During the Scottish Independence campaign my views on Scottish Independence varied. I started as a small-c conservative, wishing to see the status quo maintained. I now favour alternative arrangements for our isles, but not the Independent Kingdom of Scotland favoured by Alex Salmond and the SNP and most definitely not more of the same. Instead, the United Kingdom needs to seize this opportunity and answer its critics on the celtic fringes (or everywhere outside the M25). British Democracy is an object of beauty that so many states have admired, but democracy is a process and that process has stalled.
It is unfortunate that Britain, a victor in two World Wars, a former commander of a vast empire, the cradle of democracy, of Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution circum to the ugliest of human traits – arrogance. Whilst we should be proud this nation has not been invaded in nearly four centuries – this relative stability has led to complacency, and this complacence means Great Britain no longer reflects those great revolutionary democratic values.
What is concerning is how the No campaign, and the political elite does not perceive this to be a problem. Whilst devolution is great, and independence is an option – it is not the answer. Great Britain needs a written, federal constitution. The unique mix of complacency, arrogance and stability in Great Britain has allowed for a rot to set in. This highly centralised Westminster model no longer suitable, either in the interests of democracy or in the interests of our economy.
It is my worry that those who want change in Scotland have been radicalised by the proposition of Independence. Their concern about Conservative/English Neoliberal hegemony, of London dominance and public service cuts are fair and reasonable – but it is difficult to see how putting up barriers and leaving one of the best connected family of nations answers those concerns. What is required is a radical Unionist offering, not the drip-drip of the promised ‘Devo-Max’. A written constitution? Yes please. Proportional Representation in elections for a Federal Assembly? You got it. Greater fiscal independence and flexibility for the Nations and Regions? Go on then. Regional representation in a new, modern Federal Senate – a change we can (finally) be proud of… HOLY COW YOU GOT ME!
Radical unionism is what the Scottish people want, not begrudging independence. Radical unionism is what the people of Wales, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, North East, North West and the Midlands of England want! A ‘Commonwealth of Great Britain’ – federally organised, decentralised and more representative. Alex Salmond and the SNP insist his Independence agenda is the remedy to every issue in Scotland today, disregarding the risks of going it alone and the benefits of pooled risks and the hyper-networked nature of the British economy.
Whilst this federal, democratic vision cannot address every concern of every Scot, as Salmond insists his separatist agenda would – in Britain we know all too well, that no democracy can be ‘perfect,’ there is no perfection in life. All this vision can guarantee is an alternative to the status quo, attractive and persuasive. Whilst the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland may have lost its way, breaking this collective is so regrettable for all those involved. A new Commonwealth, similar to that of Australia or Canada, offers many advantages to independence. The economic clout of this Commonwealth would be considerable, with devolved regional administrations enabling a ‘race to the top’ across the nations, in social policy and regeneration – a less London centric vision, prosperity shared and risks pooled. Socially, a Commonwealth of Great Britain would acknowledge the worth of each constituent part and clean up the identity crisis which stems from our unique constitutional arrangement – Team UK? Team GB? Team England?
Saying goodbye to this United Kingdom is something we should all welcome, but to break up this family is a grave mistake considering all we have achieved together, and all we can achieve together going forward. Whilst progressive Scots may consider the English a Conservative bubble, out of touch with their concerns and priorities, they should not be so quick to conclude that this difference in vision means we cannot live and work together. Let’s say goodbye to the old Union and its outdated setup and protocols – instead, let’s seize this opportunity to remake the world, engage in a democratic rebrand – and let’s start at home.