After a few difficult weeks Scotland has decided to stay together with England. Let’s hope for their sake it all works out. One cannot help but give a rueful shake of the head like we are watching a friend returning to a partner who has sworn that they ‘have changed’. Maybe they have.
Jason O’Mahony made the point this morning that ‘stability’ is always a huge force in any vote. Voters don’t really like risk all that much. Given the choice many will always opt to keep the status quo for fear that things can always get worse. I think Stability played a large part in the #indyref.
The problem for England now is that it has to live up to its promises. Leading figures have been love bombing Scotland for over a year. What happens now? Do they just stop? Is this the end of all the litany of people talking about how valuable Scotland is to them and how much it means to the UK? Like any relationship the big danger now is that once Scotland has safely moved back in, life returns to normal and people move on. This will leave Scotland feeling a little ignored and perhaps taken for granted now that a sword of Damocles no longer hangs over the UK.
Promises are always hard to keep. At least any promise that are worth making. England must now deliver and must do so against a backdrop of significant support for Scottish Independence. The Yes vote will be feeling bruised, but will eventually realise this was no more than a battle and the war is far from over. At the first sign of England delaying a promise they will be reminding everyone of what was said. It surely cannot be long before many cars wear a sticker saying ‘Don’t blame me I voted YES’. That’s what the future holds. The problem for England now is that the more it devolves power and honours its commitments the more accustomed Scotland may grow to the idea of standing on its own two feet.
I have a young son and one day made the mistake of telling him if he didn’t get ready for school immediately we were not going to a show we had tickets for. I told him it was his choice. Now either he didn’t appreciate the seriousness of it or he wisely gambled that I was over playing my threats. Either way he made me sweat on his decision. Having left it to him I was snookered. Eventually he went to school but I learned that the risk was too great to ever let him have that choice again or everything could get ruined. It will be a long time before any British government will be willing to let the Scots vote on independence again. The challenge for the ‘Yes’ side is to build that support until it becomes impossible for the Government to hold out in the face of overwhelming polls, but they will have to be overwhelming.
In the end there is a problem at the heart of the argument for England and Westminster. If the European Union were to be inspired by the Scottish No vote and announce that it was to remodel itself as a ‘community of nations’ in the style of the UK, who would be the first country to walk out? Yes, the UK. You see, English people would be horrified at the thought of an EU that contained one central government and that their main politicians went there and were subsumed in large European parties. The Idea that Westminster would become a devolved power with fewer rights than the EU government would shock them. The thought of a British Prime Minister not being the supreme authority on matters of state would be utterly unacceptable.
Most of the problems the EU has are derived from efforts to make a federal state that nobody wants. Despite all its flaws and current interference as perceived by some the EU still falls well short of a centralised state dictating all policy. The more it tries to move in that direction the more opposition it finds.
So we know that the EU cannot ever become a UK. The UK would not accept that. This begs the question of why? Why is it wrong for England to have a devolved parliament? Why is it wrong for England to have policy dictated elsewhere? And why is it ok and better for Scotland? There will be no moving of parliament to Edinburgh or Glasgow for a few months of the year. Scotland is merely a province no matter how it’s viewed. But you see that’s OK for Scotland, England is looking out for them, helping them, minding them, good old England. It would never do for England though.