How should the United Kingdom now run itself? Not in the same way as in the past. That is the first clear answer that follows from the Scottish “No” vote. The country is still united, and by a solid margin, but the status quo has gone.
Yet better answers are still opaque. Standing in Downing Street after the No victory was clear, David Cameron made ambitious commitments: more power to the regions; a financial settlement that is “fair to Scotland” but fair to other regions too; more power to cities. He promised legislation in January and a commission on wider changes. His answers were short on detail and the timing stretches credibility. But all the same, the outcome of the vote, and the various pledges made by the Prime Minister and the other party leaders, open the door to radical change in the way that Britain governs itself on a scale that it has not contemplated for a long time.
That is right, indeed long overdue. The UK is an increasing complex society, projected soon to have the largest population in Europe, with one of the most successful Western economies and yet disparities of income and wealth between social groups and regions which dominate its politics, choke its potential and corrode its sense of national identity—a country united in a desire to be British.
Prospect has set up a panel of constitutional experts, politicians and wider stakeholders to answer the question of how Britain should now run itself. How should political power be shared between Westminster, the regions and the cities? How should the money be shared out—including the wealth generated by London and other cities? How should Wales and Northern Ireland, the poorest areas, be protected? Should the House of Lords now be reformed, as part of the answer to regional representation? And the question looming in 2017—how should the British state share those newly redrawn powers with the European Union?
In the coming months, in high-level seminars and public discussions and in articles in the magazine and on our website, we will debate those questions. We want to hear comments and…