Scotland, and its potential independence, is currently a big political issue. The self-interested bickering of David Cameron and Alex Salmond has opened up a space for Labour to step-forward not just as defenders of the union but partisans of a new democratic settlement which could change the United Kingdom forever.
It was the promise of constitutional radicalism made by Labour in 1997 that contributed to the zesty freshness of feel about the incoming Labour government, which in-turn led to the landslide. However, the creation of Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly has only partially answered the questions posed by the national grievances that are in evidence, especially north of the border.
So many democratic deficits exist within the patchwork quilt of the arrangement of the UK state that it is hard to know where to start. However, since we are addressing this question we should perhaps start here.
It is clear that each nation within the union needs more autonomy but it is equally as clear, as Ed Miliband stated, that we are stronger together. I fail to see how independence will do anything but seriously damage Scotland in every way – a yes vote would therefore be a brilliant example of cutting your nose off to spite your face.
Since the genuine desire for more autonomy and a greater input into our collective governance can’t be answered by maintaining the status quo we should examine other options. A good place to start would be with the House of Lords whose very existence in its current form is a mockery of democracy.
Potential exists to turn this into a fully-elected ‘Parliament of the nations’ with each nation state electing an equitable portion of its members. Other options exist including the granting of more powers to Holyrood and the Assembly – however, you get the feeling these measures are unlikely to scratch the nationalist itch. Also, it leaves England rather unrepresented except in the form of the Westminster government.
Both routes could be taken in tandem and taken together would bring federalism a step closer. Federalism is the ideal formation of the UK state, consisting as it does of distinctive component parts, as it both preserves unity but also recognises the right of democratic autonomy for its constituent parts.
While I support the union, I feel it would be wrong to fall into line behind David Cameron & Co. They want to preserve unchanged a state of affairs that is democratically deficient. We should be the party that offers the people of the UK a new union, one that will be stronger bound together in democratic ties. Once again, Labour needs to be bold and radical in its thinking and approach – if it isn’t then the price will be the hegemony of the Conservatives and that will drive Scotland away and into the cul de sac of the SNP’s nationalism.