Could the Scottish Referendum Bring About the Next Magna Carta?

By J T Coombes @GMagnaCarta

The Scottish people have decided the fate of their country in a resounding manner that can only be applauded by the rest of the UK and voters in America and the rest of the democratic world. They have demonstrated a fervent desire to connect with the democratic process with a staggering turnout of 84 per cent. This figure has not been surpassed since 1951, or got anywhere near in recent years, and speaks volumes about the current political process and its constant annexation of voters.

People want to be involved in how their country is run and the pressure is now upon government to continue this process. We have heard often about Westminster worrying over low turnouts and how to change this with internet voting and other wheezes. In the end it comes down to being honest with people and empowering them to have their say, something Scotland has just achieved with
singular success.

It cannot be overlooked however, that with a 55 per cent ‘No’ vote and a 45 per cent ‘Yes’ vote, there are two strong camps and therefore a growing friction within communities and families, as brother confronts brother and daughter confronts mother over their beliefs. History points to similar situations including the American Civil War, which tore families apart over the issue of slavery. It took the considerable political skills of a mature politician, Abraham Lincoln, to begin the healing process here and I just wonder if we have leadership of such calibre to manage the situation now.

I worry that with the vote now decided, already our career politicians are looking to their political positions instead of the huge constitutional issue facing this country. With the PM making 11th hour promises of more power before the vote, his ultra-shrewd adversary, Alex Salmond, has responded using just one word to create political chaos and ensure that whatever Westminster comes up with will be a constitutional nightmare.

Mr Salmond in his first public words after the results alluded to Westminster’s offer of more power and that it must be expedited “RAPIDLY”. For his part Mr Cameron has swallowed the bait hook line and sinker proclaiming eye watering time scales in which to produce solutions not only for Scotland BUT THE WHOLE Of THE UK. This can only ensure another repeat of endless legislation rushed through Parliament that is ill thought out and therefore worthless. His reasoning is that of any career politician, in seeking to gain credibility for next year’s election whilst unsettling the opposition at the same time. He is, once again, only looking to the short term.

There are few who would disagree that in the aftermath of the referendum we are now facing a constitutional challenge, I would suggest, is as important and influential as Magna Carta all those centuries ago. We are talking about the devolution of power and this needs debate and the involvement of the people in its development and final construction. To seek to achieve this task in a matter of months is politically irresponsible, naïve and an insult to the electorate of the UK at large. The issues are such that soundbites, spin and diverting the public’s attention from the issue, which is current political practice, will not provide the answers to this vast task.

For me the solution comes from Nelson Mandela who brought a divided country together by providing a sense of common purpose that overrode the differences of the various factions. We need to devolve power to Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England because that is what the Scottish people have so admirably identified, but I would argue that this divolved power has to have a common purpose and goal.

We need to put democracy back in the hands of the people and this can be achieved with a new Magna Carta . . . it worked before and there is no reason it should not work again! With a new charter of jointly agreed objectives each country would have its own freedom to implement those objectives, with a ‘Federal’ government aiding and supporting, but not interfering, in the implementation process. The independence, so necessary now, can be achieved with a common purpose that also provides the unification so essential and integral to this small island.

I have spent a long time working on a prototype ‘Global’ Magna Carta here that addresses the most critical issues I believe we are now facing, both in the UK and globally. Using these ‘Core Beliefs’ as a test bed I think the challenges they address would resonate with most people and give a direction for empowered and devolved governments to adopt with the full support of a people, united by common purpose.

As it stands we have come out the other side of this momentous democratic exercise and, unlike Lincoln or Mandela, I am not confident of the short term thinking that dominates the current political climate, nor the leadership skills of those now in charge to meet the challenges we face in the aftermath of the vote. There is no political vision and I am unsure that political will is sufficiently charged to address the problems, particularly when we are already hearing dissent from many Tory backbenches . . . and this is just the beginning.

The people of Scotland and the rest of the UK deserve better than this.

Thinking from his book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power To The 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes

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