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Is the Union Fit For Purpose?


Well, that is the question doing the media rounds at the moment. It is another way of phrasing the independence debate that is happening in Scotland with the referendum due in autumn 2014.

Henry McLeish in yesterday’s Herald said that the union wasn’t “fit for purpose”.

I agree with the former First Minister, the current settlement is terrible but then again he helped draft it. There is all this talk about “saving” the Union. Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats today in the Sunday Herald called it “outdated and over centralised”

Is this Union worth saving?

I would say not.

Is independence worth fighting for?

I would say not.

Is devo-max or full fiscal autonomy worth fighting for?

I would say not.

What is worth fighting for?

A union where we all come together, as a nation of equals to make decisions that benefit the whole of these islands not just one part. As again, Willie Rennie said in the Herald today, a union which we look past “division and difference” in order to achieve for everyone not just a select group.

I don’t think the current settlement allows every part of the UK to fly. As I’ve blogged here. We need to do something radically different. I think the LibDems can capitalise on it, if we start arguing for a federal UK or even a settlement thats created by the whole of the UK. As I’ve blogged here.

In order to create a Union that is fit for purpose, we’ve got to realise that each part needs to strive for excellence whilst having the support and the collectivism of the rest of the United Kingdom. In order to create a union that works we need to find that balance of individualism and collectivism. It is that balance which liberals fight for in all areas of life.

Now more than ever we, liberals need to fight for that balance within the structure of governance of the United Kingdom so that individualism doesn’t break the collectivism and harm the whole of the United Kingdom.

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  1. January 16, 2012 at 12:50

    Interesting post. It really is very difficult for us south of the border to catch up with this. The problem with the union isn’t Scotland – it’s England. As a single national entity it is too dominant (like Russia in the Soviet Union) making any federal solution very difficult to work. It resists being broken up into regional states. Its people are grumpily conservative, reacting with suspicion to any constitutional change – as the AV referendum showed.

    What you are suggesting is to reform the UK constitution so that it works better for everybody. I’d vote for that. But I can’t see the majority of English voters doing so. which means we will drift into a new arrangement of some sort which will again prove unsatisfactory.

    I agree with you that there is an opportunity for the Lib Dems here, since we’ve always felt the constitution should be remade…though we are short of answers to the English question these days, since we went off regionalism.

    • January 16, 2012 at 13:30

      Thanks. England is the problem to a federal solution. If you read one of my more recent posts on the questions that should be asked in the referendum then you’ll see I ask the question of whether we, Scotland should you know engage with the people south of the border to try and find a solution to make this union work for everybody. I think because of devolution everyone knows that the Union isn’t really working but nobody knows exactly what they want or how they want to be governed so they stick with the status quo. We need to start the debate and chuck out some ideas to get the debate rolling. I found when out campaigning for AV, people wanted change, they didn’t know what change they wanted though so they stuck with the status quo because its easier. The SNP have an easy solution of it’ll be better if we are independent. Its easy to explain even if the consequences aren’t. Also on the English question, England didn’t use to be one nation, one way of doing a federal solution would be to bring back some of those old boundaries to use to make England maybe less dominant.
      Post on questions that should be asked –

  2. January 16, 2012 at 15:02

    Which leaves the question of how to engage with people on both sides of the border. What we need to do is to persuade people to think the issues through, rather than just react to half-baked statements. The usual way is to elect a constitutional convention… for all of the UK. Do you think that’s a way forward?

    There are some strong English regional identities, but mostly they have been allowed to wither. Leeds is in Yorkshire, yes. But to what region does Northampton, or Cheltenham, or Bristol belong? Only two of the Euro regions aren’t named after compass points. Personally I would back developing regional identities in England, but its been considered politically toxic since Prescott’s bungling in the North.

    • January 16, 2012 at 16:48

      That is the question but it needs doing in my opinion. I have argued for a constitutional convention in LibDem Voice – http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-a-new-approach-to-our-union-25895.html Another possibility is a citizens assembly of some kind. The question then is balance though.

      The regional identities in Scotland too have been allowed to whither to be replaced by a Scottish identity but the Scots have refused to allow Scottishness to die and Britishness to rise which is why we’ve got the referendum. I would love regional identities in Scotland to be developed and hopefully some cross border regional identities to be developed.

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