Richard Calhoun: The Union is critical, we need a referendum
Richard Calhoun, an avid political watcher and supporter of the Union, believes the Conservatives should propose referendums on whether the people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland want to remain in the Union.
The Union between the two kingdoms of England and Scotland is now over 200 years old and has been a great driving force in the last 200 years through a critical time in this country's history. It is vital that its future is secured.
The Union has been under strain since the emergence of the SNP, originally in 1934 with one seat, emerging as a real political force in 1967 when Winnie Ewing won a seat, and in the 1974 election when it won 11 seats in Westminster.
Why has the Union been under pressure in both Scotland and Wales? It is because of the London centric power base in this country. This has caused the alienation of not only Scotland and Wales but other regions of England as well.
The electorate simply don't believe they have any input to the strategic decisions in education, police,
transport, planning, the NHS and other issues that effect their day to day lives.
This disenfranchisement of the electorate was tackled by the Blair government with devolution without any regard to the majority of the population of the Union, namely the English.
This constitutional adventure by the Labour government has been a disaster, resulting in outrage over the inequity of the West Lothian question and resulting in a growing demand for Scottish and Welsh MPs to be excluded from voting on English matters in Westminster. What a complete shambles that would be!
The inequality of the present system must not be allowed to continue and must be addressed before the
Union is put at even greater risk. The most serious result if this situation is not addressed will be the English understandably calling for independence from the other three assemblies.
There is now a serious possibility of this demand building as we approach the election in 2009/2010. The nettle must be grasped and it is only the Tories that are in a position to resolve the unholy shambles that Blair and Brown have created.
We must offer the electorate a referendum on the future of a 'new Union'. It is simply not an option to sit by and see the disintegration of the present Union, a hugely powerful political entity of 60 million people and still a great power in the world.
The referendum on the 'New Union' of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland must be put to all four countries in simple and stark terms so that there is no chance of obfuscation or confusion. Each of the countries must be clear that if they choose independence their choice will be honoured and a bill will go through Parliament within twelve months to enact it.
Therefore a comprehensive and radical policy must be produced detailing the decentralisation of power from Westminster to the counties/regions in the event of the 'new Union' winning the referendum. This decentralisation must include shifting decision-making away from Westminster in education, police, transport, planning, the NHS and other issues that effect peoples daily lives.
The abolition of the present assemblies would be enacted if the vote for the 'New Union' was positive, if
any country opted for independence they would inherit the present assembly. The 'New Union' would proceed with the decentralisation powers in place for those countries that voted for it in an agreed time frame.
Only when this policy proposal has been produced and introduced to the electorate for comment and discussion should it be put forward as part of a referendum package. It should be simply put and only in conjunction with the radical policy on decentralisation as follows:
Referendum on the 'New Union'
1) Do you want to leave the present U.K. Union and have independence for your 'country'?
Yes / No
2) Do you want your country to be part of the 'New Union' of the United Kingdom with powers devolved to your county/region from Westminster? (the present national assembly would cease to exist in your country)
Yes / No
I would strongly propose that this is the only realistic way to resolve the constitutional shambles that the Union has inherited from this Labour government. It would also present a great opportunity to cut red tape and bureaucracy.
I am also confident that if the 'New Union' and the decentralisation proposals were fully explained and discussed with the electorate in the run up to the next election we would win a substantial Yes vote from the electorate in all four countries.
This would be a courageous and radical policy to propose to the British electorate, it would bring about
a resurgence of national pride and cohesiveness, and a Union with its power enhanced by the endorsement of a referendum Yes vote by the people.