Too late for a federal UK to stave off Independence
Those who want to keep Scotland in the UK need to wrest back the initiative from the separatists, which has been lost.
Lord Hain: Constitutional Reform Group
Much to the dismay of some of our readers, I have previously talked about being open to the idea of a Federal UK.
For me it was a good solution to the the problem we had in 2014. Implementation of such a system would have been a middle ground that would have been satisfactory to most Scots. It also had the potential of acting as a stepping stone to independence. However, times have changed, and the constitutional storm we were living through one month ago now looks like a calm summer’s day in the post Brexit maelstrom.
The people behind the Constitutional Reform Group that today published the draft Act Of Union Bill 2016 were always clear in their ideology. They are unionists who wanted to quell the thirst for independence north of the border as they knew that doing nothing would make a split inevitable. This is a reasonable motive, and those proposing it were doing something rare in willingly offering to concede much of their power.
However, they must be stark raving bonkers if they think that now is an opportune time to implement such a change.
In the next few years the British Civil Service are about to enter the busiest phase of their history. They need to completely redraft the UK’s relationship with every country in the world. They need to go through UK law with a fine tooth comb. Bigwigs in the civil service are already openly talking about how unequipped it is for this gargantuan task.
Ever the pragmatist, I was open to the idea of a federal compromise because the UK previously had the time and resources to make it work. Post Brexit, the resources are going to be concentrated elsewhere and time is of the essence. The choice is no longer between an independent Scotland and the UK. The choice is between an independent Scotland within the EU and an isolated UK (which at some point in the future might become a federation). Those undecided or torn need to choose between those options now as there isn’t going to be a halfway house. The chancellor made it clear today there will be no separate Scottish EU deal. If we want to remain in the EU we need to decide to be an independent nation now, as talks to keep us in the EU need to happen in tandem with talks to take the UK out of it.
It would be an amazing act of faith to remain in the UK in the hope it can fumble together a federal system in the midst of the current chaos.
That said, it would be a valid point to say that opting for Scottish independence within the EU in such circumstances requires similar belief. I opt for independence as I believe a small, sovereign, representative country within the EU has a better chance of being fair and successful than a post Brexit UK; albeit a UK where a few dignitaries are begrudgingly contemplating what may be progressive change.
For those who are not already fundamentally disposed to one union over the other a hard decision needs to be made now. And anyone who is undecided should not let the pipe-dream of a federation factor into their judgement. The UK, containing Scotland or not, has enough to be getting on with in the coming years.