Friday 11th May, the Scottish Government consultation on the Scottish independence referendum finished today. The phony war is over, the game is on, it’s now time to get down to the nitty gritty!


From today, until winter approaches, the real battle for the shape and content of the Scottish Independence referendum will take place. For those who support independence the debate will be focused on the exact wording of the question on independence, debating on whether sixteen year olds should be allowed to vote, and finalising which electoral authority will oversee the referendum. For nationalists, the next six months should be relatively straight forward.


But what about those who support a Union? How easy will the next six months be for them? As matters stand today, they will be in for a tough time. The local election results have confirmed that the although Scots still hold to their values of social equality, in the form of the Labour Party, many are now very prepared to listen to, and support, the SNP. As for the other parties that support a Union, they were all but obliterated. So what can we learn from these election results when considering the referendum?


It is clear that the voice for independence now has credibility and authority; people are prepared to listen. Whether people are prepared to be convinced, however, is another matter. Nationalists will still need to work very hard to win over enough “sceptical patriots” to win the vote. For those who support a Union, however, it will be just as hard, if not harder. Although many Scots still support the Labour Party, they do so because of the party’s policies on social equality, not because the party supports a Union. As for the other voices supporting a Union, they are now almost irrelevant in Scottish politics; their voice is weak, no one is listening anymore.

So why are so few people listening to the voices that support the continuance of a Union between Scotland and England? Is it because people have already decided that they are no longer interested in maintaining a Union? The most recent opinion polls suggest that this is not the case. The opinion polls suggest that the majority of Scottish people do wish a Union to continue, but these polls also suggest that people wish to see substantial change in the relationship between Scotland and England. It appears obvious that the reason why so many Scots are not listening to those who argue for a Union is because the politicians who support a Union are not listening to the people of Scotland!


Until the parties supporting a Union start to listen, and more importantly start to act, independence is a very possible outcome from the referendum. Continuing to argue for the continuation of the current union, in its present shape and form, will not resolve this dilemma. A much more radical and innovative proposal will be required if the supporters of a Union wish to re-engage with the people of Scotland and win the argument.

Alternative options to full independence have already been suggested. Prominent amongst these alternatives is full devolution or Devolution Max (Devo Max). However, fundamental problems exist with Devo Max (or any other form of devolution). Many of the inequities that exist in the current Union will persist with the Devo Max option; Scotland will still not have the full breadth of control it will require to effectively manage its own affairs. Devo Max will also fail to satisfy those who seek independence; the desire for independence will continue, it will endure. Scotland will still be arguing over independence in fifty years from now if Devo Max is the result of the referendum process.

So is there a middle ground solution that can satisfy the desire of those Scots who wish for full independent control over their own affairs, whilst also meeting the desire of those who wish to maintain a Union between England and Scotland? The answer to this question is yes. There is a solution for Scotland’s constitutional future that can satisfy both the demand for significant independence and the continuation of a Union. It is a solution that is far more radical than Devo Max or any other form of enhanced devolution; it is also the solution that has the potential of ensuring that almost everybody wins.


The radical change that is proposed is the creation of a new Confederated Union in which each nation will have full control over its own national affairs, and in which there will be joint and equal control over unified affairs. There will be two national parliaments in this new Union, a Scottish parliament and a British Isles parliament. The parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will no longer exist. In this new and equitable Union both parliaments will have an equal voice. There will be an equitable distribution of power and offices of state; power will not be centralised in one location; the departments of state will be located in both nations; and the leadership of these unified departments will be shared equally between the two nations. Leadership of the new United Kingdom confederation will also be equitable, with each nation providing the United Kingdom Prime Minister at regular and appointed times.


Each national government will have full power and control over all matters not covered by the new Union treaty. The unified powers will be subject to full negotiation but likely candidates are Defence, Foreign Affairs and European Affairs. Discussion on the powers to be unified will commence from a position where all power is considered to have been devolved to the national governments. From this starting point the discussions will identify and agree the powers to be unified within the new Union. A critical aspect of this proposed new Union is that both nations will be responsible for funding themselves, and for funding the new United Kingdom administration in an appropriate and equitable manner; there will be no more block grant funding.


This proposal for a Confederated Union offers a radical alternative to the status quo and any form of devolution. Most importantly, it offers an alternative that will not only satisfy the desire of those who wish to maintain a Union, it will also satisfy the desire of many Scots who wish for independent control over their own affairs. It has the potential of being the “everybody wins” solution for constitutional change.

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The creator of this blog and the A Union of Equals website has no political affiliations.