The Case for Localism by Garry Kitchin,
Also published on Ozzy’s Corner
The fuse for the Scottish referendum bomb has been well and truly lit. As Westminster and Holyrood battle over the wording, timing and authority of an SNP proposed referendum, perhaps it is the time for the nation to reflect on the case for localism. Over decades political power gravitated towards Westminster, and economic power to the South East of England. This accelerated during the Thatcher years rush to neo-liberalism. As the regions became more estranged from the South East, they became centres of a strong anti-conservative movement, principally led by Labour. Wales and Scotland made Conservative MPs rarer than hen’s teeth and the large northern conurbations were run by left wing Councils. Power drained away to Whitehall as fast as economic power flowed to the Square Mile.
Alongside the growth of globalisation, politically the EEC transformed into an ever greater influence over its member states. A club became a single market, and the single market became a monetary union for most countries. The Euro crisis has been taken as evidence that political integration is the next step. The G7, G20 and WTO have become increasing significant. As a democrat who believes firmly that people have the right to self determination this never rested easily with me, nor others across the political spectrum. The creation of the Welsh and London Assemblies, and the devolution of Scotland were very welcome to reverse the tide of centralisation. All have been successful, and should be welcomed by any democrat.
The debate about an independent Scotland is interesting, as it follows the Welsh debate about more powers for their assembly, discussion by some of the merits of an English Parliament and the strong view by many that the UK should wrestle more powers back from the EU. The link is clear – people increasingly want more power over their own lives and politicians to be more accountable to those who vote for them. This is why any attempt by Westminster to curtail the demand for a Scottish referendum will be totally counter-productive.
The Scottish genie is out of its bottle. If any Westminster Conservative doesn’t support a genuine referendum, it would be total hypocrisy, as the Scots are using an argument in reality no different than that used by Eurosceptics when wanting to pull out of the EU. Westminster Labour should accept that what the Scottish people want is up to them alone. It would be loss of a Labour power base, but that has to be accepted gracefully. So I appeal to all democrats to accept that localism and self-determination are both welcome and good for people. A Scottish referendum will happen, and I hope it is fought over with politeness and good grace, and the expressed democratic view of the people accepted.