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.