Scotland’s decision to remain part of the United Kingdom has been a long and fascinating look at the nature of the British union but also at the way our politics and government works.
I am pleased Scotland has voted to stay in the UK but the no vote does not draw a line under the debate, in fact quite the reverse. It will have a profound effect on the constitution of the UK and now raises wide ranging questions about not only the powers of the existing devolved assemblies but also the way in which the English regions are represented.
Longstanding issues such as English devolution may now be addressed, at long last. We may even see a reheat of the previously abandoned move towards regional devolution within England.
What is clear to me is that we must move forward carefully and ensure whatever the response is for our constitution that it is right for all of the UK, not least England. Whatever settlement emerges there must be an acknowledgement that while a deal is being struck for the five million residents of Scotland, there are 53m people in England with no devolved assembly of their own, except for those in London of course.
The pressure from Scotland will be intense and the desire from the understandably relieved three main parties to rush to ‘reward’ the return of a no vote must be resisted. But lots of promises were made in the last two weeks of the campaign and they must be honoured.
In the meantime, domestic constitutional issues here may well be overshadowed as the USA launches air strikes against ISIS in Syria. I understand there is now a very real prospect of a recall of parliament so that MPs can, I would imagine, debate and decide on what role Britain will take. It will be interesting to see how MPs weigh up the thorny (and disregarded) issue of legality with the pressure to act. And then there’s the implications of any bombing!
Here in Kirklees libraries, markets, advice services, community projects and museums – and anything else that where there isn’t a statutory duty to provide it – are under threat because the Government has systematically cut Kirklees’ budget to the bone. Kirklees has lost more than £80m so far with a further £69m to come. In total Kirklees will lose £152m from its budget at a time when Government borrowing is through the roof and, as we are well aware, the tax burden on the richest is being reduced.
The task facing Kirklees is unenviable.
I am very pleased to learn that for the first time ever Kirklees finance officers will force opposition parties to submit their budget proposals to be costed, as the controlling group must. This should limit their ability to promote fanciful and irresponsible budget statements that play well with the electorate but don’t actually add up. That would be a welcome step forward and do wonders for the integrity of local government.