The Union can only be saved by exhaustive localism, outing devolution as the centralism that it really is

When it came to the dark side of Blair’s devolution, the genie was out of the lamp as soon as the structures of the new devolved Scottish and Welsh administrations were defined.

The great irony is that the genuine consequences of Blair’s adoption of the EU strategy for breaking up the nation state didn’t register with him when he looked in the mirror and only saw what he wanted others to see. So myopic was his understanding of his own political class, he failed to see the existential threat that his actions would be to Scottish Labour and therefore how difficult a UK-wide Labour Parliamentary majority would soon start to become.

Today, Nicola Sturgeon is sabre rattling yet again, voicing her plans for another Scottish Independence Referendum. One that in a post-COVID-19 world where lip service to localism and communities is no longer enough, the outcome is increasingly likely to go her way – whether it has questionable legality or not.

What Sturgeon and the SNP’s way actually is or rather will be is something that her Party has yet to define. But for as long as the Scottish First Minister is able to speak with authority and give apparent truth to the suggestion that the Scottish Nationalists are providing the only legitimate local voice, the journey towards Scottish Independence is building up a level of momentum that no politician in Westminster will be able to stop by choice.

Whilst it may not yet be easy for many to see, the COVID-19 Pandemic is pushing localism back to the top of the political agenda.

Under the economic and political climate now evolving, we are likely to see a very different kind of governance in the UK unfold. The change that is coming is inevitable and those politicians who seek to ignore this are unlikely to find themselves on the ‘winning’ side.

Regrettably, what people need and what will work best for our communities in the post-Covid age does not sit well with the power-centric type of politics that exists in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff. Its exponents do not see the need to devolve power as far as possible as the most democratic way to get things done.

What we have witnessed through the devolution process, whether it has been to the Welsh and Scottish administrations created by New Labour, or through the metropolitan and City Mayors that the Conservatives have established since, is the creation of alternative centralised power bases that have created new tiers of government at significant public cost. Their existence has made decisions over public policy ever more political whilst moving power further and further way from people as they do.

Whatever your opinion or view of Nicola Sturgeon, she is without doubt one of the most capable and successful politicians of this political class.

Sturgeon’s ability to outplay her political opponents in a game and debate that they continue to allow her to frame has completely hidden the incompetence and unsuitably of the SNP as a Party of representative government.

Sadly, with Westminster feted to continue in just the way that it is, it remains distinctly unlikely that Scottish Voters will be given a credible alternative view of the Sturgeon vision before the departure of Scotland from the UK has been confirmed and the factual evidence begins to stack up just as the Scots realise that it’s already too late.

Turning what is quickly becoming a very serious situation around would require the Westminster Government to stop ignoring the claims of the Nationalists and talk seriously about what another Referendum and the outcome of Scottish Independence would mean. They must begin to insist that the Scottish Nationalists publicly outline exactly how Scotland will function economically outside of the UK, operating with its own currency, tax regime and removal of any kind of subsidy from South of the Border when and if they do.

If Scotland can demonstrate that it can function independently and without the intervention of a foreign power or any other part of the UK, the Scots really should be given the chance on that specific basis to make their choice. But not before.

However, if the Government doesn’t feel able to give the SNP the opportunity to demonstrate how they would succeed at going alone, it cannot allow the destructive thinking that is now manifesting across communities right across the UK to continue unchecked.

Westminster must deal with the question of localism and bringing power to the lowest tiers or most direct forms of government possible – not just within Scotland, but throughout the UK.

Power and responsibility in decision making should rest as near to the people as it is possible for it to be.

The argument that decisions affecting or relevant to everyone should be made at the highest level is flawed by the lack of local knowledge that decision makers have about the lives and experiences of those they are making decisions for.

Whilst the reasoning underpinning Sturgeon’s campaign sounds unassailable to an increasing number when Westminster decision making appears to be so out of touch, the argument for Scottish Independence would evaporate if power were to be restored to the lowest tiers of Government possible.

Such steps would make the need for regional government of any kind redundant and show the existence of centralised and out-of-touch legislatures at this level for what it really is.


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