A A year ago today, Britain’s three main party leaders issued their famous vow, pledging to continue devolution to Scotland if a vote is not taken in the independence referendum, then just 48 time.
Some saw this as a panic reaction. The Scottish National Party and the Yes campaign seemed to be calling all the shots. Union supporters seemed to be constantly late, playing a constant game of catching up with the moving train of independence.
If, on September 18, 2014, some 200,000 Scottish voters had opted for a yes rather than a no, we would now be in the midst of the most complex and controversial negotiations to create the conditions for Scotland to become a state. independent nation – and to break the 300 year old Act of Union.
Since the referendum, and despite its defeat, the SNP has continued to pull the strings. Indeed, last weekend Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would set out in its manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election the circumstances under which it might be fair to call a second referendum on independence.
The first referendum was supposed to settle the issue for a generation. He hasn’t even done it for a year. How did we get to where we are now?
The rise of the SNP in 80 years has been remarkable: since its foundation in 1934, through fleeting successes in by-elections, a wave in the 1970s and the frustrations of the early attempts at transfer under the Callaghan government, to the wild years of the Thatcher and Major years, and to the settlement offered by Blair in his first term – that many hoped to kill the independence movement. Then he skillfully used his power base in Holyrood to reach a point to force a referendum, almost win it and become the story of a general election in the UK.
What, if anything, can the UK government do about this SNP-led march of history? Is a second referendum on independence, leading to a yes, inevitable?
The SNP has overwhelmed the UK on four fronts: politics, politics, personalities and passion.
Its political stance and strategy have always been in the context of its clear and unwavering ultimate goal of Scottish independence. Initially, his political strategy focused a lot on presenting himself as an alternative to the Tories, focusing on the wealthier parts of North East Scotland. It is not for nothing that opponents of the Nationalists have dubbed them the “Tory Tories”. But in 2015, their grassroots policies (such as free university education and higher public spending) targeted the Labor Party and the seats in the central belt.
In turn, SNP policies and politics have been led by a remarkable trio of politicians – Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, and John Swinney. In contrast, no major figure in Britain’s main parties has been wholeheartedly involved in Scottish politics, preferring to pursue a career in Westminster.
Finally, the SNP showed enormous passion in presenting its case.
What about the future? Now is the time for the UK to make a big, bold, generous and mature offer to the people of Scotland.
What would it look like? This could be: the full devolution of taxes and expenditure to the Scottish Parliament and Government, with the exception of reserved areas; full responsibility for domestic politics and spending; full responsibility for energy policy and activity on and at sea; agreement on certain shared responsibilities in the United Kingdom; a framework for maintaining the UK as a constitutional monarchy; a shared economic space with a monetary policy defined by the British Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee in which the views of Scotland should be represented; defense and the overall conduct of foreign policy is handled by the UK, but in full consultation.
But it would take three general conditions. First: economical. This arrangement would, by definition, mark the end of Barnett’s formula for public spending as applied to Scotland – requiring a new, fairer formula to be applied to Wales and Northern Ireland.
Second: political. The granting of a much greater degree of UK independence to Scotland – self-government – should have a counterpart in terms of reduced political power for Scotland in the parliament at Westminster. The best and fairest answer to West Lothian’s question is that autonomy should coincide with a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs in exchange for autonomy. This would imply a reduction of perhaps 50% in the number of Scottish MPs.
Third: constitutional. This issue must be resolved for a generation, not for a year or for five years. There may be something to learn from Canada’s experience with Quebec. After its second referendum in 1995 – when the separatist movement managed to achieve only 1% independence – the government reached out to Quebec and sold the benefits of staying in Canada much more forcefully. and passion, as separatist pressure has subsided. .
Those who believe Scotland remains part of the UK must now do the same to ensure that the autonomy agreement is not immediately canceled. And so a long-term agreement has to state that it is for the long term – even if it has to be written into a new union treaty.