Scotland votes “No”. What should happen next?

So Scotland voted “No” after all. And as I thought would happen all along by a bigger margin than the polls were suggesting – by 55% to 45%(I should at this point congratulate Peter Kellner and his polling company You Gov who after the polls closed but before the result, predicted a 54 to 46 margin which was almost spot on). Alex Salmond has resigned. David Cameron, Ed Miliband Nick Clegg and the UK Queen are sleeping a lot easier. But what happens next?
One thing is clear. Whatever happens now the Westminster establishment MUST deliver the extra powers for Scotland that former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised during the campaign. In 1979 during another Scottish referendum, another former UK PM – Sir Alec Douglas-Home – promised if the Scots rejected Labour’s devolution proposals and the Tories won that year’s General Election the Scots would get better devolution – which although both events happened – never materialised. If the UK establishment don’t keep their word this time the union could be in deep trouble and we could end up like Quebec doing this all over again in 15 years time – which no one outside the SNP wants.
However they shouldn’t be in this position as they should never have made these promises in the first place. They were made in a blind sate of panic over one poll on September 6th which put “Yes” 2% up (the only poll that did so). And personally I don’t think the Scottish Parliament needs more powers. Except one.
Although I voted “No” I had friends who voted “Yes” (don’t worry we haven’t fallen out). They hate Alex Salmond and have never voted SNP in their lives. So why did they vote “Yes”? Two words. The Tories. They told me “We don’t want a Tory Government in Scotland again and we’re voting for independence to ensure that does not happen”. So I started thinking “How can we stay in the Union and avoid Tory Governments”? And then it hit me. Give the Scottish Parliament the power of veto. Every bit of legislation passed by a UK Government has to be passed by the Scottish Parliament too. The Tories can’t hurt us unless OUR Parliament allows us to. Obviously this can’t just apply to Scotland so the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies would have this power too as would a new English Parliament which in my opinion is now needed to get rid of the unfair anomaly that is the West Lothian Question*. This English Parliament would replace the House of Lords – the UK’s unelected second chamber – which everybody agrees is an anachronism but we’ve been trying to reform it since 1968 with very little agreement so why not just get rid of it and replace it with four second chambers? All four National Parliaments would have the power the Scottish Parliament currently has plus the power of veto over all UK legislation except the budget defence and foreign affairs. If say the English and Northern Irish parliaments passed a bill but the Scottish and Welsh did not the law would just apply to England and Northern Ireland
This would have another advantage. A lot of people complain about the “elected dictatorship” – an oxymoron which actually means that a Government with a House Of Commons majority is able to do what it wants. But if you gave the four national parliaments the power of veto that removes the elected dictatorship because a Government has to get its legislation through every one if it wants its policies to become law al over the UK. it brings into the system the American system of “checks and balances” to stop a mighty executive from doing what it wants. You would in effect end up with “The United States of Britain”. It has to be a fairer system than what we have now.
I should also mention that the turn out at the referendum was an astonishing 85% – last seen in UK elections in the 1950s – proof that the referendum was on the whole good for Scotland as it got people talking about politics again. The challenge for the parties here is to sustain this interest. Secondly I would like to pay tribute to Alex Salmond. I might not agree with his views but we would not have had this referendum without him. He turned the SNP from a rabble into a party of Government. Those people who voted “Yes” should remember he gave them the chance to be able to do so. His successor as First Minister and SNP leader – probably Nicola Sturgeon – has a hard act to follow.
*The West Lothian question is named after the constituency of the Labour MP Tam Dalyell who first raised it. He said it was unfair that he as the MP for West Lothian could vote on English affairs but the MP for West Bromwich could not vote on Scottish affairs. The Labour Party to its shame has ignored this anomaly. It has to be got rid of otherwise it will be English not Scottish nationalism which will be a threat to the unity of the UK.


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