It’s a few hours after the devolution result was announced – so naturally, the devo-plus legislation ‘vow’ has already been delayed until after the 2015 general election. So, three quick points on that. First, as the price of a No victory today, Scots believe they have been ‘promised’ full control over Health and a permanent – ridiculously unfair – commitment to higher expenditure in Scotland than in more needy parts of the UK. Second, the bookies at the moment have Labour winning the 2015 general election but only by relying on the votes of Scottish MPs. Third, UK Labour’s 2015 campaign effort will be built around, er, Health.
It’s simply not a constitutional option for a prime minister not to be able to legislate. So all Labour can do if they win the general election is renege (on the English) on the offer and propose a settlement which opts-out Scottish MPs from the middle-stages of some bills but allows them to vote to pass bills on issues, like Health, which are ostensibly ‘wholly devolved’. Meanwhile, David Cameron has, wilily, chosen to make a serious assault on the ‘West Lothian Question’ an election issue.
Some Tories are arguing for an English parliament – they know that would also mean the end of the UK since such a parliament would vote on all the issues UK parties currently campaign upon. Really, such folk want the Scots to bugger off. Other folk are arguing for more devolution to cities or the regions. But England’s cities and regions don’t want devolution – we’ve just gone through a whole political cycle proving that.
Middle-class Scots have voted to retain their free tuition fees, free care for the elderly, free prescriptions – the call that social justice here, but it’s essentially Scottish conservatism – yet they’ll continue to reject the Tory party itself at elections. England’s Tories (and quite a lot of Labour folk) won’t stand for it. If Cameron hangs on to his job next year, his main headache will be Europe – not Scotland. He’ll do what he’s promised, take away the Scots vote on devolved issues and accept that the union might be over. This is what the SNP is hoping for. If Miliband wins, he’ll be forced to blag it and hope it goes away…..
From the feel of it just now, Scots think they have the whip hand. However, I think English folk of all political persuasions will feel the referendum’s been won with menaces upon them – ‘give us your money or the union gets it’. They’ll say the Scots are like faux-beggars who greedily demand other folks’ cash but then go home to comfortable 3-bed homes in the suburbs at night. It won’t be pretty. The game’s quite a long way from over, although the union still might not be.