We are still a United Kingdom, or Queendom if you prefer, as the vote in Scotland has given the whole of the UK a real chance to consider its political future. But will it? Not as I write. It seems that big P politics is set to get in the way, again.
The result from Thursdays referendum in Scotland was decisive, if not slightly born out of Westminster panic based on one Sunday Times poll. The real winner was democracy and the Scottish people with a voter turn out of 86%. The engagement of 16 and 17-year-old voters must mean that they are enfranchised on all future votes but the total turn out proves that when it really matters ‘we the people’ will get involved, listen to the arguments on both sides and vote. Politics in the UK could learn a lot from the experience of Scotland. This vote may also finally kill the ‘centre ground’, which has done more to damage democracy than anything else in a generation.
Yet as one question is answered many others are posed and one of those questions is very big. What of the rest of the UK and its governance? Scotland has it’s parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland have their Assemblies but England has, err nothing. That is not entirely true. England has councils, lots and lots of councils. There are parish, town, district and county councils plus unitary authorities and there are local enterprise partnerships, MPs and lets not forget MEPs too. The South West has six of those. All those people, elected and doing what? We are not short of governance or politicians to do it. They all cost you money and they all have their agendas.
If you have ever watched a council meeting or been part of this level governance at any level you can see why so little actually gets done. It’s a miracle that anything ever gets done. So does England need is own Assembly or Parliament as well as councils various or does it need to look at all the layers of government it currently has and make it more effective?
First question. Do we really need all the various councils we have? It is hard to get good Councillors, even harder to get people to vote for Councillors. Local government and governance is the one that actually affects us more day-to-day than anything else. Why not have one single level of local government rather than three or four? And why not pay those who do it too? No amateurs, part timers, parish pump types but local politicians dedicated to public service and paid properly for it.
Second question. Does England need a parliament too? The simple population statistic is that 85% of the United Kingdom … phew … Is English, in that they live in England. Minorities have their voices heard and constantly championed through assemblies, parliaments or pressure groups who are often shouting about how hard done by they are and why the need more money/representation/say/rights. The English majority have nothing. There is real need for an English parliament for English governance.
This would lead to an English and Scottish parliament, a Welsh and Northern Ireland assembly. Add to this a single tear of regional assemblies, and a House of Lords replaced by an elected Senate for UK wide issues and governance and Robert’s your father’s brother, it’s a new way of doing politics and running the UK.
The single tear regional assemblies plus a Welsh and a Northern Ireland assembly would deal with the day-to-day services we all use including education and health. An English and Scottish parliament would deal with law making, Police, Crime, Defence etc, oversight of regional assemblies and would have the ability to set and raise taxes. An elected Senate would deal with international policy, with oversight over parliament, National parliaments and assemblies and regional assemblies, and all this would be held in check and balance by select and scrutiny committees, both regionally and nationally.
This means you only have to vote three times; locally, nationally and for the senate. It might also arrest the real danger that government by consent of the majority is slowly heading for government created from the apathy of the majority and narrow politics of the minority. Change is needed as we are increasingly getting the Councillors, MPs, party leaders and government we deserve.
One last thing. We need to teach democracy in schools.