After a tumultuous day in British history that will be seen as the start of radical changes to our political system, Ed Jacobs outlines what we now know.
After a tumultuous day that will be seen as the start of radical changes to the British political system, Ed Jacobs outlines what we now know
First and foremost, Scotland has voted, and voted clearly to stay within the Union. Despite polls showing a much closer race, the final results saw the no campaign enjoy the support of 55.3 per cent of voters north of the border, over 10 percentage points ahead of the 44.7 per cent secured by the yes camp. Independence is now off the radar for at least a generation.
At almost 85 per cent, turnout in the referendum broke all record for a ballot in the UK since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1918.
Alex Salmond, a titan of Scottish politics has announced that he will resign as leader of the SNP and first minister of Scotland. His Deputy, Nicola Sturgeon is by far the favourite to succeed him.
The crossbench peer, Lord Smith of Kelvin, who headed Glasgow’s successful Commonwealth Games earlier in the year, has been appointed to oversee the process of devolving further powers to Scotland as outlined in the now famous vow made by the three main UK parties prior to polling day.
The consensus that brought Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems together to save the Union has quickly evaporated. Following David Cameron’s call for action to implement English votes for English laws “in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland”, Labour have rejected the need to link the two. The shadow Welsh secretary, Owen Smith declared in no uncertain terms the “last thing Scotland needs is a constitutional fix which reduces Scotland’s voice at Westminster and strengthens Tories’ grip on power”. Labour would not, he said, be part of “Tory gerrymandering to hang on to power at Westminster”.
The devolved bodies in Northern Ireland and Wales will ensure their voice is heard in whatever process is underway. Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones told a news conference that the UK as we know it is dead and declared that “Wales cannot and will not play second fiddle as we work out a new constitutional framework”. In Northern Ireland, the DUP MP, Jeffrey Donaldson told the BBC that “Northern Ireland and Wales must be part of this debate as well”.
Ed Miliband and the Labour Party called for a Constitutional Convention to engage the whole of the UK to consider the future makeup of the British political system. “This must not” he said “be led just by a Westminster elite but be open to every citizen so that they can have their say. What is needed is a comprehensive and credible process involving citizens, to take forward a debate about how we are governed”.
Following a campaign which saw him re-energised and finding his political voice again, Gordon Brown received plaudits from across the political spectrum for having saved the Better Together campaign in the final, perilous weeks of the campaign raising the question – does he have his eyes on being first minister at the 2016 elections to Holyrood?
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
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