Boris Johnson was right that decentralization was a disaster, according to a former adviser to David Cameron.
Camilla Cavendish, who was the head of the Downing Street political unit in the Cameron government, agreed with the current British Prime Minister that creating the decentralized parliaments was Tony Blairs’ biggest mistake as it ignited nationalism.
In a Financial Times column, she claimed the union had performed poorly during the pandemic because the Welsh and Scottish governments had insisted on tighter lockdown policies.
Cavendish rejected suggestions that the UK should move to a more federal model that would make Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland self-governing countries in a more equal partnership. She described the idea as impractical because England had around eight in ten people.
However, the columnist said a new constitutional settlement devolving proper powers was needed to prevent the break-up of the UK, but that it should reaffirm British identity and retain ultimate sovereignty in Westminster.
She said: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that Scottish decentralization has by no means been a disaster overall.
He was trying to distance himself from comments leaked in November when he told British Conservative MPs that decentralization had been Tony Blairs’ biggest mistake.
But he was right at the time. Blairs’ attempts to defuse nationalism simply set him on fire. Johnsons contortions show just how powerful the nationalists have become.
As a Half Scotsman, I sympathize with the desire to assert distinct identities. Yet I was appalled at how badly the Union performed during the pandemic.
What should have been a UK-wide effort to tackle the virus has fallen to blame and bickering, with the Welsh and Scottish administrations insisting on tighter lockdown policies while relying on support central government financier of London.
With the Scottish Nationalist Party pushing for a second independence referendum if he wins Scotland’s May election, Johnson must decide if he has the courage to rewrite the constitutional settlement.
It cannot be faked: The prospects for global Britain are crumbling, just as the UK is vulnerable in the world.
‘Place the nationalists’
She added: Some of those who want to preserve the Union are urging Westminster to appease the nationalists with something that feels more federal.
This would make Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland self-governing countries in a more equal partnership, cooperating on common issues.
There is logic in the argument that a big bid is needed, because throwing small bones has not quelled separatist fervor.
As former Prime Minister Gordon Brown pointed out, the principle of localism is solid: the over-centralization of power in London hinders local authorities and elected mayors.
But that would be an unworkable federation in which England would have around eight in ten people and an even higher percentage of gross domestic product.
This would require the division of England into regions, which voters rejected under Blair.
It would be a recipe for more levels of government and bureaucracy and more hands reaching out for grants with the added frustration that the model can make Scotland quasi-independent without having to muster its own army, create its own currency or pay. its own currency.
Clearly, Brexit changed the equation by ignoring Scottish desires to stay in the EU and reinforcing independence sentiment.
One answer would be to introduce a new Act of Union: a much cleaner regulation with clear responsibilities.
This would define the UK as a unitary state with appropriate powers vested in and with respect for the identity of each nation. But it would also reaffirm a British identity and retain ultimate sovereignty in Westminster.
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