Month: September 2014

Scotland Votes No

For the last two years, both the Yes and No campaigns have tirelessly tried to persuade the people of Scotland to either back independence or the union. From numerous debates and watching polls with tension, in the last few weeks before the announcement of the results, it looked like Salmond was to achieve his lifetime goal of independence. However, it was all too good to be true as the referendum result was a No majority, with only 3 cities in Scotland, including Dundee and Glasgow, backing the Yes campaign. Could the last minute intervention from Gordon Brown have helped? Possibly.

End of an era: Alex Salmond looking defeated as the election results were announced on Friday morning

But at least the Queen is happy. I mention HRH because last week  (or should i say for quite a while), there was a debate as to whether she should state her views on the Scottish independence issue or not. Of course many thought she shouldn’t as she is not elected by the demos (that’s us) and thus can not influence such a political matter. However she did make a slight comment in which it was interpreted as her backing the No campaign as she hoped voters would “think very carefully about the future”. Of course she would make some intervention. Protecting her role as Queen and the 300 year old History between the two countries, how much more traditional can you get!?

So what happens now? Well firstly Alex Salmond has announced he is to resign as First Minister 😦

My first thought was why resign? I mean yes, his campaign didn’t succeed but is that the message of a leader – when we fall at the first hurdle we should give up? His resignation also shocked me because as a man who has always stood up to the ‘demons’ of Westminster, by resigning is he not just giving central government the satisfaction, Cameron included? It may have been inevitable that a No vote would have resulted in Salmond not returning to Westminster, especially after all the backlash which occurred during the tv debates, but isn’t that what politics is all about? Like i said, i was very shocked and to some extent disappointed in that Scotland’s First Minister has decided to reign in the ropes but with Nicola Sturgeon, his second in command, being his most likely replacement, i’m sure she will be a great person for the job.

Now back to Scotland as a nation. Well, since they ditched the idea of independence, the No campaign did promise more devolved powers and it seems that’s what they’ll get – devo max. What this means is that Scotland can control its own affairs in terms of policing, and taxes, including its economy. But what is devo max exactly? It is being posed as the biggest constitutional change since Ireland got home rule as Cameron promised an extension of powers to Scotland over taxes, spending and welfare policy. However, this also opened up the ‘West Lothian’ question – that is whether English MPs should only vote and make decisions on matters on, you guessed it, issues primarily concerning England. There has also been an expanision of this idea if you like to cities such as London. That is whether City Hall, the body which represents the capital, should be given more powers to better represent the ever-growing population in the capital city. Although in theory it may sound like a good idea, there comes a point where one may debate the need for Westminster politicians. Could this be the way forward for British politics? Despite huge focus being on Scotland in the last few years, there is no doubt that the referendum result has got people thinking about the way we demonstrate our democratic abilities, both us normal folk as well as politicians alike.

Unsurprisingly, Salmond disagrees, believing No voters had been ‘tricked’ by the Better Together campaign.

Whether it’s the sound of a desperate man or an attempt to tell the No voters ‘I told you so’, it may seem the SNP leader has a point. This is because at present, all three main political parties still disagree over the process in which devo max will be laid to Scotland, but do agree that it will happen. So not another empty promise it may seem? Let’s hope so anyway, for the Scots sake.

If anything, the referendum has showed Britain that political participation is still present today, despite austerity and lack of representation. With the stakes high for politicians as the general elections looms, i’m sure we will be hearing much more about devolved powers being transferred not just to Scotland but major cities as well such as London.

British politics and our constitution could change, possibly for the better but will it be sustainable? Is the union as safe as we may think despite the No vote? Just a penny for your thoughts.

For more information on devo max, click here and for latest developments on Scotland post referendum, click here

David Lammy – Next Mayor of London?

The MP for Tottenham announced earlier last week that he is to seek the Labour nomination for London Mayor in 2016. It seems h faces stiff competition as Tessa Jowell, the former Olympics minister; Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary; Margaret Hodge, the chair of the commons public accounts committee; and Diane Abbott, the former shadow public health minister, are also seen as possible candidates for the Labour nomination. Who will win? *Dun dun dun*

Hopeful? David Lammy, MP for Tottenham announced he is to stand for the 2016 mayoral election

Hopeful? David Lammy, MP for Tottenham announced he is to stand for the 2016 mayoral election

Could Lammy have an advantage? Well, with his admirable response to the London riots in 2011, which started in his constituency in Tottenham, and his highly praised  book ‘Out of the Ashes‘, which examined the causes of the riots, he could be in a chance of winning the election. Let’s not forget the fact if he wins the whole thing, he’ll become the first black Mayor of London – a turning pint? Maybe, maybe not. When asked what will happen to his role as MP, he did state he would step down in order to thoroughly carry out his new role. Least he’s not like Boris trying to take on two jobs…

He’s decided to run in order to tackle London’s ever growing housing criss. In a statement, he said:

“People I meet around the city are facing desperate problems of overcrowding, poverty and homelessness as a result of the housing crisis. London’s lack of homes is starving Londoners of the opportunities they should enjoy in this city, and depriving London business of skilled employees who can no longer afford to live and work in the capital.”

It also comes as he has published a report on this exact issue, setting out several proposals to ensure that the 63,000 homes a year that are needed in the capital are actually built. The proposals include:

  • Checking whether London’s greenbelt (that’s all the grass, unoccupied land and stuff) sites provide a public benefit. If not, they could be used for building homes.
  • Redefine ‘affordable housing’ so the definition of ‘affordable’ – so is linked to average earnings in each borough.
  • Introducing a programme of rent controls to protect tenants, limiting rent rises and creating a compulsory London Landlords Register.
  • Launching a government-loan scheme for developers to build shared ownership properties.

In the words of Mr Lammy himself, “Moving forward as a global city, there is no doubt that we must build more homes.” Hopefully whoever does win the election to be held in May 2016, let’s hope they have a good strategy to solve the housing crisis and stick to it. There’s no doubt that the role of Mayor of London comes with a great deal of responsibility. Who wins? You decide…

Everything you need to know about the Scottish Referendum

It’s a topic that has been on the news for quite a while and i’ve had a request (thanks Emily) to try and explain what it’s all about. I do warn you, this is gonna be a long one, so here goes nothing…

How did it all begin? Well it started with Alex Salmond’s white paper (basically a big important document) which outlined his plans for an independent Scotland. What that means is that central government (that’s Westminster) will no longer have control over how Scotland as a country is run, hence why it’s being talked about on a daily basis. If Scotland does become independent, it’ll affect its economy, defence and of course, its politics. Salmond’s white paper has thus become the basis of the referendum debate – it’s particularly important for Salmond to persuade the Scots his programme for an independent Scotland is the best way forward.

So what is Alex Salmond proposing? Well his white paper is 670 pages and answers about 650 questions so i can’t quite cover everything here. I do have a life you know. But i can say that the biggest issue concerning the whole referendum is the economy, especially the currency. Here’s the deal: Salmond wants to stay in the currency union but critics have said this puts him in a very vulnerable position. This is because the Better Together campaign can easily argue that Westminster is under no obligation to allow Scotland to stay. Of course, that would be an extremely unlikely decision by Westminster, but they are using the uncertainty to suggest that voting ‘yes’ is a dangerous gamble. Now we can see what all the hoo-haa is about with Salmond and Darling. Talking of which here’s a brief video of their debate – Round One *ding ding*!

With the referendum to be held in the next few weeks, the stakes are pretty high which is why the Scottish parliament is continuously studying the detail of the Scottish government’s proposals for staging and running the referendum. This includes their decision to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds for the first time in a major poll in the UK.  It is important to note that the Scottish government has previously allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote in some health board elections and crofting commission elections. Looks like Salmond might just have the vote or at least the support of the young Scots.

Interestingly, Salmond originally wanted to ask the question “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country”, but this was seen by experts (presuming those helping with the independence campaign) as biased in favour of a yes vote.

Voting has been restricted to Scottish residents (well obviously, it is a vote about SCOTLAND) registered to vote in local council elections as well as the one-off extra list of 16 and 17 year old voters –  about 124,000 teenagers in that age group will be eligible to vote in the referendum. It seems like Salmond might have their vote, considering the UK government only allow over 18s to vote even though there has been the ‘Vote 16’ which has lobbied governments for many years to decrease the voting age.

Why does this concern the rest of Britain? It could mean the end of the United Kingdom as we know it, the union jack included. We England and Scotland have been a union since 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became King of England – that’s quite a long history, making the result of the referendum vital for the future of both nations. Now might be a good time to look at round two of the debate *ding ding*

Now let’s break the key arguments down…

A ‘No’ vote would mean the UK government would remain sovereign (in charge) of most of Scotland’s taxation, welfare and economy. The benefits of a status quo vote would mean the kingdom as a whole would be a successful economic and political union. It’ll also mean we can maintain our shared values and security and shared risk – economically speaking such as the current deficit. However, ‘Yes’ voters could argue Scotland’s needs would be ignored by central government and that their unique culture and traditions makes them secondary to England.

Depending how the vote goes, if it’s a close call, but still with an overall ‘No’ vote, Scotland could ask for more devolution powers. This means Scotland would have more control over their economy such as raising taxes, whilst Westminster takes care of defence, foreign affairs and pensions. More devolution could mean Scotland take more responsibility for the taxes it spends, and ensure their policies match their targets. A downfall of this is that giving Scotland more control of their taxation could undermine the unity. Why? With change comes reform, thus possibly affecting the structure of the UK parliament. But of course that would be the same with a ‘Yes’ vote. In fact even more so…

If Scotland votes ‘Yes’ on the 18th of September, they’ll be given total control over their taxes, laws and the North Sea oil (that’s how they’ll make most of their money to keep their economy moving). The only thing from the union they’ll keep is the good ol’ Queen ma’am. Wouldn’t this be good for the Scots? It could be yes, i mean if they vote independence, there shouldn’t be a reason why they couldn’t manage their own country. It’s not like England would say ‘Traitors! We don’t talk to people who decide to break a good long 700 year long friendship!’ I’d like to think we’re not bitter. I’m not anyway. But it is important to note that Scotland wouldn’t be granted independence straight away. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes. There’s also a chance that Scotland would face greater financial vulnerability, you know, losing the security of the UK. Let’s not forget the whole currency debate – they’ll need a foreign bank, possibly a new currency and that’ll mean England would be in competition with the Scots. Oh dear…

Whatever happens, the next two weeks will no doubt be leaving people on their tenterhooks – journalists, Scots and the English alike. I do know though that whatever the outcome, it’ll change the running and relationship between England and Scotland, hopefully for the better.

Here’s some useful links which are quite well detailed:

The Guardian – Scottish Independence: The Essential Guide

Politics UK – Everything you need to know about the Scottish Independence white paper in five minutes