The Scottish Referendum: What Now?

Referendum

By Raphaela Ashford

It was the biggest story in the news but a few weeks ago; on TV, all over the internet, even in Ms Jardine-Young’s prayers, but now it seems the Scottish referendum has been all but brushed under the carpet. However as the 2015 General Election approaches the implications of the ‘no’ vote must be called into question. If at this point you were thinking, “Err, I thought a no vote meant no change,” you were mistaken!

The inquiry into Scottish power could potentially lead to radical decentralisation of power throughout the United Kingdom. David Cameron during the referendum shamelessly promised “extensive powers”, in what can only be called a desperate attempt to appease the Scottish with devolution. One of the claims was that “economic and political change” was to follow if the United Kingdom was maintained.

Ian Bell from the Herald argued that full devolution for Scotland should mean full responsibility of income and expenditure, with Westminster only controlling defence spending and foreign affairs. However, to use Gordon Browns’s words, choosing this almost isolationist approach could mean the Scottish fall into a “Tory trap”. If Scotland is given full power over their own income tax, their position in Westminster could actually be weakened as many think Scottish MPs should not be allowed to vote on income tax that will effect the  rest of United Kingdom. It is important that Scotland, if it does choose to devolve further in November, does not separate too far from the United Kingdom.A large number of tax decisions that feature in Scottish budgets are still to be determined at Westminster so it would be unwise to lose power in England as a consequence of its own gains. Paradoxically, it seems in Scotland’s questioning of its lack of power, the West Lothian debate has been renewed. This debate scrutinises the unfairness of the constitution which allows Scotland to vote on matters that are singularly for England whilst not letting England wield the same influence in Scotland.

england vs scotland

George Osborne’s controversial economic policies which aim to lessen the deficit by decreasing welfare spending could also minimise the promised powers to Scotland on economic matters. Osborne’s proposal that sees freezes on benefits, which will account to £100 billion pounds of saving in the welfare sector suggests that the English government will be less likely to loosen its grip on Scottish economic affairs.  Bell argues in “Osborne on the rack” that whilst England “toils” by cutting expenditure, Scotland will not be allowed to “prosper” and that in maintaining the union  Scotland too must suffer under new austerity measures. It seems then, that whilst Scotland will make small gains on purely Scottish matters, England is not prepared to allocate any useful powers that might conflict with their own policies.

However even if there results little impact on Scotland there may be some on England.  The referendum has provoked consideration on how fair the British constitution is in its allocation of power, and whether Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as outer cities in England deserve more power. Indeed four out of five of constituencies are represented by English MPs illustrating the is growing feeling that there is a London elite deciding on behalf of the people but not fully representing people’s choice. Ideas to decentralise power   are already underway, and one method would be to have a local choice in how tax is raised and government money spent in an area.

For England the maintenance of Scotland was a crucial a matter of pride. The loss of Scotland would not only have halved the size of the United Kingdom but as the start of the British Empire it has symbolic significance. Despite this patriotic stance we adopted during the referendum it seems that interest in the topic has vastly dissipated in importance now that the threat of loss has been removed. Although for the moment 55% of Scotland has been appeased by promises for more “extensive powers” if these are not delivered upon and indeed the British constitution is not modified to become a more democratic system where all voices of the Kingdom are heard, rest assured independence will appear on the agenda once more.

 Photos By: Number 10/ Lawrence OP on Flickr

 

 

 

 

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