Britain’s New World

Photo by Moyan Brenn, Creative Commons via Flickr Kilchurn Castle, north of Glasgow, Scotland, in Loch Awe

Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe, Scotland. Photo by Moyan Brenn, Creative Commons via Flickr

By Deborah Jones
September 19, 2014

Britain will never be the same. The day after Scots voted 55-45 to support the United Kingdom, on promises by unionists for a new range of Scottish powers, Prime Minister David Cameron set in motion a process to empower not just Scotland, but also Wales and Northern Island — and potentially to remake the British political system.

Meantime, First Minister Alex Salmond, who devoted his life to Scottish independence, shocked Scots by resigning, which he had earlier said he would not do if his Yes campaign for independence failed.

“For me as leader, my time is nearly over,” he told reporters in Edinburgh. “But for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die.”

United Kingdom prime minister David Cameron said he was “delighted” at the referendum result, and in a speech Friday rejected Salmond’s assertion that the campaign continues. “There can be no disputes, no re-runs – we have heard the settled will of the Scottish people.”

Cameron appointed Lord Smith of Kelvin to oversee devolution in Scotland, and  William Hague to oversee plans for a system allowing more powers for citizens in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, developed at the same pace as Scottish devolution.

“Now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together, and to move forward,” said Cameron. “A vital part of that will be a balanced settlement – fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.”

Salmond  called on Britain’s leaders to honour that settlement, and the 11th-hour promises made in the last weeks of the campaign, promptly.

Wrote Salmond: “The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland. Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course. Just as a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by the 27th of March next year and not just the 1.6 million Scots who voted for independence will demand that that timetable is followed but all Scots who participated in this referendum will demand that that timetable is followed. ”

Excerpts of Salmond’s blog post on the Scottish referendum site: 

Alex SalmonImage © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – 2012. Licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.

Alex Salmond, official photo

It’s important to say that our referendum was an agreed and consented process and Scotland has by majority decided not at this stage to become an independent country. I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland.

But I think all of us in this campaign say that that 45 per cent, that 1.6 million votes, is a substantial vote for Scottish independence and the future of this country. Let us say something which I hope that unites all campaigns and all Scots. I think the process by which we have made our decision as a nation reflects enormous credit upon Scotland. A turnout of 86 per cent is one of the highest in the democratic world for any election or any referendum in history. This has been a triumph for the democratic process and for participation in politics.

For example, the initiative by which 16 and 17 year olds were able to vote has proved to be a resounding success. I suspect that no one will ever again dispute their right and ability to participate fully and responsibly in democratic elections.

So we now face the consequences of Scotland’s democratic decision. Firstly, Clause 30 of the Edinburgh Agreement is now in operation. On behalf of the Scottish Government I accept the results and I pledge to work constructively in the interest of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Secondly, the unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland. Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course. Just as a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by the 27th of March next year and not just the 1.6 million Scots who voted for independence will demand that that timetable is followed but all Scots who participated in this referendum will demand that that timetable is followed.

I’ll be speaking to the Prime Minister shortly after this statement but can I return thirdly to the empowerment of so many Scots entering the political process for the very first time. It is something that is so valuable it has to be cherished, preserved and built upon…

Whatever else we can say about this referendum campaign, we have touched sections of the community who’ve never before been touched by politics. These sections of the community have touched us and touched the political process. I don’t think that will ever be allowed to go back to business as usual in politics again.

Excerpts of Cameron’s speech, posted on the UK government site:

360px-David_Cameron_official

David Cameron, official photo

So now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together, and to move forward. A vital part of that will be a balanced settlement – fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.

Let us first remember why we had this debate – and why it was right to do so.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) was elected in Scotland in 2011 and promised a referendum on independence. We could have blocked that; we could have put it off, but just as with other big issues, it was right to take – not duck – the big decision. 

I am a passionate believer in our United Kingdom – I wanted more than anything for our United Kingdom to stay together.

But I am also a democrat. And it was right that we respected the SNP’s majority in Holyrood and gave the Scottish people their right to have their say…

Scotland voted for a stronger Scottish Parliament backed by the strength and security of the United Kingdom and I want to congratulate the No campaign for that – for showing people that our nations really are better together.

I also want to pay tribute to Yes Scotland for a well-fought campaign and to say to all those who did vote for independence: “we hear you”…

To those in Scotland sceptical of the constitutional promises made, let me say this we have delivered on devolution under this government, and we will do so again in the next Parliament.

The 3 pro-union parties have made commitments, clear commitments, on further powers for the Scottish Parliament. We will ensure that they are honoured in full. 

And I can announce today that Lord Smith of Kelvin – who so successfully led Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games – has agreed to oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments, with powers over tax, spending and welfare all agreed by November and draft legislation published by January.

Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs. The rights of these voters need to be respected, preserved and enhanced as well.

It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of our United Kingdom. In Wales, there are proposals to give the Welsh government and Assembly more powers. And I want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on how to make our United Kingdom work for all our nations. In Northern Ireland, we must work to ensure that the devolved institutions function effectively.

I have long believed that a crucial part missing from this national discussion is England. We have heard the voice of Scotland – and now the millions of voices of England must also be heard. The question of English votes for English laws – the so-called West Lothian question – requires a decisive answer.

So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland.

I hope that is going to take place on a cross-party basis. I have asked William Hague to draw up these plans. We will set up a Cabinet Committee right away and proposals will also be ready to the same timetable. I hope the Labour Party and other parties will contribute.

It is also important we have wider civic engagement about to improve governance in our United Kingdom, including how to empower our great cities. And we will say more about this in the coming days.

This referendum has been hard fought. It has stirred strong passions. It has electrified politics in Scotland, and caught the imagination of people across the whole of our United Kingdom.

It will be remembered as a powerful demonstration of the strength and vitality of our ancient democracy. Record numbers registered to vote and record numbers cast their vote. We can all be proud of that. It has reminded us how fortunate we are that we are able to settle these vital issues at the ballot box, peacefully and calmly.

“Now we must look forward, and turn this into the moment when everyone – whichever way they voted – comes together to build that better, brighter future for our entire United Kingdom.

 

Copyright Deborah Jones 2014

Further reading on Facts and Opinions:

Scotland Votes, Frontlines blog post

Scotland Decided: what the experts say 
An expert panel looks at what happened, and where it leaves the UK and Scotland.

ALEX SALMOND: The Independent Scot. By Murray Leith
If there’s one figure that anyone anywhere would associate with the Scottish referendum campaign it’s Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), and the man who could be responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom. But who is he, where did this political whirlwind begin and where will it take the man and his party?

Scottish leader downplays difficulties of independence. By Jonathan Manthorpe, April 2014 (Subscription)
Scots  will vote in a referendum on September 18 on separation from the United Kingdom. But the division of assets and liabilities in the break-up of a country is complex and vexatious – and in the case of Scotland, these matters are particularly difficult. The latest polls in Scotland, with the undecided vote discounted, shows 52 percent of respondents support staying with the United Kingdom while 48 per cent want independence.

Further reading elsewhere:
Salmond to resign after Scotland rejects independence, Agence France-Presse 

Scotland’s pro-independence leader Alex Salmond said Friday he would resign after losing a referendum that left the United Kingdom intact but opened a Pandora’s box of demands for more autonomy across Britain.

Scotland is staying. London’s headaches are just starting, Christian Science Monitor 

British leaders are relieved by the Scots’ vote against independence. But devolving new powers to Scotland – and perhaps to England – may be a bigger challenge for Westminster than the referendum was.

Queen Accepts Scotland’s Apology (Satire), Borowitz Report, The New Yorker

In the aftermath of Scotland’s “no” vote in the referendum on becoming an independent country, Queen Elizabeth II, of Great Britain, took to the airwaves on Friday morning to inform the people of Scotland that she “graciously and wholeheartedly” accepted their apology. “Although the matter of independence has been settled, one question remains very much open,” she said in an address televised across Scotland. “And my answer to that question is this: yes, I forgive you.”