Monday, November 27, 2006
Labour's Devolution Strategy in Danger of Unravelling?
After uncertain starts both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have become established if not warmly accepted by their respective countries. But the trouble with democracy is that eventually opposition parties tend to gather support and win elections. For years it seemed that neither national constituencies favoured independence and supporters of the union hoped it would become one of those formal shibboleths that meant little in practice, like Labour's Clause Four for example. When nationalist results seemed to indicate falling support at the last set of elections in 2003, some commentatotors concluded Labour's ploy of emasculating their appeal had succeeded. It had, but only for a while.
Recent polls show over half of Scots voters(52%) want independence and a real possibility exists of the SNP winning power in May 2007. What would they do next? It is unlikely they will sit on their hands and do nothing; we have to assume they mean what they say. A referendum would reveal how willing voters are north of the border to cast themselves adrift from England and Westminster and join the smaller nations of the EU. It would be a huge gamble for them as they currently receive a £10bn public spending surplus- courtesy of the ancient Barnett Formula- compared with England.
Unsurprisingly, this disproportionate distribution is one of the reasons why 59% of English voters also favour independence for Scotland. Yes, the unthinkable has become the thinkable and both Brown and Blair are seriously worried. They are right to be alarmed as England voted narrowly more Conservative than Labour at the last election. Scottish Labour seats are vital if Labour is to remain in power after 2009. Meawhile the Conservatives, lacking Scottish support and keener on exploiting English dissatisfactions with Scotland's extra handouts, are not too worried. Hence we saw Brown and Blair lashing out at the SNP at Labour's Oban conference over the weekend. Labour's smooth solution to the famously intractable devolution issue always seemed a bit too good to be true. Some critics said Labour had not thought it through properly; recent developments suggest those critics might have been right.
Thanks, useful comment that. I'm lecturing on Devolution on Friday so will add your qualifying points.
I have been at work and in events this evening so have not had time to check said point (c), but I'll get back to you on it. I genuinely don't know about that, do you? what is the constitutional power to secede?
I do hope you don't add my qualifying comments, as I'm just a lowly PPE grad on a year out before begging for MPhil status, with a geeky interest in constitutional stuff.
its hard being a constitutional geek and getting asked stuff you dont know about it, so I really would appreciate any copy you have of the lecture (since I'm in LDn I can hradly attend).
what do you think of the english democratic party? tom watson's blog (http://www.tom-watson.com) mentions them. I'm in agreement with bogdanor on the idea of an english parliament - it would break up the union and is largely unnecessary.
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