Decentralisation and regional sovereignty

The term, which even many British think might be the name of a pop band, is actually a description for a system of more independence for the regions. Devolution means nothing more than decentralisation and the recognition of regional autonomy. In Germany, it is called Federalism. But since, in English, this term is mostly used only in connection with the European Union and has negative connotations, (see Euro-sceptics), the British prefer to call the enhancement of rights for the regions 'Decentralisation'. However, if it is one day found that devolution works well, the distrust of the federalist ideas of the European Union could also be overcome. A pact between scoundrels in the nation that sold their fellow citizens for English gold, wrote the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. Despite protests from the public, Scotland was united with England in 1707. Wales had already suffered the same fate as early as the 16th century. However, since the merger of Scotland into the United Kingdom also had very positive angles - for example, in the form of economic growth - the Scots initially accepted their fate. But later, when oil was found off the Scottish coast and Margaret Thatcher implemented her social policies that went against the grain of Scottish community spirit - the calls for more sovereignty became ever louder.  The Blair government dares to promote a little federalism In 1999, it should be over at last: The Welsh will have their own Parliament. It is a thousand years since they have last been able to govern themselves. The Queen will remain Head of State and will inaugurate the Welsh Regional Assembly. The assembly will have 60 representatives, of whom 40 will be elected directly in constituencies and 20 in a countrywide list -- according to the principles of proportional representation. The Regional Assembly has a budget of about 9.3 billion pounds and can make its own decisions about healthcare, education and transportation. The Welsh cannot, however - in contrast to the Scots - levy separate taxes and do not have any legislative rights.  Many Premiers have promised the Scots more rights - Tony Blair is the first who has kept his promise. In 1999, the Scots will elect their own Parliament. And this Parliament also has many powers. The most important is the right to levy a separate income tax and law-making powers in areas that do not affect the interests of the UK as a whole. There will be 129 representatives in the Parliament, of whom 73 will be directly elected and 56 will be drawn from the existing European Parliament constituencies in Scotland. The Scots will be able to open their own representation in the European Union headquarters in Brussels - and will therefore be able to display their political independence to the outside world as well. 

Devolution - only the first step towards the disintegration of Great Britain?

The stone is already there, Parliament will follow - now what about the oil? In 1996, the English returned the "Stone of Scone" to the Scots - a stone on which Scottish kings had been crowned and which the English King Edward I had confiscated in the 13th century. In September 1997, the Scots voted in a referendum on the formation of their new Parliament, whose members will be selected in 1999. Although - or perhaps because - the Regional Parliament will give the Scots a lot of liberty and self-determination, it could be the first step towards complete independence from England. The revenue from the oil off the Scottish coast is drawing the attention of some Scottish politicians, who would prefer to see it going into Scottish pockets.


Since the late 1970s, devolution for Scotland and Wales has been under discussion. As promised in the Labour Party’s manifesto, referendums over the introduction of a certain level of self-government were held in September 1997. The Scottish referendum produced a strong majority for a separate parliament (74%) with limited tax-raising powers (63% majority) on a turnout of over 60%. Scotland was expected to have a parliament within 12 months. In Wales, the result was a narrow majority, on a low poll, for a Welsh parliament. Unlike the House of Commons, the regional parliaments are to be elected by proportional representation.

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