Whatever happens in the imminent Scottish independence referendum, the UK as we know will soon be no more.
“Wither the UK, arise the Federal United Kingdom?”
If Scotland votes yes to independence, then the UK as we know it will stagger on for a short while longer before being laid to rest on the day that Scotland becomes an independent nation.
And even if Scotland rejects independence, the future UK will not look like it does today. The main unionist parties have signalled some form of “devo-max” – the handing over of more powers to the Scottish Parliament – is on the cards.
If Scotland has some form of “semi-independence” within the UK what impact will that have on the rest of the UK? What about Wales, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, the North of England for example?
Unstoppable momentum for change across the UK?
Imagine for a moment that Scotland decides to stay within the UK, and it gets a bunch of new powers – perhaps even to vary tax for competitive advantage, whether that’s over passenger air duty or more substantial responsibilities.
Now, if you are in the North East of England or Yorkshire you might fancy a slice of your own increased powers not only to compete with a further empowered Scotland just across the border but also have your own say over your future – rather than Westminster politicians in London.
The three regions of the North of England have a population of around 15 million. Scotland has around 5.3 million, according to official statistics.
Regional assemblies haven’t proved popular in England, but arguably they didn’t have sufficient powers and were seen as white elephants when put to the electoral test.
More powers for Scotland might just light the touch paper for demands for a radical change in how England is governed – the most populous nation of the UK – along with calls for greater powers to be handed to the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland and Wales.
Some might argue the time has come for devo-max for the North of England and a federal UK.
You are now entering the Federal United Kingdom…
Could the UK become like a federal country, with decentralisation of powers away from the national parliament in Westminster to nations and regions?
I’m not saying this will happen overnight, but if there was a form of “home rule” for Scotland, it will throw up major constitutional questions that will have to be addressed at some point.
A constitutional convention
As I have previously blogged, the Scottish independence referendum vote will leave a major hangover when it comes to governing the UK.
The role and function of Scottish MPs in the UK parliament may well be called into question in the run-up to Scottish independence, if that is what happens, and with even more devolution of powers if there is a no vote.
Perhaps, now is the time for the UK to have a big discussion about how it wants to be run – which could be in the shape of a constitutional convention.