Which ever way Scotland votes in the independence referendum, it is now highly likely that we will see devolution and decentralisation spread across the UK.
During the final weeks of a fiercely fought referendum campaign, the main three Westminster parties promised a wave of further devolution to the Scottish Parliament in the event of a no vote. The promise of these powers has thrown the already uneven spread of devolution even further out of balance.
The First Minister of Wales, was quick to called for and quick to be promised the same powers being offered to Scotland. Though this far from quitened the calls for further decentralisation from London, if anything it has given more ammunition to those campaigning for fairer decentralisation and devolution.
Politicians in major cities and regions in the UK have long pointed out the unfairness of the current system. One example they’re keen to highlight is the powers Wales enjoys considering its size compared to other parts of the UK.
If you compare the powers devolved to Wales to regions such as Yorkshire, a region with nearly 2 million more residents and a GDP nearly £40 Billion more than Wales. Wales has its own assembly and government with various controls over education, health, housing and economic development while Yorkshire lacks an assembly, devolved powers or a significant regional government.
Decentralisation has been also been highlighted in a recent report published by the think tank IPPR North. The report outlines how our current centralised system is no longer fit for purpose and proposes a ‘decentralisation decade’ in which England’s largest cities could be given more powers over a number economic and social policies.
IPPR North suggests decentralisation to England’s major cities could be achieved by giving existing Combined Local Authorities more powers over business and property rates while holding them to account through a system of directly elected Mayors.
The report has been praised by Nick Clegg, who has argued against other proposals of devolution such as the creation of an English Parliament, saying that such a Parliament would simply become a talking shop for the political classes.
Both the Labour party and the Conservatives are at very least, favourable to decentralisation. The Labour party have outlined their plans to decentralise power and funding away from London, while the Conservatives have attempted to develop forms of localism through the creation of more local political positions such as Police and Crime Commissioners.
No matter the result of the Scottish referendum, it will be hard for politicians to ignore calls for further decentralisation and devolution. The main three parties will have seen first hand the effectiveness of the SNP’s attack lines against a Westminster elite ruling from London, by giving more power to local bodies both in the regions and cities, they will hope will neutralise these accusations.