Cameron’s devolution caveat angers Scottish Yes camp

Prime Minister David Cameron has opened the way for delays in implementation of the devolution package and the possible dilution of its content.

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:46 pm IST

Published - September 20, 2014 11:31 pm IST - LONDON:

With a constitutional impasse threatening to block the delivery of a substantial devolution package promised by the major parties of the United Kingdom, the Scottish question seems set to be kicked into the long grass.

By intertwining a new and un-related constitutional proviso into the devolution package, Prime Minister David Cameron has opened the way for delays in its implementation and the possible dilution of its content.

An unrelated proviso

Speaking from Downing Street a day after the referendum, in which 55 per cent of the Scottish electorate voted to stay with the Union, Mr. Cameron announced that if there is to be a radical decentralisation of powers to Scotland, it must be accompanied by an agreement which states that on matters relating to England, only English Members of Parliament be allowed to vote in the British Parliament.

The erstwhile Yes platform, ever wary of Westminister’s sincerity, is angered by it and sees it as procrastination on the promise to deliver on the decentralisation scheme that was offered two days before the elections.

In India, such a promise would have been considered a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Not only was it made close to the election day, it was made after the postal ballot — constituting 18 per cent of the total vote — had already been cast.

“If we get another Tory government, with another five years of austerity, and they pull out of Europe, then Scotland will say to hell with this, let’s have another referendum,” said Hugh Kerr, a senior member of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and a former Member of the European Parliament (MEP) elected from the Labour Party. “And if by then they haven’t delivered devo max , which I don’t think they will have, I think it will be an overwhelming Yes at that time,” he told The Hindu .

Labour support unlikely

By staking it on a constitutional amendment, the promised devolution will not only be delayed. The Labour Party, which currently has a bloc of 41 MPs from Scotland in the House of Commons, will also not support an amendment that will effectively dis-empower its Scottish MPs in the British parliament.

Meanwhile, the parties and organisations of the Yes campaign are reorganising their energies as they learn from the reasons for their defeat.

Reports from Edinburgh speak of the crashing of the computers of the SNP as it has been jammed with applications for membership. “There have been 3000 applications for party membership following the referendum,” Mr. Kerr told The Hindu .

“The positives of the Yes campaign won’t go away,” said Roanne Dods, the Creative Director of Performing Arts Labs, and Yes campaign activist who brought in artists, producers, educators and the creative sector onto the Yes platform. “The campaign has changed the tone and depth of the political culture of Scotland in a way that will stay,” she told The Hindu .

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