Why Devo Max will be on the ballot.
14 January 2012
Let's jump forward 12 months or so: the legal questions around the referendum have been resolved and it's planned to go ahead at an agreed date in late 2014. The coalition is struggling with the economy and relations between the two parties are strained. Independence polls average out about 40/40 yes or no, with 20% undecided.
Someone, somewhere within the Unionist parties starts to think how bad would Scottish Independence be for the Rest of the UK (rUK).
There are Pros of course.
rUK will have a built in Conservative majority. Well, that's a pro for some anyway. Except it won't - as an this excellent post shows. And even if it did, New Labour would continue to sidle to the right until it was electable.
rUK won't need to subsidise Scotland any more. Except, of course, it doesn't - in general the figures including oil revenue balance out.
rUK won't have to listen to the Scottish football results any more - no more Clydebank nil, Airdrieonians nil. OK, I'll give you that.
Then there are the Cons.
rUK might not inherit the UK's seat on the UN Security Council. Russia inherited the USSR's, but the UK is already the smallest country on there, by size and population. India is 20 times as big. Calls for changes to the Security Council's makeup might well be triggered by the change in the UK. And no Security Council seat means no Security Council veto.
There will be a strong potential for further internal constitutional instability. Independence for Wales may well be a long way off, but it'll receive a major boost, especially if Scotland quickly thrives. To get to Northern Ireland, you need to catch a ferry from one of two foriegn countries. There may be increased calls for devolution in Cornwall.
Where is rUK going to put its nuclear weapons? It's going to cost billions to move them from Faslane and Coulport, so you're not going to place them in Northern Ireland or Wales, just in case you had to move them again. There are possible locations in England, but do they have space and are the local populations going to accept them?
It's never been a requirement that a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation actually have a North Atlantic coastline, but it helps. How much influence will rUK lose within NATO?
How much danger is posed to rUK by losing the security of supply of energy and fresh water which Scotland has?
...given the potential downsides (and there must be many more, though perhaps some plusses I've missed too), how willing is the UK to risk it in a 50/50 ballot? Do they continue to fight, fight and fight again to get the No vote they'd prefer, or is it time to bite the bullet and support Devo Max?
But what is Devo Max? It's really only a catchphrase at the moment, and south of the border very little has been published on it's implications. But it's a really, really big deal for England, which they'd need to get their heads round. My view is at the very minimum it means the creation of an English Assembly, a much smaller House of Commons and UK Govt and the dissolution of the House of Lords. This is a great opportunity - if this ever does come to fruition, please, please, place the English Assembly in York or Durham or anywhere outside the South East - it'll do so much good for England and the UK.
Anyway, that's why I believe that Devo Max is very much alive, and in the hands of the Unionist parties, not the SNP.