19 Sep 2014

Scotland's message to Westminster

The most participated in democratic event of our British electoral lives. The engagement in the referendum debate in Scotland sets a new standard in British politics.

The victory for the no campaign is a victory secured by Scots in Scotland with a huge element resting on the shoulders of former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Westminster’s engagement in the process at times has seemed to border on the embarrassing. The three Westminster leaders’ visits were dangerously close to meeting the conditions of fish when out of water.

Alastair Darling played a stolid and often poorly supported leadership of the yes campaign. The brooding, unengaged presence of Gordon Brown in the early days of the campaign did not help. But in the final days Gordon Brown came alive and the lacklustre no campaign with it.

His speech on the final day was seen by many as the finest of his life and will have done much to eclipse the disappointment that revolved around his premiership.19_westminster_g_w

David Cameron led a Westminster operation which unquestionably played a part in an event which took Britain perilously close to break-up. His next moves will define and resolve his premiership.

The referendum campaign has been an intoxicating democratic exercise. It represented something of a revolt against the Westminster elite. Westminster, as former Welsh secretary Peter Hain has already observed this morning, has looked drab, unengaged, cynical, and minimalist.

It is not too glib to suggest that Britain can never be the same again. Ukip and the yes campaign – both fuelled by despair with Westminster – are but the beginning of the threat to Westminster’s grasp on old-style democracy.

What Scotland has delivered is a yes vote of some 45 per cent or more and a no vote in which massive further devolution is implied.

It is a dangerous cocktail that it would be dangerous for Westminster either to reject or ignore.

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19 reader comments

  1. Stephen says:

    If constitutional reform is coming let’s include separation of church and state, an elected second chamber and an end to monarchy.

    1. CWH says:

      Dear Stephen,
      When you talk of separation of Church and State I take it you are referring to England and the Anglican Church with HM as supreme governor. In Scotland there is already and always has been separation of church and state. The Church of Scotland is the established church in Scotland but no monarch has never ever been head of the church. The Church of Scotland elects a Moderator who serves for one year and is titular head but is in fact Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The General Assembly meets once per year. We have had female moderator’s some of whom have not even been ministers of the CofS but senior elders.

  2. Renee says:

    Thank you Gorfon Brown. Don’t vanish again you need to follow through and keep Westminister listening to all the sections of the community. You saved Scotland, but now Briton needs you more than ever!

  3. David Preston says:

    The North East/West & South West now need to fight to correct the imbalance of the Barnett formula, Oil revenue & Lottery spend all of which added to the trauma of losing our Industrial base with little or no support from Westminster and all the Political Parties. No one on national tv reported that our unemployment went up at the last count, I wonder why? How ever they try to disguise it we will continue to pay for the bribes made and being made to keep Scotland and the oil revenue in the Union; Democracy that only works for some not all!

  4. John Richards says:

    Cameron may not have had to throw in all those extra promises to win the vote. But we will never know, will we? But the English are not going to be happy about the Scots getting even more concessions.

  5. Millie says:

    Just wanted to thank Jon Snow and Channel 4 news for their coverage of the referendum campaign. It was the only news programme most of us Yes voting, Twitter using Scots could bear to watch.

    C4 & The Herald are the only two media outlets who can come out of this with their heads held high: professionalism, fairness and integrity intact. Thank you Channel 4.

    1. cliff says:

      I agree, likewise the conflict in Gaza, the BBC is biased, Jon Snow is excellent.

  6. Mike Harland says:

    Yes, Cameron and Milliband now have equally big headaches because: one is committed to delivering fast in both Scotland AND in England without his party behind him and the other has seen New Labour’s failed leaders deliver what he as Nu-New Labour leader couldn’t.

    Meanwhile Scotland, which threw out Labour for the SNP in a seemingly impossible landslide victory in the Scottish Parliament, is seen as voting NO when in fact a large percentage of those No votes were those who would have voted overwhelmingly for a second Devo-Max question but cleverly Cameron denied them one. Nearly everyone in Scotland knew there would be a NO majority, but once the promise of Devo-Max was reinstated in a panic last minute move by all parties in Westminster, then many doubters either didn’t bother voting (as in Glasgow) or went for NO as a safer bet.
    Unfortunately, by Cameron’s wily move this morning of linking a fast Devo-Fudge in Scotland to the same Devo-Equality for rUK, this will mean Scotland will get more powers without access to its own money and therefore won’t be able to afford it, especially when the Barnett Formula gets ‘reformulated’ along “equality” lines. Result: back to square 1 and the status quo of unrepresentative governance. Meanwhile Nu-New Labour will be undermined in both Scotland and England and will lose voting power in both Scotland and England: Scottish Labour followers when they find they has no real extra powers will go back to SNP and start the road to full independence in a decade or two; and Labour in England will not have its Scottish rump to back it on key English (i.e. majority of UK) issues. Result: the rich middle “I’m OK John Bull” lot carry on dismantling the poor and handicapped people’s welfare state safety net – 25 billion still to come off public budgets in the coming few years, remember.

    As an Englishman from the North East that all Westminster governments also made promises to and forgot, I knew we could not trust them with Scotland this time either. The NHS here will suffer from cutbacks no matter what the independent powers may be; our taxes will go to shoring up the banks and paying off the trillions of national debt from squandered QE, before bail-ins and pension fund failures will finish the job.

    Nothing gained today by anybody (but the 1%), when it could have been so much more positive!

  7. Robert Taggart says:

    Guessing this Englishman (albeit with Scotty ‘heritage’) may be thankful for the referendum (in the first place) and the result (in spite of our wishes !) – IF – this leads to the British political class finally answering the ‘West Lothian Question’.

    England – the whole country – not the balkanised ‘bar steward’ (as Liebore and LieDim would wish for) – now needs to govern itself on a par with Scotland and likewise for the Welsh, Ulstern and Cornish (?).

    That just leaves the Isle of Man, Channel Islands and Gibraltar (?) – should they not be encouraged to join in a new federal United Kingdom ? – instead of the current limbo ??
    Guessing the Irish will choose to stay as they are – out in the cold, but, in the ‘thick’ of Europe !

  8. anon says:

    as an aside I have been noticing that many journalists and commentators have more idea on what is happening in the World, why, and what could be done, compared with those they interview?

    many Scots I am sure voted Yes because they loathe the tight, I meant right, but perhaps the typo is appropriate, wing policies of Governments they do not support,

    also just a question, what makes for a Nation, ie when can one group ask for independence? Could the Orkney Islanders declare UDI etc, thinking of places like the campaign for an Independent Northern Italy, is it because they have more dosh? Is it about Power? like life sadly if you have some clout it enables you to do what a something those without cannot. ie a powerful group without a shred of legitimacy could say declare say UDI or something comparable in the wider scheme of things, while others with ever right in the world arguably could not?

    or could Surbiton issue an Unilateral declaration of Independence, or do some do this hiding behind gated communities and private healthcare etc, a new form of ‘Independence’ and separating from others in the 21st century,

    not sure, what do you think?

  9. JeanOliver says:

    If the new federal Britain becomes a republic then I can see no obstacle as to why southern Ireland should not seek to conjoin.

  10. Dave L says:

    Overall, balanced coverage on all this from C4 news, R4, Dimbleby, Peston.

  11. Mitzi Macgregor says:

    Are you aware that in at least some of the polling booths in the Scottish referendum, people had to make their marks in pencil?

    1. MorayQuine says:

      You have obviously never voted before! ALL elections use pencils in the voting booths. They are pencils that have a special wax lead. This stops the vote mark being smeared if the ballots get wet. It is also cheaper to have pencils than pen and they store better between elections. No conspiracy there, just simple logic.

  12. Alastair Lynam says:

    86% of transport spending goes to London and the south-east – that leaves 14% for the rest of the UK; every Londoner is subsidised to the tune of £2880 per year for public transport – in Lincolnshire and other rural places the figure is £300 and a paltry £5 in the north-east. Infrastructure spending in London is £2500 per person – in Devon it’s 1/10th of that.
    Why should taxpayers outside London and the south-east subsidise those in London and the south-east?
    If an English Parliament is the only thing the English get, that means an English government (with no Welsh/Scottish MPs to counteract the tories) would probably dominate even more than a UK one and the regions would lose out even more.
    That is why it IS SO IMPORTANT THAT THE ENGLISH REGIONS SHOULD GET DEVOLUTION. City regions are a good start, but power must spread to other areas too, otherwise people like us will carry on being totally screwed by Westminster.

  13. angus says:

    One day in and already the fist item on Browns list reneged on. I hope the no voters who based their decision on these promises (actually very few I suspect) will insist that the rest are carried out.

  14. Wenonah Lyon says:

    Cameron seems determined to bring about the break up of the UK. I didn’t think I could dislike anyone more than I disliked Thatcher; Cameron demonstrated this is possible.

    Labour and the LibDems could, together, pass the required legislation to implement promises to Scotland. Then they should bring down the current government and force an election. In the election manifesto, offer the Scottish Deal to the great cities of England – Greater Manchester, Greater Newcastle, Greater York.

  15. Maurice Hopper says:

    So 1.6million Scots vote Yes – don’t achieve a majority and suddenly we are surrounded by constitutional change. When over 1.6million walk through London in 2013 against the impending war and we are told we don’t know what we are talking about.
    ‘Democracy’ is always contaminated by the motives of politicians.

  16. Sandra Bennnett says:

    When Scotland ,Wales ,and NI were granted a Devolved Parliament , England should have done likewise. The U k Parliament would only have to call Parliament for such emergencies or crisis. Parliament, after their Devolved parliament was set up; , could discuss and Vote on English matters with English MPs. just think they could even cut all these 700 lords that cost the taxpayer £300 per day or wee visit I get really fed up when I red of how we here in Scotland cost the English too uch money ,sad but true they really believe it ..

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