What does 2013 hold for devolution?


Left Foot Forward’s Devolution Correspondent Ed Jacobs looks ahead to what 2013 has in store for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Scotland

United-Kingdom-mapWith the signing of an agreement between David Cameron and Alex Salmond, 2012 should have been the SNP’s year, finally securing in writing the confirmation a referendum on Scotland’s future will take place in by 2014.

Despite, however, the first minister’s declaration in his new year’s message that the nationalists have a “positive vision” for an independent Scotland, the fact remains: there are doubts over its position in the EU if it went alone; accusations the SNP are “wilfully misleading” Scotland over its proposals to keep the pound; and former NATO secretary general, George Robertson, concluding the SNP could not be supportive of NATO membership whilst remaining opposed to nuclear weapons – all serving to raise serious doubts over the credibility of the nationalist’s plans for independence.

Unless they can pull some sort of rabbit out of a hat, the pro-independence camp will continue to struggle to make any significant breakthrough in the public’s mind, raising the prospects even Alex Salmond – the grand master of Scottish politics – has bitten off more than he can chew.

Watch Alistair Darling closely this year; as chair of the Better Together Campaign, I expect him to be increasingly vocal, with calls for him and Salmond to go head to head in a grand debate over Scotland’s future.

Watch also Scottish Labour’s position vis-à-vis tution fees. Already, Johann Lamont has raised questions over whether free tuition fees, along with a host of other universal benefits, are affordable, and 2013 could be the year the party develops some pretty unpopular policies, likely to cause increasing tensions within the party north of the border.

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Northern Ireland

2012 ended for Northern Ireland on a low, with the discovery of a bomb under a policeman’s car in Belfast on December 30th. This, however, seemed to end a year which has seen age old tensions over identity resurfacing, with violent protests by unionists over the decision by Belfast council not to fly the Union flag every day of the year whilst simultaneously, Sinn Fein have sought to breathe new life into their historic mission to see Irish unity.

If 2012 is anything to go by, 2013 looks set to be a year in which matters of and debate over “identity” will come to the fore.

Meanwhile, amidst ongoing calls for a full judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane – despite the lawyer led review by Desmond de Silva QC – his murder looks set to continue to be a faultline in Northern Ireland with 2013 potentially the year the sores from the past lead to the establishment of some sort of ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’.

Wales

After a period of what could be described as a decline – including failure in 2011 to win an outright majority in elections to the Assembly – local elections last May were undoubtedly a clear and unambiguous sign Labour in Wales is back, and back in a big way.

Education is set in 2013 to be a major battleground in Welsh politics. With an education minister, Leighton Andrews – who is not shy about spoiling for a fight, particularly with Westminster - expect the Welsh government’s review of qualifications in Wales to suggest some fairly radical changes to the path being trodden by the Tory/Liberal coalition at the other end of the  M4.

In the same vein, Wales can expect to become a trailblazer for the rest of the UK, using its full law-making powers to, amongst other things, legislate for a system of presumed consent for organ donation.

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  • ACA The Underground

    Scottish independence seems unlikely if the polls are to be trusted but if anyone can pull ‘unexpected’ out of the bag it’ll be Alex Salmond.

    As for more devolution, no word on Mebyon Kernow for Cornish independence?

  • Old Albion

    And just like the Lib/Lab/Con you continue to ignore England

  • cynicalhighlander

    Dear oh dear what can one say Mr Jacobs on your take on devolution is basically a cut and paste job taken from the anti-independence MSM and as to AD ttaking on AS in a debate would be lovely to see and hear.

    Alistair Darling and Blair Jenkins on Scottish EU membership

  • Independent England

    No mention of England so I’ll write something for you.

    England

    English get even more pissed off with the rest of the Disunited Kingdom and declare independence.

  • Newsbot9

    Oh dear, still in denial over a political decision not being automatically in your favour?

  • Newsbot9

    Psst, this isn’t your Torygraph.

  • Newsbot9

    Wales is enacting stateist legislation which will likely cause a huge backlash against organ donation? Um…

  • Luke

    Not true. There have been a few opinion polls out showing most people in Wales support it. A Plaid Cymru AM actually tried to introduce it a few years ago, but now the Labour Government is going to bring it in by 2015, probably with Plaid and Lib Dem support.

  • Newsbot9

    And? Look, it’s going to cause a backlash among many of those who currently carry donor cards, and what people poll generally and what they actually do when faced with a dead relative are different.

  • Newsbot9

    And? Look, it’s going to cause a backlash among many of those who currently carry donor cards, and what people poll generally and what they actually do when faced with a dead relative are different.

  • uglyfatbloke

    Interesting piece.

    Robertson’s stated opinion of NATO/Scotland/Nukes is either stupid or dishonest. Plenty of NATO countries – like Canada for instance – have anti-nukes policies and only three NATO counties actually have nukes anyway.

    There are really no ‘doubts’ about an independent Scotland being in the EU – Barrosso is simply voicing opinions that will help him build bridges with Cameron, OTH it is not at all certain that EU membership is actually in Scottish interests – I think it is personally , but I am aware that there are some genuine economic arguments to the contrary.

    Lamont’s views on spending cuts may well be perfectly rational (and I’m, sure she will be more than happy to stump for her university fees and grants to show her commitment to fairness) but they are politically unwise. If pursued they will prevent a Labour recovery in Scotland, simple as that.

    Suppression of the McCrone report by Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major and Blair will probably become the kind of high-profile issue that the gnats have wanted it to be for years and that will not be good news for a Labour recovery.

    It may become harder to keep BBC Scotland onside. If the recent documentary Domhair was screened in English there would be some very awkward questions to be answered.

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