Is there a growing devolution appetite at last?

The Scottish independence referendum appears to be opening up what could either be seen as a real and proper debate on the potentially significant beneficial role of devolution and a new political settlement for Great Britain or a can of nasty angry worms – depending on your viewpoint.

As I have no Scottish blood, roots or connection whatsoever I am not passing judgment at all on how I would like the Scots to vote. After all, isn’t the point of democracy that you let the electorate have their say?  I am in no place to try and influence their decision and have no interest in doing so.

But while there seems to be a lot of hand-wringing over the very real possibility of Scotland soon becoming independent, I am becoming increasingly intrigued and interested about the wider emerging discussions of what this implies for the rest of the country.

While the Regional Assemblies weren’t great and the Regional Development Agencies have been unfairly attacked following their ideological dissolution, perhaps a closer look at positive learning from their experiences along with an analysis of the current system and its successes and flaws might support a proper assessment of how Britain could be governed better.

If Scotland were to vote no and then receive a much greater devolution settlement, then this would set a strong precedent for Wales and the English regions to surely follow suit.  Could the logical extension played out to the end lead us to a more federal approach to a better political settlement offering real devolution and the long-held ambition of many to decentralise power?

Scotland, Wales, West Country, West Midlands, East Midlands, East Anglia, Yorkshire and Humber, the North West, the North East and the South East – oh and London of course…(proviso – that is a quick list and not a full view on what Britain looks like regionally) could enable significant devolution out of Westminster and Whitehall for funding and decision-making powers on a number of policy areas.  The Scotland debate seems to be illustrating the frustration with (and dislike of?) the highly centralised nature of the UK and the flaws and unfairnesses this supports.

Whatever the outcome of the vote in Scotland next week, I hope that it leads to the rest of the country also having a much closer look at our political structure and institutions and taking a greater interest in what an alternative future might look like for all of us.

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