After the referendum

21 Sep

In the two weeks coming up to the 18th September referendum, London-based politicians were spooked by opinion polls that showed the Yes campaign making strides and possibly overtaking the No campaign. This prompted a series of ‘promises’ of greater devolution from London. The leaders of the three main British political parties issued joint pledges for further devolution. The offer was this: if you vote No and stick with us, we will pledge to give Scotland more powers. These powers will be short of independence but will relate to tax and welfare.

Within hours of the No vote, it is clear that the ‘promises’ are not quite copper-bottomed. Westminster is doing what it always does: strangling any chance of radical change through committees, commissions and inquiries. Westminster has a track record of producing cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac whereby all roads lead to Westminster. Whether it was the Levinson Inquiry into the press or that into the Iraq war, Westminster uses a form of jujitsu to shift the weight away from the crucial matter (e.g., the challenges facing a free press in Britain or the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq) into a concentration on Westminster itself. It is a form of political narcissism that prevents radical change. All roads lead to Westminster where, of course, power lies.

So although 45 percent of people in Scotland indicated that they wanted to leave the United Kingdom, including a majority in Scotland’s largest city – Glasgow, any chance of real change will be stymied by Westminster. Parliamentary timetables and procedures, and various never-ending committees, will ensure that any chance of the rare radicalism that was observed in Scotland at the time of the referendum campaign will be deflected. And throw into the mix the three main London-based parties who are jockeying for position in advance of a general election.

Westminster is the long grass. Scotland has just been kicked into it.

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