By Stephen Bailey

A viable, durable constitutional settlement for the U.K. should encompass the principles of United Kingdom Unionism.

These are: The U.K. is a single (unitary) country not a lost confederation of sovereign nation states as the S.N.P. and even some Unionists assert.

All resources and sovereignty are pooled for the benefit of everybody in the U.K.

Sovereignty is invested solely in Westminster, which functions as the common U.K. Parliament with common U.K. laws.

Power over purely local (Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland) affairs should be localised in those parts of the U.K. by a process of administrative devolution in which authority over these matters is devolved to local (Scottish, Welsh and N.I.) councils, organisations (such as the Scottish. Welsh and Northern Ireland Offices) and individuals (like the Secretaries of State for these parts of the U.K.).

Anything that concerns the U.K. as a whole would be within the remit of Westminster.

This way power and democracy are kept localised to the constituent parts of the U.K. and the Union is 100% guaranteed as there are no devolved legislatures (Holyrood, the Welsh ‘parliament’ and Stormont) through which modern aggressive nationalism (the S.N.P., Plaid Cymru, I.R.A./ Sinn Fein and the S.D.L.P.) can pursue independence – the major intrinsic flaw in legislative devolution (the kind we have now) and the undeniable result of its introduction in Scotland.

This is not therefore simply the re–centralisation of all power in London or British nationalism. It is authentic U.K. Unionism.

Administrative devolution offers a viable alternative. It poses no threat to the integrity of a unitary United Kingdom and can’t be used to break up the U.K. It does not devolve any legislative power (i.e. legislative authority) to the constituent parts of the United Kingdom or need the setting up of elected political structures such as parliaments or assemblies. It delegates decision making (i.e. administrative) authority to official organisations (like the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Offices), local government (such as councils) or individuals (such as the Secretaries of State for Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland).

It is fair, organisationally efficient and generally tends to cost less than the legislative variant.

Thus, in this way, administrative devolution has the great advantage over the legislative variety that it spreads decision making out to local areas and away from the centre.

It enables local people, who know what’s best for their own locale, to make decisions as opposed to the centralising tendency of legislative devolution that tends to take power and decision making away from local people thus putting it in the hands of faraway central government that neither knows, or cares about local issues.

Some kind of reaction in which arrangements are simply thrown back to the pre–1997 set up is not being suggested.

Neither should the increasingly shrill voices of English nationalism, which ape their Scottish equivalents in their specious assertions that an independent England would be better off without the other members of the Union, be listened to.

A purely English state would see a precipitous tumble down the World’s economic rankings from the U.K.’s  current 5th place.

An English Parliament is an equally bad idea as it would just further fracture the unitary integrity of the U.K. and encourage anti-U.K. nationalists in the mentality that all they need is one last push to finally break up the U.K.

Further constitutional vandalism by tinkering with the devolution settlement will only make matters worse. A more successful approach would be to abolish the mechanism that enables anti-U.K. nationalism to advance its agenda – legislative devolution, Holyrood, the Welsh ‘parliament’ and Stormont and keep power localised to the constituent parts of the U.K. with its administrative variant, as described above.

Genuine U.K. Unionism is viable, fair and durable as a settlement for all in the U.K.

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© 2020 Stephen Bailey


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