Posted July 28, 2014
The Independence Referendum campaign continues to be depressing. The only really good things associated with it tend to come from Liberal Democrats and most especially Charles Kennedy. He’s written a thoughtful and persuasive article in the Herald about the dilemma facing Scotland beyond 18th September as, whoever wins, we’ve all lost out from increasing centralism to Edinburgh in recent years.
He outlines the problem:
In the pre-devolution days of one- party Tory domination there was much legitimate railing against the excessive concentration of power within Whitehall. The centre accrued and amassed while the periphery lost out. Holyrood represented an emphatic emancipation from the power of centralisers. Yet look at the Scotland that has been developing and ask: where lies that aspiration today?
Our emergency services have been made national, more centralised and less regionally accountable. Consider the furore over armed police and wonder if that (unstated until unveiled) policy would have got so far under previous, more localised structures. Ponder the plight of our so-called local authorities and reflect upon the extent to which frozen council tax concordats with central government serve to enhance local accountability and diverse innovation more tailored to community needs.
The chain of command is top down, the culture target-driven. The derivatives, from the tick box methodology to the growing Leviathan of key performance indicators holds sway. And too much of what I hear and read of the independence version of Scotland’s future seems predicated on still further imposition by the “new centre” on the rest of us, individuals and communities alike.
It’s not going to be easy to sort this out in an independent Scotland, especially when the Yes campaigns assertions are, shall we say, a little inconsistent with each other.
The wider Scotland should retain its critical faculties where the prospect of an independent Scotland is concerned. Throughout this campaign, whenever policy trickiness has arisen, the Yes campaign has been keen to stress that it is not the SNP; a bit like the Catholic Church suggesting it has no responsibility for the latest Papal utterance. Time and again, the refrain that the future political governance of our land will be decided solely by Scots voting freely in an independent country has become conflated with a menu of supposedly desirable policies that seem guaranteed come what may. These twin assertions do not add up.
It’s different if we vote No, though..
A post-referendum Westminster, with Scotland a continuing participant, must try to encourage if not ensure that the further transfer of powers to Holyrood does not stop there; that at least within the Better Together parties there must be a will to win the argument that pursuing a rolling back reaches beyond Edinburgh to our other great cities, regions and islands. Indeed, the islands’ authorities have lit the torch. regardless of the outcome, they seem likely to anticipate a greater say in their own day-to-day decision-making. Let that principle be given practical effect for the rest of the mainland.
And where should we get to in the end?
All of which leads to the F-word: federalism within and across Scotland; federalism throughout the wider, developing UK. That is where we are heading, in fits and starts, in a very British way