The UK Needs No More Legislative Devolution – Stephen Bailey

Written by Stephen Bailey:

Having witnessed the sheer lunatic vandalism of Tony Blair’s New Labour constitutional reforms brought in during the late 1990s (legislative devolution, setting up Holyrood, the Welsh Assembly (later ‘parliament’) and Stormont), which has led to the current pronounced constitutional crisis with extremist anti-UK nationalist separatists using these devolved legislatures to rise to power in Scotland and Northern Ireland (NI) and create a very real and present danger that the UK could break up, Keir Starmer’s Labour now proposes to further endanger the existence of the UK as a single (unitary) nation by devolving yet more power to Scotland in the form of fully fledged federalism. THIS IS SHEER MADNESS, nothing but yet more constitutional vandalism of the worst kind that just severely compounds the gross mistakes of Blair twenty-six years ago.

Appeasement of extremist nationalism never works Mr Starmer as it is based on illogical emotion, sentiment, ideology, lack of sound reasoning, prejudice and a distorted and often highly romanticized view of the past. There is very little sound reasoning behind it. It sees its opponents and their views as of little, if any, value, irrespective of their real merits. It is ruled by irrational bias. Consequently, there is no point in attempting to reason with such people by appeasing them. No amount of devolved power will satisfy them. The SNP in Scotland (especially) have made it crystal clear that they will only be satisfied with independence, and have ignored their devolved remit to pursue it.

The other anti-UK nationalist parties in the UK (i.e. IRA/Sinn Fein plus the SDLP in NI and Plaid Cymru in Wales) are increasingly drifting towards a position of demanding re-unification (in NI) and independence (in Wales), something that wasn’t always the case with Plaid Cymru, who, until very recently, concentrated more on cultural nationalism, like the teaching and speaking of Welsh and re-instating the Eisteddfod (independence was there, but very much in the background).

With the above in mind, Kier Starmer’s new federalist policy is doomed to failure. The only viable way to de-centralize power is through the administrative form of devolution. Holyrood, the Welsh ‘parliament’ and Stormont would be completely abolished. All powers relevant to the running of purely local (i.e. Scottish, Welsh, and NI) matters would be devolved to local councils, organizations (like the Scottish, Welsh and NI Offices and the Scottish Grand Committee with similar such committees set up in Wales and NI) and individuals (like the Scottish, Welsh, and NI Secretaries of State) in those parts of the UK. Any matters that affect the UK as a whole (the Constitution, defence, international trade etc) would remain within Westminster’s remit. This way, power, and democracy are kept localized to Scotland, Wales, NI and the Union is 100% guaranteed (the primary concern for those that genuinely want to maintain the UK) as there are no devolved legislatures through which modern aggressive extremist nationalism can push for independence, the fatal intrinsic flaw in the legislative form of devolution (the type that exits now in Scotland, Wales and NI), something that has undeniably been the case with Holyrood in Scotland and Stormont in Northern Ireland (and to a lesser but increasing extent the Welsh ‘parliament’).

The experience of the last twenty-six years of legislative devolution (and the profound lessons of the last century) has taught us that the mad Frankenstein’s monster of extremist aggressive anti-UK nationalism (as personified by the SNP in Scotland, but also by the Irish nationalist parties and increasingly by Plaid Cymru in Wales) has to be very robustly opposed to be defeated and the only viable way to permanently do this and keep the UK together is to abolish the mechanism that enables it to pursue its separatist agenda-legislative devolution.

‘Mainstream’ Unionism, the ‘Conservative and Unionist’ Party, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats, have been going in the diametrically opposed wrong direction to maintain the Union for the last 26 years. Ever since Tony Blair’s monumentally ill-conceived legislative devolutionary ‘settlement’ of the late 1990s they have all drawn entirely the wrong conclusions and wholeheartedly embraced and pursued a policy of appeasement of anti-UK nationalism by transferring more and more powers to Holyrood, the Welsh ‘parliament’, and Stormont in the hope that this will stem its monomaniacal pursuit of breaking up the UK.

How wrong-headed this policy has proved to be in real world practice. Legislative devolution in Scotland and NI has actually enabled extremist anti-UK nationalism to rise to power in their devolved legislature, displace Unionist parties and pursue independence/re-unification with a greatly enhanced ability. In Wales, nationalist Plaid Cymru have become increasingly more enabled to pursue power and their separatist agenda in the devolved legislature, the Welsh ‘parliament’, by legislative devolution to a lesser, though still significant, degree. This policy of appeasement has completely failed to stem the anti-UK nationalist tide, and indeed has actually vastly increased their ability to promote and advance their independence/re-unification agenda. So, why are all the ‘mainstream’ Unionist parties still pursuing this approach when it’s self-evidently clearly extremely counterproductive in terms of keeping the UK together?

They all talk enthusiastically about setting up ‘constitutional committees’ to have a look into what ‘needs to be done’ to stave off anti-UK nationalism. There is much talk about devolving more powers and federalism. The ‘Conservative and Unionist’ Party, which should have the strongest Unionist outlook, has been feeble, silent, and disappointing in its defence of the Union. It has completely abandoned its strong defence of the Union and followed the other parties down the more devolution/constitutional change route, suggesting a while back, yes you’ve guessed it, a constitutional committee with ‘all options on the table, including federalism’.

Repeating the same mistake again and again when the evidence proves it’s wrong-headed is the definition of madness. It’s lunacy to continue to follow this disastrous legislative devolutionary constitutional policy. When something doesn’t work, it’s prudent to stop doing it, or it will end in anti-UK nationalism succeeding in breaking up the UK. As nationalism is so obsessed with independence and legislative devolution has proved to be so powerful a tool in their hands to achieve it, a wise approach to defeating nationalism is to remove this tool that enables them to do it -abolish legislative devolution, not continuously enhance its ability to harm the Union.

Unionism needs to reassess its direction of travel to keep the UK together-NO legislative devolution is needed, not more.

NB: The article does not represent the views of Scotland Matters.

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