What form should it take?
In 1998 the UK government granted devolution to Scotland and Wales setting up the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly but no devolution at all to England. England remained the sole part of the island of Britain governed totally by Westminster, its people not recognised as a distinct nation. This gross injustice and unfairness forced the Labour government to promise in its 2002 manifesto what it is calling devolution to England in the shape of regional assemblies, which it is proceeding to establish. They are causing enormous controversy and the situation has now been reached where there are three major proposals regarding devolution in England which are being debated. They are:
The Proposal of the Campaign for an English Parliament for Full and Genuine Devolution?
A devolved parliament with all the powers of the Scottish Parliament, maintaining the unity and the identity of England as a distinct nation with her people receiving the same advantageous and generous financial deal as Scotland and Wales receive. If Wales also had its own parliament, there would be parity between the three nations of the island of Britain, resolving the West Lothian Question. It would be for the English Parliament to decide its own location (it does not have to be in London), what form of local government it should have, be it counties, unitaries or regions, with responsibility for health, education and public transport, able to achieve a fairer national distribution of employment opportunities; and empowered to provide protection for the English environment and countryside from Whitehall-directed despoliation by an excess of road building and urban spread. An English Parliament would be full devolution for England as England, constituting the most radical, genuine and progressive decentralisation of power in the history of the UK.
The Government’s White Paper Proposal?
This is no more than yet another Whitehall re-organisation of English local government with no devolution to England at all. Mr Prescott has been bluntly honest about this, flatly rejecting for England the devolution model of the Scottish Parliament which has full executive powers independent of the UK in 75% of governance matters. He has stated: “People do not expect the equivalent of a Scottish Parliament for the English regions”. The government’s proposal is for assemblies responsible for English ‘regions’ of immense size and population, yet with a very small handful of elected representatives, the overwhelming majority of them being from the cities, in this way disenfranchising the rural counties and all the countryside areas, yet with no more responsibilities than those of present county and district councils combined, leading to the likely abolition of our ancient English counties, with all real power, as now, centralised in Whitehall. The 1998 Devolution legislation achieved its aim – the constitutional establishment of Scotland and Wales as distinct nations and made Scotland 75% independent of the rest of the UK. This White Paper however offers England no devolution within the UK of any sort.
The CFER Proposal?
A body called the Campaign for English Regions supported by many members of the appointed and non-elected ’shadow’ regional assemblies already in place wants the abolition of England territorially and as a nation, substituting nine devolved and separate EU regions.
The CFER wants each of these regions to have the powers of the Scottish Parliament, quite independent of the rest, holding EU regional status, able to deal directly with Brussels, subject to Whitehall only to the extent that Scotland is but looking to EU legislation for increasing independence within the UK, hence the CFER use of such language as ‘regional parliaments’ and ‘home rule’. The CFER plans the balkanisation of England with a UK transformed into “the nations (ie Scotland and Wales) and regions”. The CFER brochure statement that: “the north east is fundamentally different from the south west and the north east is from the south east” clearly indicates the direction it wants to go. The CFER wants devolution, but not for England. The CFER may be a campaign for regions but it is not a campaign for England. The CFER campaigns expressly for the termination of England.