland and England?

- Scotland, Wales. England and Northern Ireland are allocated monies based on the Barnett formula. This is an attempt to ensure that the different countries get a fair share of government spending based on need in each country- but it's accepted that Scotland gets more than its fair share because it generates huge tax revenues via its oil reserves. When Scotland gets more powers to raise taxes, the other countries will demand that the Barnett formula is reworked or scrapped.

- The most complex question is what has become known as the West Lothian problem. We elect a UK government but Scottish MP's vote on matters such as education and health in England and the devolved Scottish Parliament votes on those matters in Scotland. The West Lothian question is- why should a Scottish MP elected to represent the West Lothian constituency in Scotland vote on matters that purely relate to England? It's entirely possible (and quite likely) that if Labour win the next election, they will have a majority in Scotland and Wales but be slightly outnumbered in England. If Scottish MP's are not allowed to vote on English matters- like health and education, you could have the situation where a properly elected Labour government. with a majority for the whole of UK, had no say on England's health and education policy (Conservatives have a majority) and no say, either, for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as power has been devolved to them. If the elected UK government has no say on health and education (and many other areas), is it not a lame duck?

Politicians have wrestled with these questions since 1979 when the Scottish parliament was first set up- they have always been pushed into the long grass as too difficult to resolve.

We've Got Weeks to Sort This Constitutional Mess Out!

These questions are divisive. There is no agreement even within the three main parties. Then there are the views of the Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalists) and Northern Ireland politicians to be taken into account. These questions are about the division of power and money. The sort of problems that take years or decades to resolve BUT David Cameron and the other main leaders have promised the Scottish people to resolve them BEFORE the next General Election in May 2015. I know that necessity is the mother of invention, and a deadline induces urgency (nothing concentrates a man's mind more than the the prospect of being hanged in the morning- Samuel Johnson), and where there's a will there's a way, but I'm dreading months of political wrangling followed by a highly acrimonious General Election campaign. It'll make the Scottish Independence vote look like a walk in the park.

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melody23 wrote on September 19, 2014, 7:21 AM

There absolutely has to be change, but I am very glad I am not one of the ones trying to work out how that will happen

suffolkjason wrote on September 19, 2014, 8:14 AM

The Westminster politicians are panicking. They realize they've made the promises with a timetable to the Scottish but know they don't have time. Let the blame game begin!

aolo wrote on September 19, 2014, 10:23 AM

politics to take its toll now with blames being thrown haphazardly....

MegL wrote on September 19, 2014, 10:52 AM

A very clear exposition of the problem!

Feisty56 wrote on September 19, 2014, 1:03 PM

And I thought the American political scene was complicated! I was following everything you said here right up to the speculation about the Labour party becoming a majority. How in the world do you folks keep this all in your heads?

AliCanary wrote on September 19, 2014, 1:03 PM

What's that weird noise I hear? Och, it's William Wallace, spinning in his grave. He's a wee bit fashed, I reckon.

melody23 wrote on September 19, 2014, 1:09 PM

And we havent even started talking about the voting system, first past the post in Scotland vs proportional representation in Westminster. I have an advantage because I studied politics briefly, but the honest answer is most people have no idea how any of this stuff works, its rarely taught in schools and therefore people moan about a broken system that they don't understand because no one ever tried to teach them.

Feisty56 wrote on September 19, 2014, 1:23 PM

They don't teach government classes there? Here, American Government is a required course before one can graduate high school.

melody23 wrote on September 19, 2014, 1:33 PM

Nope, there is a class called modern studies which covers politics but most schools only offer it as an option after 3rd year in high school its not mandatory, usually you have to pick between history, geography and modern studies. (in Scotland anyway) I went to primary school with a lot of American kids (American navy base nearby) and there was a huge difference between what they knew and what we did when it came to things like history and even a little bit of politics even at that age. most of the Scottish kids were probably lucky if they could tell you what their flag was called but the American kids could tell you what theirs was called, how many stars and stripes there were and sing the national anthem that sort of thing. In our defence we do technically have three different flags to learn though lol

suffolkjason wrote on September 19, 2014, 2:18 PM

I knew I hadn't quite explained that clearly. I think I have to use some numbers. For the whole of the UK there are 650 MP's (Members of Parliament) split between the four countries of the UK:-

England 533
Scotland 59
Wales 40
Northern Ireland 18

Total 650

So you need 326 (half of 650 + 1) to hold the majority and form a government. It's quite likely that Labour could get something like:-

England 260 MP's
Scotland 40 MP's
Wales 30 MP's
Northern Ireland zero MP's

Total 330 MP's

That would give them a majority and take them to power for the whole of the UK.

BUT- Scotland has been offered 'devolution maximum'- which would give the Scottish Parliament- considerable powers over tax, spend and benefits. Because Scotland has been offered this- Wales and Northern Ireland will demand something similar. The Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Ireland parliaments are elected separately from the main General Election. They tend to be won by local Nationalist Parties. So Labour would, most likely, have limited or no power in those 3 countries.

Now the English are saying- if the other 3 countries have all these powers then the English should as well. What's being proposed that these tax, spend and benefits questions for England should be voted on just by English MP's. If Labour have just 260 English MP's that's less than half of the total 533 English MP's- so they would not determine tax, spend and benefits in England. So you'd have Labour forming the UK government but unable to control tax, spend and benefits in any of the four countries of the UK.

That's clearly nonsense. One answer would be to have a separately elected English Parliament- like the other 3 countries- but England is far larger than the other 3 countries and London is very different to say the North-East of England. If we go down this route, I'd prefer to have 9 English regional Parliaments. That would make the regional parliaments similar in scale to those of Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland. It would create a federation of regions across the UK. So our 64 million population would be divided into 12 regions/countries of about 5 million each. Not a million miles away from the United States divided into 50 states (314 million/50 = about average 6 million per state).

All fine and dandy. But I've just scratched the surface- these are only my thoughts (I suspect there are hardly two politicians that agree on all these points) and this according to David Cameron will all be sorted before May 2015. That's nuts! It's not going to happen. We should give Scotland the extra powers promised and sort the rest of these issues AFTER May 2015's general election.

suffolkjason wrote on September 19, 2014, 2:21 PM

Can you imagine! emoticon :grin:

BarbRad wrote on September 19, 2014, 4:48 PM

Someday I'm going to do a man on the street survey to see how many Americans can even name the three branches of government and the two houses of Congress. I might even throw in a couple of harder questions on the Constitution. What students learn in American government largely depends upon who is teaching it and whether the students care.

BarbRad wrote on September 19, 2014, 4:50 PM

It's really neat to have people in both countries here to learn from. I posted this article link on Scrazzle.

Feisty56 wrote on September 19, 2014, 6:33 PM

Thank you...this I could follow, but would hope there won't be a pop quiz. I think you have the makings here of another post my friend. : )

JanetJenson wrote on September 20, 2014, 5:29 AM

Wow, and right in the midst of this, we see the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews finally, after 260 years, deciding that women are people and allowed to join their ranks, sort of, if they are rich enough and powerful enough women, that is. Whee.

suffolkjason wrote on September 20, 2014, 9:23 AM

I saw that- whatever next? I wonder when we'll move into the second-half of the twentieth century?

melody23 wrote on September 20, 2014, 12:50 PM

wouldn't that be nice!

LoudMan wrote on September 20, 2014, 8:22 PM

Well said Such fantastic work. Shared.