Opinion: Devolution is best for Britain

Photo of Cameron and Salmond

Prime Minister David Cameron promised more devolved powers to Scotland. After the referendum he added that the devolution process had to follow the same speed as devolution in England. (Photo: Scottish Government via Flickr)

The Scottish Independence Referendum has sent shockwaves around the rest of the United Kingdom and has opened up a whole new debate about a UK-wide devolution settlement, writes Kamran Hussain

David Cameron has said he wants enhanced powers for Scotland and also regions in England. Now all three main party leaders are promising constitutional change of some magnitude. What started out solely as a decision for Scotland to make has now really put Westminster under the microscope.

Mr Cameron has asked the Commons Leader, William Hague to draw up plans to significantly change politics at Westminster which means only English MPs can vote on English matters.

There is definitely a strong feeling from the public that Westminster is too powerful and fails to understand the needs of other regions.

The ‘establishment’ could have easily been on the losing end of the referendum and the yes campaign spoke for many people who feel that too much power is exercised from Westminster.

It seems the politicians at Westminster are now beginning to realise the disconnect they have with the rest of the nation and are actively seeking a solution.

However, constitutional change has not always been popular as seen by the disinterest in the referendum on changing the voting system or on the House of Lords reform.

Mr Cameron’s devolution plans sound very positive and actually address a very important issue that has previously been ignored. However, such radical change in such a short space of time may prove to be costly.

It is important to remember that there will be a General Election next year and perhaps that is one of the reasons Mr Cameron is so keen to get this draft published before the election takes place.

It is not often we see cross-party agreement, but we saw that it is possible with the Better Together campaign. However, it did not take the politicians back at Westminster too long before they started playing politics again.

There seems to be urgency about these constitutional changes something which is not usually seen in politics as processes are often described as tedious.

However, these are very complicated issues and need to be debated thoroughly before any action is taken. Setting out a concrete plan for further devolution before May 2015 seems very ambitious.

If there is going to be such a big change in British politics, then seeking public opinion – and not just in the face of focus groups – is essential. The public will not want to see another top-down, politician led approach on such a sensitive issue.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has announced plans for a full constitutional convention and said the discussions should begin before next year’s general election. However, the Labour leader added that there is no quick fix and the priority at this moment is to stick with the timetable laid out by Gordon Brown for Scottish devolution.

Under Labour’s plans each region is to be treated independently and will be required to produce a report outlining a series of recommendations including:

  • How sub-devolution can be expanded and improved
  • How each region can be given more of a say in the political system
  • How can regional and national culture and identity be strengthened

The Scottish Independence Referendum has provided the rest of the UK with the opportunity to question the integrity and transparency of Westminster leaving many people feeling like they are not being represented fairly.

Mr Cameron wants enhanced powers for the Scottish Parliament and new powers for English MPs at Westminster.

Mr Miliband wants a “constitutional convention” after the election to discuss devolution plans for England agreed, in draft, before the 2015 election.

Britain is entering a new era of politics and it seems change on a large scale is inevitable. Politics is not known for its dynamic nature, but with greater news coverage and the use of social media more people are joining the debate to express their anger at politicians.

The dominance of Westminster often hinders progress in individual regions and devolving powers will allow local authorities to make decisions faster based on their local knowledge.

There is a general consensus that politics needs to have more transparency, integrity and accountability. Further devolution will be welcomed as regions would be able to allocate money where they think it is most needed. There will also be opportunities for more people to get involved in politics at a local level.

Kamran Hussain is a third year journalism student.

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