Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Scottish referendum: Is there going to be any UK left when it's over?

Is there going to be any UK left when it's over?
Is there going to be any UK left when it's over?

Well the Scottish independence referendum campaign is certainly hotting up, and getting fractious.

The pro-UK anti-independence campaign (ie the ‘No’ campaign) is certainly going out of their way to make as many enemies as possible – this being reflected in the latest polls which show an increase for support for independence (the ‘Yes’ campaign) which is now running at about 40%.

By the way with referendums, I always find I have to remind myself which side is ‘Yes’ and which side ‘No’. In fact, it’s interesting to note that it’s always better to be on the ‘Yes’ side of the argument in referendums such as this – research shows that people are sub-consciously more likely to want to vote ‘Yes’ than ‘No’ no matter what way the question is put.

This was also a factor in the 1998 Good Friday agreement referendum here in Northern Ireland – ‘Yes’ campaigns can always portray a more positive argument than ‘No’ campaigns.

However one question to ask the ‘No’ (to Scottish independence) campaign is what sort of UK is going to be left, if they carry on with their aggressive arguments against the ‘Yes’ campaign.

Do they not think it would be good to step-back, take a breath, and ask themselves why is it that a sizable portion of the Scottish electorate is going to vote for ‘Yes’ to independence? Could it be that there’s something wrong with the overall structure of the UK in the first place?

It’s useful to note that all successful democratic countries that have a federal (devolved administration) structure, like the UK has now, also have a central government structure that reflects the overall devolved federal arrangement.

The best example of this is the USA where Congress recognises the state structure, with the House of Representatives reflecting population, and the Senate reflecting each individual state on an equal basis. California with a population of approximately 40 million has 53 members in the House of Representatives, whereas Montana with a population less than Northern Ireland’s, has only one member.

However, when it comes to the Senate, (the upper House of Congress) which has powers equal to the House of Representatives, both Montana and California have exactly two members each, the same number of senate members as every other state in the USA.

Maybe the pro-UK campaign should think of proposing changes to the Westminster system to reflect the current devolved administration structure of the UK.

The current House of Lords which is unelected, full of cronies, and is basically a joke to democracy, could be re-structured to have an equal number of members from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and perhaps 2-3 separate English regions.

This would provide a balance across all of the UK, and ensure that one region or country (the English regions, Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland) couldn’t impose their policies on the whole of the UK without broad-based support.

This type of House of Lords reform would certainly take the potency out of the ‘Yes’ to independence campaign, and ensure a healthier and better functioning UK.

However the ‘No’ (to independence) campaign doesn’t seem interested in these sorts of innovative ideas. All they seem to want to do is bang Alex Salmond over the head with a hammer - They don’t seem to realise that this sort of crude approach just plays into the hands of the pro-independence campaign, and will lead to the eventual break-up of the UK.
 

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