Letters: Devolution: the state of the nations

12th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Professor Curtice calls devolution "a one-way process that seemingly can have only one conclusion breakup and separation" Devolution's slippery slope, 10 October. The first of your reports on Scotland Scotland gets a choice of 'independence lite' in referendum, 10 October similarly documents popular pressure for fuller autonomy for Wales and Northern Ireland and for full fiscal autonomy for Scotland, with the Scottish Lib Dems advocating "fiscal federalism for all parts of the UK", not just Scotland; and you report UK MPs inexplicably alarmed by Alex Salmond's indications of willingness to consider full fiscal autonomy for Scotland within the UK as a possible referendum alternative to independence.But it's apparently taboo to mention either of the elephants in the room: how long England will passively watch the other three UK nations moving inexorably towards full internal self-government while England alone is denied its obvious benefits; and why those seeking a credible policy for saving the UK from disintegration still can't see the obvious alternative to breakup, namely a full federation of the four UK nations each eventually enjoying full internal self-government with the Westminster parliament and government becoming the federal organs responsible for only those subjects that need to be managed on an all-UK basis. That, rather than disintegration, is the logical and potentially most popular culmination of the devolution process and, given some imaginative political leadership, one that could revolutionise the way we govern ourselves. There could be a rich reward for the first UK party leader to pick up this ball and run with it.Brian BarderLondonThe Scottish government does not have the power to hold a definitive referendum on Scotland's future. The constitution, in all its aspects, is a matter reserved to the United Kingdom parliament, and there are amendments tabled for the committee stage of the Scotland bill by both Lord Forsyth of Drumlean and myself which would require the UK government to hold an early referendum to end the uncertainty about Scotland's future. Salmond can argue that his victory in the Scottish election provides a mandate for a referendum to be held, but it is up to the UK parliament and government to determine when and how.George FoulkesLabour, House of LordsAlex Salmond The Tories and Lib Dems have no mandate here. Not a scintilla, 10 October hints at Scottish territorial expansion. Scotland extends, he says, from John O'Groats to Hadrian's Wall. Thus, at a stroke, those of us who live in Northumberland north of the Wall find ourselves in Scotland. Mind you, that might be no bad thing!Janice HenneyHarbottle, NorthumberlandWhy, in this time of dire troubles for the euro states Slovakia rejects multibillion euro bailout fund to deal with debt crisis, 12 October, are there moves to create in the UK autonomous fiscal regimes chained together by a common currency?Keith BiltonLondonWho is "Scottish"? Not me, apparently. I was born in Scotland, so were my parents and indeed all the ancestors I have traced so far. But I married an Englishman and now live in England. This has apparently stripped me of any claim to Scots-ness when it comes to referendums. It is little comfort to think that Mary Queen of Scots, were she alive today, would be in the same boat.Sue AtkinsLewes, East SussexIn your recent articles on devolution, you referred to allowing some financial powers to Wales, including powers to raise minor forms of taxation, and also to control of the police, the justice system and broadcasting being devolved.Another area in which Wales lacks power is in the control of energy resources frequently a point of conflict worldwide. Wales cannot truly move forward with confidence while there is no devolution of decisions on large-scale electricity generation, for example, on building nuclear power reactors, or on the larger schemes of wind, tidal or hydro-generation. Nor does Wales have powers over water catchment, crucially over whether more valleys should be flooded to supply water outside its borders. This has the potential to become even more of a flashpoint than it has been in the past. Some of these powers are now being reconsidered, but Welsh control of Welsh energy and water resources is still not on the agenda.Fflur Dafydd Comment, 11 October says "the Welsh fledgling is ready to fly". It needs control of its own resources to do so.Janet DaviesAbergavennySimon Jenkins believes that, under devolution, Northern Ireland "is moving further from the mainland and closer to Ireland proper" Comment, 12 October.This proposition is dubious at best. Support for Northern Ireland's remaining in the UK is, according to opinion poll evidence, rising even among nationalist voters in the province. Also, according to the polls, support for reunification is dropping in the Irish Republic; and an end to partition is no longer an issue in the Republic Northern Ireland isn't mentioned in the conference speeches of the main party leaders, Sinn Fin apart. The Republic's economic crisis makes reunification even less of a practical possibility than it was before. It is hard to see Waterways Ireland and the other few cross-border bodies as vehicles taking Ulster into a united Ireland. And contrary to Mr Jenkins's claims, the Republic has not claimed Northern Ireland since a referendum altered its constitution after the Belfast agreement.CDC ArmstrongBelfastRe Simon Jenkins's piece on devolution: at the time of Bannockburn we did not have nations although these were about to emerge. We had feudal allegiances. If you had called Edward Plantagenet an Englishman, he would have cut your head off. Robert the Bruce, for his part, took his name from Brix which is just outside Cherbourg. Bannockburn decided which Frenchman owned which bits of Britain.Nigel AgarHitchin, HertfordshireIndependence for Scotland, if only in fiscal matters, should be a good deal for England. First, the costs of bailing out dodgy Scottish banks, which were largely shouldered by English taxpayers, should be transferred to the Scottish budget. Second, the unfair differences between government expenditure per head between the two countries should be abolished, preferably sooner rather than later. Third, can we expect royalty payments from Scotland to England for those English inventions: the tartan and the kilt? If we removed the costs of featherbedding the Scots by England, the economic outlook would be rosy south of the border.Patrick SmithUpminster, EssexWith the increased pace of devolution, the West Lothian question will become ever more urgent. The only logical answer is to reconstitute the ancient English kingdoms such as Mercia, Northumberland and Wessex, and devolve to them powers similar to those of Scotland. The central parliament might then include representatives of the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and who knows? the Irish Republic.John HurdleyBirminghamHow can I make up my mind about Scottish independence/devolution max when I don't have even the most basic facts? What would a sovereign Scotland be like financially, ie would future oil revenues offset current transfers from Westminster? Someone must have done the sums; I think we should be told.Martyn StevensLeighton Buzzard, BedfordshireAfter reading your article How British do we feel? 12 October, we tried to enter our allegiance online, however there is no Cornish flag. On old maps of Britain, Cornwall is shown as a country and we consider ourselves Cornish, not "others", as was used to describe Cornish voters in the paper. We don't see why you can't amend your interactive guide to reflect this.JB and EC PolglaseCamborne, CornwallScottish politicsBritish identity and societyScotlandWalesNorthern IrelandScottish independenceAlex SalmondScottish National party SNPWelsh politicsIrelandguardian.co.uk © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions More Feeds

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