Behind the Devo-delays

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United Kingdom falling apart - flag with Scotland independent. RNow Scotland knows where it stands.

Well, after a fashion.

The result might be in but the actual plan for more devolution to come has become even more vague than it was a week ago.

It’s not, however, so hard to understand why when you consider the most pressing battle for the UK parties now is a General Election. The independence question is settled…for now.

So what is behind the changes and disagreements on proposals for more devolution? Besides the attraction of finally resolving the power inequalities between the regions and nations, there are a few other harder political issues at play:

Firstly, as we commented before, people in the rest of the UK were not only against Scottish independence but also likely against significantly more powers for Scotland. Anyone spending the run up to the next general election woo-ing Scotland, without also setting it out benefits for the rest of the UK, may well suffer for it.

Secondly, despite the boost to the profile of Ruth Davidson resulting from the campaign, Scotland isn’t about to suddenly vote overwhelmingly Conservative (or LibDem, for that matter) so it’s not in the UK Government’s parties’ immediate interest to expend too much energy continuing to woo them, or legislate in their exclusive favour, at the expense of a core vote elsewhere.

Thirdly, Scotland may be pivotal in how the balance of power falls at Westminster next year; Labour is unlikely to win without it. The SNP is already seeing a huge boost to membership, and if a large proportion of ‘Yes’ voters follow through by voting SNP, it might not be Labour sending the largest number of MPs to London.

Also, anyone even passingly familiar with systems of federalism used worldwide will know that nothing being proposed by the two main UK parties comes within spitting distance of established models. Proposing ‘English votes for English issues’ in particular is interesting. It clearly benefits the Conservatives most, potentially excluding Labour from having enough votes to deliver their manifesto pledges, even in the event of securing an overall majority, due to their greater reliance on seats outside England.

Handily, it also ensures that the SNP have less opportunity to strategically use their Parliamentary votes as leverage. Without an ‘English votes’ only system in place, and if the SNP did hold a balance of power, would they be willing to enter into a ‘confidence and supply’ type deal, ensuring passage of key legislation and preventing votes of no confidence in Ministers, in exchange for a bigger transfer of powers to Scotland?