Two years ago and the question on should Scotland be an independent country hardly registered on most people’s thoughts. In fact, I believe the country as a whole nearly sleep-walked into a large void and great uncertainty. Thankfully, this did not happen, as the country as a whole suddenly woke up to the reality of 307 years of union could be over if something did not change.
This referendum showed when the voter is engaged people will turnout and vote. This was shown by an amazing turnout of 85%. The last time a voter turnout was that high in a national vote was in the 1950 General Election when Clement Attlee became PM. The turnout then was 83.9%. With all votes now in, the margin of win for the No or Better Together campaign was larger than all the polls and pundits predicted; with the final vote split as follows:
- No – 2,001,926
- Yes – 1,617,989
In percentage terms this is 55% for No and 45% for the Yes. Even though the win is by a clear 10% and that might not seem much, but only four of the 32 local authority areas voted Yes. These were Glasgow – 53.49%; Dundee City – 57.35%; West Dumbartonshire – 53.96%; and North Lanarkshire – 51.07%. The 28 authority areas who voted No included Orkney who rejected independence by 67.2% followed by Scottish Borders with 66.56%. However the clear winning margin of 10% is enough for one side to claim outright victory, there is a still a clear indication 45% of those who voted want change.
The decision by the voters of Scotland showed the union’s status quo cannot continue. How this will change is anyone guess, and will be played out in the coming months with parties across the political spectrum trying to out do each other on devolution pledges leading up to the General Election in 2015. The West Lothian question has to be answered. It is not right 59 MP’s can have a vote on purely English matters, when this privilege is not reciprocated in Scotland. How Wales and Northern Ireland fits in to the new union will have to be carefully considered too.
How this vote impacts on Cornwall is yet to be seen. Cornwall Council has long campaigned for more powers for the people of Cornwall. It has had some successes, but just how far will the Government go is the $64,000 question. The Government will also have to try to placate the non-Scottish MP’s who now will be rightly saying what about us after all the pledges to Scotland. As for the pledges to Scotland, they must be honoured, but all parties cannot and must not forget the other home nations
My view is devolved powers cannot have another level of bureaucracy or another level of Government in place. Powers should be given to the existing authorities. No doubt post the Scotland vote there will be calls for another tier of Government, but it is not one I currently subscribe to. I cannot see how another level of bureaucracy could be supported in these financially challenging times. People want services delivered and in a cost- effective manner.
I am a firm believer in less centralisation, but I also know there has to be a limit or a point where devolution is not cost-effective. It is okay asking for more powers, but if those powers cost more to deliver, then surely there has to be a stopped point on what is sensible devolution and what is nothing more than fanciful thinking.
Lastly and this has often been lost in the YES / NO election campaign is the voice of young people. I think this referendum has also shown 16/17-year-olds should be given the vote for all elections from now on. I hope this can be implemented quickly, though I doubt it will be for the General Election in 2015. Well done to Scotland for showing us the way on how to get young people involved in deciding their future.
The United Kingdom is still as one. And for this, I thank you Scotland and its people.