As I predicted on 24/11/2013, the people of Scotland have voted to remain in the Union. 97% of those people eligible to vote in the referendum, registered to vote. Of those registered voters, 84.6% turned out to exercise their democratic right to have a say on the future of Scotland. In the end, the final result was 55% in favour of remaining in the Union and 45% voted for independence. So much for figures.
Business as usual then?
No. A promise was made to the Scots by all three Westminster party leaders that further power would be devolved to the Edinburgh parliament. They didn’t agree on exactly what those powers would be but they did agree on a timetable. That promise will now have to be met.
This morning, at 0700 on September 19th 2014, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that devolution of power to the other countries in the Union would be agreed and implemented within the same timetable as further powers to the Edinburgh parliament would be agreed. Let me be clear, what he is saying is that the question of whether Scots MPs would be able to vote on matters which concern other individual countries in the Union is going to be answered. Specifically, because there are Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies, there must be a method by which English voices can be heard. What exactly does this mean?
An English Assembly?
Cameron seemed to be saying no. Instead he spoke vaguely about devolution of powers from the Westminster Parliament to the English regions. There are many implications, not the least of which is what happens if there is a UK Government elected on the strength on the number of Scottish MPs returned but that party does not have a majority of English MPs.
I am on record as saying that I did not want Scottish voters in the referendum to bounce me into having to accept far-reaching constitutional changes in the UK. That remains my position and I still want my say—read vote—on any proposals that are put forward. I am slightly sceptical that proposals for what in effect is English devolution can be agreed within the proposed timescale for the introduction of further devolved powers for Scotland, but I accept (for the moment at least) that there will be debate and change. I will have a vote on those proposals in May 2015.
UKIP, or rather Nigel Farage, has immediately put himself forward as the voice of England. If Cameron is smart, he can put the Conservatives forward as the voice of England in the 2015 general election. The Conservative proposals for further devolved powers for Scotland are more radical and farther reaching than those of the other two Westminster parties. For the moment he may have kept the Tory Backbenchers on board. He may be able to outflank Farage and convince the English voters that not only are the Conservatives the only party offering a referendum on EU membership but their proposals for English devolution were the most radical during whatever emerges from the proposed forthcoming discussions. Whatever agreement had been cobbled up, a post 2015 Conservative Government could or would introduce further English devolution.
It has been a long night and morning. I’ll leave you with one thought. Might it be that with the Tory party proposals for further devolved powers in Scotland being more far-reaching, more radical than the other Westminster parties that come the 2015 UK general election, the Conservative party enjoys more success with the Scottish voters than they have of late?