19 September 2014

Thank you, Alex

A few weeks ago I wrote, "I'd have a lot more respect for Alex Salmond if he had fought for decentralisation of the UK's existing and overbearing bureaucracies in order to deliver more services with less overheads. Had he managed that then he'd have a real argument, not for splitting Scotland away, but for applying those skills in Westminster.".

With the vote now in, and 84% of the registered electorate having cast their votes, Scotland has voted to remain within the Union by a decent, if not resounding margin of 55%:45%. But the result of the vote is going to reverberate for some time, particularly because it has raised everyone's awareness of the significance of devolution.

It will be interesting to see just how quickly Westminster can move to deliver the last minute commitments made to the Scottish people by the Leaders of the three main parties, commitments which probably had a significant effect on the result. The question now will be whether or not Westminster devolves powers across the United Kingdom, thereby diluting the significance of the Westminster Parliament.

From my own viewpoint, Westminster's 'Westminster-centric' view of the world lies at the root of the problem. The United Kingdom stretches far beyond the bounds of the Houses of Parliament but that is not the way that Westminster is perceived by most of the United Kingdom. Too much time and attention is given to matters which refer to issues within the M25 and the City of London in particular.

Westminster needs to address the needs of the United Kingdom as a whole and, had it done so in the past, the Scottish vote might never have happened. As an illustration, Westminster needs to look at infrastructure issues, not from the viewpoint of how they serve London but how they serve the United Kingdom. The current CrossRail project is causing a revitalisation of East London - why is the same approach, and funding, not applied on the Leeds/Liverpool axis?

We live under the title of the United Kingdom and Westminster has damaged the credibility of the Union by behaving as if it didn't really exist. If Westminster now changes its attitude to the rest of the United Kingdom then I will thank Alex Salmond for bringing us all closer together.