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The Significance of the Scottish Vote

Autor:   •  September 5, 2017  •  1,490 Words (6 Pages)  •  584 Views

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fact, part of this is due to the fact that there is no written constitution.

The lack of a written constitution contains the danger of not guaranteeing devolution and the moves towards some separation of powers; at the same time, there is no written guarantee of the indivisibility of the union. However, the legislation behind devolution, as well as legislation in response to requirements of membership in the European Union , has led to what some describe as the gradual creation of a written constitution for the UK. This is another implication of the Scottish vote: calls for specific moves towards the Federalist model, including a written constitution, and reform of the House of Lords to better represent the regions, as well as some solution to the democratic deficit and the problem of England’s dominance.

In addition to issues of regional political power and separation of powers, there was an economic dimension to the Scottish vote that is left unresolved by the outcome. The United Kingdom is, in large part, a ‘social union’ of very different nations, especially for the Scots (Kettle, 2014). Perhaps this doesn’t exactly reflect how the authors of the Federalist Papers imagined a Federal republic’s primary role, of protecting and encouraging the free development of varied commercial interests. But social welfare programs form the backbone of the state, but how the Scots have experienced or depended on those programs, and how the changes to them in the past 30 years have affected the Scots differently, is important to understanding the events leading up to the referendum, and how economic problems may determine in large part the implications of the vote.

In the years after World War 2, Scotland, like the rest of the UK, benefitted from low unemployment and high economic growth; politically, the Scottish people were split between Labor and Conservative supporters . That all changed in the 1970s and 1980s, with the rise of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party, and their program of economic “neo-liberalism” (Pilkington, 2014). At the same time, oil revenues from the North Sea deposits began coming in, resulting in the Scottish economy becoming dependent on its share of the revenues to avoid structural budget deficits and even widespread private debt. This dependence, combined with the rise of the Scottish National Party, leaves Scotland politically and economically very different from England. Can the Federal model as explicated in the Federalist Papers, hold for such a relationship? Is England again, too big and with too much of the UK’s wealth, and politically too different, for a stable Federal relationship between regional authorities and the center to work? According to Hamilton et. al., a large Federal republic will benefit its constituent regions in large part by providing protection for, and promoting the interests of commerce within and between states. During the campaign leading up to the referendum, the central government promised greater autonomy for Scotland in its ability to control revenues and, conceivably, invest in its own development. In addition, one of the points the SNP campaigned on was the need to use oil revenues to investment in the diversification of the Scottish economy (Pilkington, 2014). Perhaps the Federal model that eventually emerges in the UK will provide the protection and promotion of commercial interests in Scotland not in the way the authors of the Federalist Papers imagined, but through an unequal but protected status for a region, Scotland, which receives relative autonomy and direct investment of resource revenues, but sacrifices some say in the affairs of a central government dominated by England.

How likely is this scenario to play out? The last serious Scottish attempt to force a Federal model on the union with England, in the mid-seventeenth century, failed and in part led to the Civil War (Graham, 2014). With more than forty percent of the current population voting in favor of independence, and an even higher percentage among Scottish youth, it is likely that if such hybrid Federal model doesn’t emerge, and doesn’t address issues of Scotland’s economic development and control over its allocation of revenues, independence will be on the ballot again in the near future. In other words, a system of relative separation of powers and devolution of authority to regions, supported by a written constitution and a judiciary with specific responsibility to protect it, may be required to maintain the UK as one


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