Government’s failure to devolve boosts Scottish ‘Yes’ campaign, says select committee chair

The government’s reluctance to devolve powers away from London has given a boost to the campaign for Scottish independence, Graham Allen, chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, has said.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy permanent secretary Alex Chisholm

By Winnie.Agbonlahor

04 Jul 2014

Speaking to CSW, Allen (pictured) said: “Why should rational devolvers in Scotland believe Whitehall and Westminster when we say: ‘We believe in devolution’ but we don't practice it in England – the biggest nation in the union?”

Allen wants the leaders of all three main parties to sign a “one-line document” before the referendum, confirming that their parties “believe that union and devolution go together for all the nations of the United Kingdom”.

This, he added, would have a “transformative effect on the debate”, meaning that “everyone could relax and say: 'Hey, I'm chilled out about being in the union because I know by and large I can run most of my stuff in my own country, but I do know we're committed to devolution and union as twin principles’.”

Allen said that central government is currently overloading itself, operating under an overly centralised structure. Defence, Europe, pollution and international affairs matters should be handled at the national level, he argued, but most other responsibilities should be devolved.

The current system whereby “the man in Whitehall can tell you how often you should empty your litter bins” would be seen as “ridiculous in most Western democracies”, he said.

Whitehall’s reluctance to give away powers originates from “the old class system and running an empire”, Allen believes; but it has resulted in a “crisis in our political system, because none of our key political institutions are fit for purpose”.

For the full interview with Allen, request your free copy of the new monthly CSW magazine, published 15 July.

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