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Home rule

Home Rule for Scotland should be an option in any second referendum as well as Scottish independence and retention in the Union – Professor Ben Thomson

Scottish independence and unionism are often represented by Saltire and Union Jack, but there is a third choice: Home Rule (Photo: Andy Buchanan / AFP via Getty Images)

This month is the debate on the UK Internal Market Bill, last month the response to Covid; every political subject seems to be polarized here in Scotland between the perspective of unionism and the perspective of independence. It looks like you have to be on one side, that the UK has to be the sovereign state, or the other, that Scotland has to be a separate sovereign state. Yet there is an alternative, which many may see as a better solution to traditional unionism or independence where sovereignty is properly shared. This is called “Home Rule”.

The idea of ​​Home Rule has been around since the 19th century. The Scottish Home Rule Association was formed in 1886 when Parnell was advocating for Irish Home Rule. There were numerous self-government bills for both Ireland and Scotland, including one for Scotland in 1913 which was passed by the House of Commons. However, none made it through the House of Lords despite Gladstone’s support for the Liberals and Keir Hardie for Labor.

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Home Rule is where Scotland has full control over internal affairs, including the ability to raise the money it spends, but remains part of the UK. To achieve this, two criteria must be met. The first is that sovereignty must be shared, in other words once autonomy is enshrined in the constitution, it takes the consent of both parties to change powers. Under decentralization, powers are granted and not granted so that Westminster can unilaterally change provisions that affect the Scottish Parliament, as the current debate on proposed new legislation for the UK internal market demonstrates. The only way to enshrine shared sovereignty is through a written constitution that provides the appropriate basis for a relationship based on mutual respect between levels of government.

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The second is that the burden of proof should be on the UK government to show why powers should be reserved at Westminster level. This is called the “principle of subsidiarity”. For example, why should Scotland be limited in the way it raises its taxes?

Currently, it has the power to set income tax rates and directly receives half of the VAT. Why would he not have the ability to decide on the structure of his own taxes to cover his expenses? This is similar to the situation that exists in any of the US states or provinces of Canada where state or provincial governments have much greater control over their own tax system and can create a structure that is suitable. to their industries and to the choices of people locally. .

Home Rule therefore goes well beyond devolution. This requires a written constitution in which national powers become the sole responsibility of the Scottish government. Thus, in addition to the current devolved areas such as health, education and policing, the Scottish government would become responsible for all social security and welfare as well as any taxes it wished to use for fund Scottish public services.

However, it is not independence. Under Home Rule, Scotland would continue to be part of the UK and Westminster would remain responsible for a range of vital issues such as macroeconomic management, including monetary policy and currency; defense; foreign Affairs; overseas trade; and citizenship. The UK government would also be able to levy its own taxes in Scotland to cover its share of Scottish spending. It actually strengthens the UK as it then becomes clearer that on these issues the UK government is acting on behalf of all UK citizens. The UK government would act as if the US government were exercising its federal powers in areas such as defense, and there are no special rights for individual states.

Some would say this is too good to be true – for Scotland to have full control of internal affairs, but benefit from the pound sterling as its currency, no borders and no trade restrictions with the rest of the UK – United and the influence that comes from being part of the UK when it comes to making its voice heard on global issues, whether at the United Nations or on the environment – and the rest of the UK – Uni would not accept it. However, by gaining more control over its own affairs, Scotland can create a better environment for economic success that would benefit both Scotland and the UK. Basically, Home Rule concerns the decentralization of powers where it is appropriate and not sovereignty. The UK is currently very centralized and the Home Rule model would not only be good for Scotland but also for Northern Ireland, Wales and different parts of England.

One of the trade unionists’ arguments against Home Rule is that it is a slippery slope to independence. I wouldn’t agree, as this is more of a natural step towards federalism in the UK, where such an arrangement is enshrined across the UK in a written constitution. After all, some of the most prosperous countries in the world such as the United States, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, and Australia have a federal model.

The upcoming Scottish elections will likely be dominated by the constitution and the call for another referendum. If there is another referendum and it is a clear choice between independence and unionism, then about 50 percent of the population will be deeply unhappy with the result. Last time around, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon both voted in favor of a second question on an alternative to the status quo and independence that was rejected by David Cameron. Ultimately, however, it would have to be the people of Scotland who would choose our constitution and it would be a less successful choice if Home Rule was not on the ballot as the second question in a future referendum.

Professor Ben Thomson is the author of Scottish Home Rule: The Answer to Scotland’s Constitutional Question, which goes on sale from tomorrow, published by Birlinn

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Tags : home rulenorthern irelandunited states
Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera