Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another analysis Scotland's independence movement

Mark Porubcansky, Foreign Editor of the Los Angeles Times, offers this bit of analysis.

How Scotland's independence movement is changing the UK
This isn’t exactly the solid, stable old Britain that Americans love.

After throwing a scare into the country’s political elite, Scots voted in September against independence. So a political union that predates the American revolution will stay in place — at least a while longer.

But by seriously considering breaking up the country, Scotland has helped launch a debate that may fundamentally change how America’s closest ally functions.

Think of the issue as a British version of the U.S. struggle to define where Washington’s power ends and state authority takes over…

Many Scots have felt increasingly at odds with the UK’s national government for decades. While “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher was popular enough to become Britain’s longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century, her policies were widely detested in Scotland. And Scots see little more than a continuation of them in the quarter of a century since she left office…

In late November, the so-called Smith Commission return its report on Scottish autonomy. Among its recommendations: that Scots be given the power to set income tax rates and retain the money raised by it; that they be able to decide whether to extend the right to vote to 16-year-olds; and that the Scottish parliament be free to create new benefits.

Cameron said he was “delighted” with it. The Scottish National Party was disappointed, saying that the authority over the vast majority of revenue and spending would remain in London…

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said, “If you think today’s constitutional changes are only about Scotland, think again,” he said. “If you think they will end the debate about Scottish independence, think again. If you think they mark the end of a process of change, think again.”

Now, mayors of major cities across England said they should be given the same powers as the Scots…

The Scottish National Party's, former First Minister Alex Salmond, widely recognized as one of Britain’s wiliest politicians, resigned as the head of Scotland’s government… But he hasn’t left the scene. He stirred the pot on Sunday by announcing that he would run for a seat in parliament in London.

With his party gaining in the polls, Salmond is setting himself up to be a national power broker. Cameron’s foes in the Labor Party can’t beat him outright without a strong showing in Scotland. The Scottish National Party says it will never support the Conservatives. But it might be willing to back a Labor government, for a price. And that price would be likely to take Britain back to the future — an intensified debate over autonomy (for Scots and others, as well) and possibly another vote on Scottish independence.

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