Stephen Bailey: Keir Starmer provides yet more evidence that you can’t trust Labour on maintaining the Union

Photo credit: Screengrab BBC

By Stephen Bailey.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has this week stated that more powers for Holyrood would be an early priority if he became Prime Minister.

He has also promised to boost the powers of Scotland’s devolved legislature, Holyrood, as an early priority of a Labour administration with him as Prime Minister.

This is yet more evidence that Labour can’t be trusted to maintain the Union.

Starmer has previously announced a new constitutional policy of ‘de-centralisation’, which he defined as transferring yet more powers from Westminster to Scotland (and presumably at some point Wales and Northern Ireland). Right there, the whole basis of Labour’s Constitutional policy is intrinsically flawed.

At its inception, over twenty years ago, legislative devolution’s original proponents insisted vehemently that it would be a one off event.

In Scotland, certain areas of policy were reserved for Westminster’s consideration only (the reserved remit) and all other areas were devolved to Holyrood (the devolved remit).

In Wales and Northern Ireland, certain policy areas were delegated to the relevant devolved legislature, then the Welsh Assembly in Wales and Stormont in Northern Ireland (the devolved remit) and all other areas remained reserved for Westminster’s attention only (the reserved remit).

Thus, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would have control over certain areas of policy concerning their part of the U.K. and others would be reserved for Westminster’s consideration only and that was supposedly the extent of New Labour’s Constitutional settlement.

However, over the following years, successive Westminster Governments, both Labour and Conservative, have transferred swathes of new powers to all the devolved legislatures (Holyrood, the Welsh ‘parliament’ and Stormont) in an ever more frantic attempt to appease anti-U.K. nationalism (the S.N.P., Plaid Cymru, I.R.A./ Sinn Fein and the S.D.L.P.).

This policy has been a manifest disaster, with all these parties and the wider anti-U.K. separatist movement, red in tooth and claw, playing and manipulating Westminster for its own ends – independence and re-unification.

The parallel with past events, where the mainstream establishment has attempted to stem aggressive nationalism with appeasement is very apposite, and the analogy bears examination as it’s similarly germane.

Appeasement of extremist nationalism never works Mr Starmer as it’s based on illogical emotion, sentiment, ideology, lack of sound reasoning, prejudice and a distorted and often highly romanticised 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.

Consequently, there is no point in attempting to reason with such people by appeasing them. No amount of devolved power will satisfy them. The S.N.P. (especially) have made it crystal clear that they will only be satisfied with independence and have ignored their devolved remit in order to pursue it.

The other nationalist parties in the U.K. are increasingly drifting towards a position of demanding independence/ re-unification, 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 (independence was a policy aim, but very much in the background).

With the above in mind, Kier Starmer’s new policy is doomed to failure.

The only viable way to de-centralise power is through administrative devolution. Holyrood, the Welsh ‘parliament’, Stormont (and the London Assembly for that matter) would be completely abolished. All powers relevant to the running of purely local (i.e. Scottish, Welsh and N.I.) matters would be devolved to local councils, organisations (like a revived Scottish Grand Committee and such committees could be set up in Wales and N.I.) and individuals (like the Scottish, Welsh and N. I Secretaries of State) in those parts of the U.K.

Any matters that affect the U.K. as a whole (the Constitution, defence and international trade, to give three examples) would remain within Westminster’s remit.

This way, power, and democracy are kept localised to Scotland, Wales, N.I. and London and the Union is 100% guaranteed (the primary concern for all who want to maintain the Union). 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 exists now), something that has undeniably been the case with Holyrood (and to a lesser but increasing extent in the Welsh ‘parliament’, Stormont and the London Assembly).

The experience of the last twenty plus years of legislative devolution (and the profound lessons of the last century) has taught us that the Frankenstein’s monster of extremist aggressive nationalism has to be robustly opposed in order to be defeated.

The only viable way to permanently do this and maintain the Union is to abolish the mechanism that enables it to push its agenda – legislative devolution.

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© 2022 Stephen Bailey


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