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A Ten-Point Plan for Federalism

May 3, 2021 5:00 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

1. Recognise that our present system of government is broken

There is meanwhile no majority for Scottish independence, but people in Scotland are obviously looking for a better way of government. They are fed up with Westminster rule by dogmatic conservative governments. They are fed up with right-wing leaders like Johnson and Thatcher, who impose right-wing policies here despite never having achieved a mandate from the Scottish people.


2. A Federal United Kingdom will work better

If the Conservatives keep imposing their right-wing policies on Scotland, support for independence will grow. The best way of keeping the kingdom united is by a federal union such as Australia, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland and the USA enjoy. Federalism means keeping our family of nations together of their own free will while each has the right to follow the domestic policies they choose. That's better than being subject to Westminster.


3. A Federal United Kingdom involves the consent of each nation

Devolution just now depends on London granting powers to Scotland and other devolved administrations. This is the wrong way round. The people of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland should join together in a federal state (the United Kingdom) and then grant powers to the centre. The authority of the UK government must always depend on the consent of its member nations.


4. We need a United Kingdom Council of Ministers

We can learn from the European Council where governments come together and work on matters of shared interest. We need a UK version of this where the governments of all parts of the UK can work together. This way, we could agree policy together on cross-border issues like climate change, social security, internal markets and federal infrastructure projects.


5. It is for English voters to decide how England is represented

England could be part of a federal UK in many different ways. It could take part in the federation as a single nation, or its regions could each be a part, or areas with elected mayors could each be a part - there are many possibilities. It is for English voters to decide how they wish to participate in a federal United Kingdom.


6. We need independent courts of law

For a federation to work well, we need unbiased courts and judges that are free from any government interference. The ability of courts to hold government to account is essential. The conservative government's plan to restrict this must be abandoned.


7. All votes must count equally

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all have fair voting systems. But we still elect the UK government by an old system which makes some votes worth much more than others. This system makes it harder for challenger parties like the Greens and the LibDems to win seats at Westminster. Because of that, new ideas do not get a proper airing in the UK parliament. The conservatives win most elections, despite never having a majority of votes. This must change.


8. Write it down!

Almost every modern state guarantees its citizens' rights and the limits of its powers in a written constitution. The UK has failed to do this and we should put that right now. The changes we need to create a federal UK should all be in our new written constitution. And while we're thinking about the constitution, we could take the long-overdue step of replacing the unelected House of Lords with second chamber chosen by the people, representing the separate parts of the UK.


9. How to make it happen

In the 1990s many people and groups came together in the Scottish Constitutional Convention. This played a big part in bringing the Scottish Parliament into existence with the consent of almost everyone in the country. We now need a United Kingdom Constitutional Convention along similar lines. This will give everyone, across all four nations of the UK, a chance to work together and devise a federal system that will work in everyone's interest.


10. No more standing on the sidelines!

Senior politicians in most parties are talking about a federal UK. Gordon Brown, Kezia Dugdale, Malcolm Rifkind and Keir Starmer are among those in the Labour and Conservative parties who have been discussing federalism. It's time for these people to stop standing on the sidelines and put their money where their mouth is. Willie Rennie and the LibDems have been leading the way in planning for a federal UK. Now it's time for the others to join wholeheartedly in this work. We cannot afford to let things continue the way they are.