Where Else Do We Go From Here?
I pulled this section from my last blog to focus it on Celtic, and ironically to keep it short, but I thought it was worth keeping and fleshing out a bit more anyway. I’ve altered it quite a bit to include my submission to the Smith Commission, which in turn came about from altering the first version of this. Killing two birds with one stone! Anyway, this originally came just after I’d mentioned how I had to go to the Celtic ticket office to get a refund on the tickets they should never have sent me in the first place, so we’ll pick it up there…
Doing so didn’t come easy. I had to drag myself off the sofa to go there as I was still recovering from gallbladder removal surgery. I’ve had issues with gallstones for a couple of years now, issues that eventually lead to me having to completely drop cheese and alcohol from my diet, and the only way to resolve those issues was to remove not only the gallstones but the faulty gallbladder that made them. Even though that surgery was a complete success, and it was done so through keyhole surgery and therefore far less invasive, it still took a few weeks to recover. Truth be told I still haven’t recovered fully yet, and won’t for a while yet. That means I’m currently out of any physical activities like playing golf or football – like I’ve not had enough time out due to injuries in the last few years – although cheese has made a welcome return to my diet! Alcohol may wait a while yet, although I did toast Poland’s win over Germany with a vodka with no ill-effects!
Speaking of golf… I cancelled my club membership after realising that I’d played one game there this year. Having a baby means I just don’t have time to play at the moment, and on the odd occasion I might actually get to play a round I have access to a few pay-as-you-play courses. But still, it feels like I’ve admitted defeat there.
But all of that pales into insignificance when compared with the defeat in the Scottish independence referendum.
I truly believed Scotland could go it alone and build not just a prosperous future, but move towards becoming a fairer country than the one we currently live in. Clearly, 55% of those who voted didn’t agree with that. I think we’ve made a huge mistake there, and it’s one we will probably pay for now. How much we will pay remains to be seen, but the indications since the referendum result aren’t good. There’s been far too much backtracking already, with many unionist sources now moaning that those who voted yes won’t move on – a thinly veiled attempt at deflecting attention away from all the backtracking they’re doing. Remember the statement “a vote for no is not a vote for no change” that Better Together trotted out so often? Well, that is rapidly being revealed for the lie that it was. You only had to look at the Westminster debate this week to see Scotland is quickly returning to being a backwater part of the country that those who run it don’t really care about.
After the result came in, my reaction was pretty much to hide away and cry. I took a few days away from my main Twitter account, I skipped all of my politically leaning podcasts – comedy or otherwise – and tried to avoid the news where I could. That might seem like an over-reaction, but considering I sat in my living room that Friday morning after the result and could barely look my son in the face as I felt like I’d somehow let him down (despite voting yes myself) meant it was definitely time to push away for a bit. There should never come a point in my life where I feel like I’ve let him down, ever.
Ultimately, in several areas of my life, I’ve had to do the same thing over and over again. I’ve had to admit defeat and pull away. Celtic, playing golf, playing football, politics… it’s like I’ve been kicked in the stomach repeatedly, not something that’s pleasant immediately after gallbladder surgery, and I’ve no idea what to do about it.
But that’s precisely what I need to do – find things that can be done.
It’s all good and well saying “I’ve had enough” but there needs to be more than that. There needs to be action, there needs to be a plan where I can say “okay, this has changed now and I’m happier with it”. For playing football it’s simple – I just need to wait on my body physically healing itself. Time will take care of that and then I’ll be back. I’ve already said pay-as-you-play is the way for me to go with golf for a while. It’s also heading into winter, so no one plays as much at this time of year anyway. Longer term, golf is just the kind of game I’d like to teach my son to play. So when he’s older, then we can both learn to play it properly together!
But what about the rest?
As far as Scotland goes, there are a lot of people asking that same question. The grassroots Yes campaign are certainly making the right noises about continuing the good work they’ve started, but it’s going to be tough now that there’s no referendum to aim for and there wasn’t the hoped result. It might still be possible to build the fairer Scotland we all want, but it’s going to be a damn sight more difficult when Westminster still has control over so much that we would need to control to do it. There will be a big push to get as many new powers to Holyrood as possible, but it’s pretty clear already we know it won’t be enough and we know they’ll try and redress the balance elsewhere.
I also don’t think it’s a leap of faith to suggest that a majority of Scots want change. We know for a fact that 45% of Scots want the ultimate change, somehow I doubt the other 55% are more than happy with everything as it is now. It only takes one in every tenth person who voted no to want change for that to be a majority, and given how often even firm unionists found “a vote for no is not a vote for no change” rolling off their tongue makes it clear how prevalent that belief is in Scotland. So until it does, “move on” is just a nonsense request. Maybe they should join the “silent majority” and shut up for the time being.
So the question for me is what change should we be aiming for? Well… here’s my submission to the Smith Commission.
The current democratic position of the United Kingdom is an untenable mess of affairs. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have differing levels of devolution, assembly and home rule. This, coupled with a complete lack of any equivalent for England has resulted in a major issue being made of the so-called “West Lothian question” whereby MPs from devolved areas of the UK can vote on English issues but English MPs cannot vote on devolved issues. Indeed, the question becomes more complex due to the differing levels of devolved powers as MPs can vote on all issues in England, but a varied level of issues across the other three nations.
The solution to this problem should, therefore, be self evident. A balance across all four nations must be found, thereby granting England a parliament of its own – separate from Westminster – with the same power as the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish equivalents. Indeed, it may be that one English parliament is insufficient to meet the needs given the widely recognised north/south divide. However, that is a decision that should be made by the people of England alone.
Nevertheless, it should be abundantly clear that the major purpose of devolving powers is to ensure that local issues are dealt with locally rather than by one central and possibly distant parliament. The needs of the people of London do not match the needs of the people of Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast or even Manchester. This is not a failing of the United Kingdom, but is a truth that should be realised as a strength of the country as a whole.
Equally, the needs of the people of Edinburgh do not match the needs of the people of Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Stornoway. Therefore, not only should powers be devolved to the various country parliaments, but the parliaments should be encouraged to further devolve power to local authorities and communities. Indeed, this will mean granting as much power as is possible to the parliaments to ensure they can do this.
As it should be clear, this would mean a significantly reduced Westminster influence across the whole of the United Kingdom. However, under these Federal proposals, this should be viewed as a positive step. Westminster would be reserved for dealing with issues that affect the United Kingdom as a whole. Therefore it does not make sense for this commission to be viewing possible changes from the perspective of devolution from Westminster to Holyrood. Instead, this commission should be viewing Holyrood as having been devolved all powers, except for those powers that are handed back to Westminster.
Financing of these parliaments should be viewed in a similar manner. Currently the Barnett Formula is a major factor in funding the Scottish Parliament, however it is too tightly coupled to the public spending decisions elsewhere within the UK. As such, decisions made outside of Scotland have a necessary knock on effect within Scotland as the overall budget rises and falls. A better and fairer system would see the various parliaments being fully responsible for generating the funds necessary to spend on services as their parliaments see fit, with a new formula derived to calculate the portion of the money sent to Westminster. In effect, each parliament would pay for its UK membership and all the benefits that the union offers. This would operate in a similar manner to the way each EU member contributes to the EU parliament.
Implementing all of this will be seen as a radical shake up of the United Kingdom, however modernisation of the union for the 21st century should not only be seen as a positive move, but it should be embraced as a better way forward together.
Yeah, I worded that last bit to try and shoehorn in a bit of “Better Together” rhetoric. Do I expect that to help? Not really, but I wanted to at least make sure that my submission was sent in. If you want to get your in, do so before the end of October. The details are on The Smith Commission web site.
There is still a few problems with that though. For one, I don’t really want the UK dealing with things that affect the whole country because we know that will include things like nuclear weapons and having a war with whoever the American government want to fight that year. But this is what we voted for in September, so I’ll just have to tolerate that. At this point in time its all about making the best of what we have, not wishing for a different outcome a month ago. After all, this is a democracy and the majority didn’t want independence whether I agree with them or not.
The more pressing issue is that I doubt the mainstream parties at Westminster have any intention of giving up as much power as a federal setup would entail. They want their say over the English issues from Westminster, they don’t want to pass it down to a more local parliament. But even if they did go federal and introduce an English parliament, they’d probably still retain more power at Westminster than would be good for the rest of the country. As I suggested in my submission, the truth is that Westminster’s power would be reduced to pretty much the same power as the EU – or arguably less. Of course, some would suggest we should get out of that. Oddly enough, I tend to agree with David Cameron. The EU doesn’t need ditched, it needs re-evaluated. As the unionists were so fond of saying recently, were still “better together” with the rest of Europe. Personally, I don’t see the need for both a UK and an EU as if they are done properly then they’re essentially the same thing on different scales. But, of course, neither are done properly.
My biggest hope prior to the referendum was for the Common Weal, and to be honest I still think that’s the case. They definitely focus on putting everyone first and not leaving everyone behind, but they also seem keen on localising issues even beyond the Scottish parliament. Again, as I’ve mentioned in my submission, that’s as it should be. I don’t for one second think that how people think in Glasgow is how people think in the Outer Herbrides. As always there are different priorities, and that should be embraced. Power needs to be devolved downwards at all levels.
Unfortunately, the Common Weal seem to have gone off on some tangent that involves setting up their own social media and cafes. I’d rather see them use the existing networks and locations to discuss ideas and concentrate more on what we can do for society as a whole. At least Robin McAlpine has been suggesting that will happen as well, so I’ll keep an open mind there. I’m hoping they’ll be putting forward something similar to what I’ve suggested. After all, they’re better at this sort of thing than I am! But for now, I’m watching from afar.
And that’s the problem I have at the moment. All the good ideas I saw during the referendum campaign are still there, but they seem to be pulling in different directions. I have my own ideas, and I’m glad other people still seem keen to put their ideas across and try and make them happen. If we didn’t then I’d very likely be giving up on Scotland about now! But, other than my submission, I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in with all of this. It’s not just the Common Weal, it’s other aspects. The Green Party have certainly made great strides into my imagination, but I’m not one for joining political parties as I feel that once you do you need to conform with their ideas. It also doesn’t help that the Green Party tend not to stand in my constituency, so I can only hope that changes!
Same goes for the SNP. For all their membership has grown, I still disagree with a lot of their ideas. Keeping the monarchy, keeping the pound, remaining in NATO – all things I disagreed with during the referendum, but all things I figured could be addressed after independence. Then there’s that awful “Offensive Behaviour at Football” bill they introduced and steadfastly refused to acknowledge has been an utter shambles of a failure. The SNP may look like the best alternative to the mainstream parties, but that says more about the right leaning tendencies of the mainstream parties than anything else. Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP? More like Tories, Red Tories, Puppet Tories and Extreme Tories.
In the meantime, we’re going to have to continue to live in the drastically unfair society we have in the United Kingdom. While I hope we can somehow change that, we still need to deal with the mess we currently have. Foodbanks are an utter travesty in 2014, but they wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t a need for them. So maybe it’s at this level where I should be looking to make a difference. I may not have time to volunteer to help as I have my own family that eats up my own time (as the Golf situation clearly illustrates) but that’s not to say I can’t find other ways to help. Foodbanks aren’t the only charity to help out either, so there’s always things to do. It may be a case of treating symptoms rather than the cause, but symptoms still need managed until the cause is fixed regardless!
I’m still considering what the next move is as far as I’m concerned and I think what gets offered in the way of restructuring Scotland, and the UK as a whole, will play a big part in what I ultimately decide to do. I probably shouldn’t hold my breath waiting on that though. But clearly “I’m doing nothing, I’ll just hide” just doesn’t sit right with me.
Same goes for Celtic…
And you know the rest.