Bill Nichols

15 September 2014

Bill Nichols

Devolution for All

018 – 15 September 2014

It’s almost done (the independence debate).  But (devolution) far from dusted.

If the ‘No’ camp scrapes home on Thursday, it is critical that the UK’s citizens have the opportunity at the next General Election to press a long overdue ‘reset’ button. And to create a balanced federal constitution and devolution settlement for this united kingdom’s nations and regions.

Most of us did not vote for, or support, the inept, illogical 1997 devolution settlement which led inexorably to today’s situation.  A classic case of the ‘Lonminster Elite’ peeping out from its bubble and, under pressure, handing out ‘sweeties’.

None of us voted for Gordon Brown’s new ‘devo-max’ offer to the Scots.  More sweeties like a panicked parent.  And I’ll wager that few support the ‘sweeties to the major cities’ proposal by deputy PM, Nick Clegg.  (PS Nick: check the preamble to your party’s constitution.  It commits to “a democratic federal framework within which as much power as feasible is exercised by the nations and regions of the United Kingdom”.)  .

Yet we must all live with the consequences of these foolish interventions.  If ‘yes’ massive political and economic disruption over months and years. If ‘no’ – and Lonminster is left to its own devices we will suffer a byzantine muddled settlement.  Substitute ‘Any Small Town in England’ for Tam Dalyell’s still-unanswered 1977 ‘West Lothian’  question.   Call it – in tribute to my home – the ‘Farnham Question’.

Instead???  A new federal constitution will re-set things nicely.  Standard devo-max for say 10 equally balanced nations and regions (including Greater London – first minister, Boris Johnson?). It will  give us all an equal say, stimulate regional economies and provide the Scots with eight potential buddies next time Lonminster gets out of hand.   It will allow very divergent approaches to flourish (check out the US) if that’s what the voters want.  And it will also provide a logical basis upon which to reform the House of Lords as a working federal senate.

PR aficionados, meanwhile, win out whatever happens.  What a wonderful case-study!  Narrative (yes) vs. Messaging (no).  Careful planning – a repeat of the last Scottish election manoeuvre by Salmond,  undoubtedly the finest politician of his generation (not a compliment) – and apparently none.  Did Darling & Co undertake any scenario planning? Heigh ho.

-ends-