An Unequal Kingdom: The Barriers to Federalism in the UK


An Unequal Kingdom – The Barriers to Federalism in the UK

Proponents of a Federal UK should provide details of their plans if they are to be taken seriously.

IN A NEW REPORT for Common Weal, former Convener of the Campaign for a Scottish Parliament and executive member of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, Isobel Lindsay and Common Weal Head of Policy and Research, Craig Dalzell lay out the barriers to reforming the United Kingdom from a unitary state with devolved nations into a federation of states. This report comes after several parties, notably Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have voiced support for such a reformation but have so far been largely silent on providing the nesseary details about what their plans would look like or how they would be achieved.

The report can be read in full here

The new paper, entitled An Unequal Kingdom – The Barriers to Federalism in the UK, outlines several possible models of federalism in the UK such as a “Four Nation” federation in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England had defined control over certain domestic affairs and shared control over the federal government in areas such as foreign affairs and defence. This model, the paper points out, could be vulnerable to domination of the federal system by England given its size compared to the other states.

Another model suggest would involve the creation of regional assemblies across England which would correct for the population imbalance but at the cost of the dissolution of England as an entity.

The paper asks any future proposal for a Federal UK by any political party to answer seven key questions about its proposed structure, constitutional limits and the path towards the settlement.

Report co-author Craig Dalzell commented:

“Opponents of Scottish independence have a long history of demanding that its supporters provide as much detail of our plans as possible. They are too often less forthcoming with a similar standard of detail with regard to their own proposals. Both the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Labour have voiced support for the reformation of the United Kingdom from a unitary state into a Federation but, to date, neither party has provided anything but the most cursory of proposals to this effect. They have neither explained what a federal UK would look like nor how it would be achieved. It is no longer tenable for parties opposed to independence to offer “alternative” proposals without giving those proposals as much scrutiny as they demand from others. This report lays out the barriers which must be overcome if any plan for a Federal UK is to be taken at all seriously.”