What Next For The Union?
Scotland has voted. The union remains as it did on paper at least. In reality, the union has never been so divided. Sweeping changes are at the planning stages that will fundamentally alter the UK constitution for good.
With over one and a half million Scots voting to breakaway from the Union and go it alone, full-scale devolution or ‘devo max’ will take place – if not by the 2016 deadline than gradually over time.
A greater deal of power will be afforded to Holyrood, probably on a scale seen by members of the European Union. Effectively making Scotland an independent nation in a union.
Wales and Northern Ireland are most likely going to seek greater powers and a more advanced devolution framework to work towards, although not on the scale of Scotland.
So where does this whole situation leave England?
The West Lothian question is likely to be addressed almost immediately, effectively barring MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales from voting on legislation relating to matters in England. This will create a new English Parliament, probably sitting on alternate days with a UK Parliament encompassing all four home nations.
Another consequence of the Scottish independence will be the rise of English nationalism. We are starting to see the effects of this with the rise of UKIP who have little to no influence anyway bar England. UKIP’s talking points will still revolve around immigration and exiting the EU, but we should expect in the lead up to the General Election to adopt a more English-centric tone to their arguments.
While the three main parties have to represent all home nations to help them shore up votes. UKIP’s power base remains in England and they can become the mouthpiece for greater English nationalism if the opportunity arises, much like they have on the EU issue. Nigel Farage is very effective in talking to people’s insecurities and appealing to the delusion that we are better alone as an island nation than together as a member of an economic and political powerhouse.
These next couple of years (if Cameron remains Prime Minister) will define his legacy. Anti-EU sentiment is rising at an astonishing rate and with the rise of English nationalism likely to come in the wake of the independence debate, Cameron is going to have to fight fires on all fronts.
The economic argument that was so effective in the independence debate, where businesses will desert Scotland if they go it alone, apply to the UK if we were to leave the EU. London is a financial powerhouse because we are in the European Union. As we have seen with the referendum debate, markets do not like uncertainty, with companies prepared to move at a moment’s notice – meaning higher unemployment and less investment into the country. Federalism works, nationalism does not. We are better together as the sum of all parts, not alone.