Scottish independence: Why unionists and nationalists should consider 'home rule' – Kenny MacAskill MP

“Independence in the UK” has yet again been bandied about in political circles. My good friend Henry McLeish has long advocated it and now it’s the former long-serving MEP David Martin who’s articulating it.

Calls for home rule for Scotland have a longstanding tradition, as these posters from 1951 show. Some “Red Clydesiders” also supported the idea about a century ago (Picture: Chris Ware/Getty Images)
Calls for home rule for Scotland have a longstanding tradition, as these posters from 1951 show. Some “Red Clydesiders” also supported the idea about a century ago (Picture: Chris Ware/Getty Images)

Many on both sides of the constitutional divide mock or deride it and it’s not without difficulties, either in delivery or even definition.

Aside from those two stalwarts it does though have a longstanding tradition. The “Red Clydesiders” of the Independent Labour Party expounded it a century ago with both George Buchanan and Rev James Barr lodging Bills in Westminster to achieve it.

Then as now much was left unsaid or unspecified with defence and foreign affairs remaining with the UK but with literally everything else being devolved to a Scottish Parliament. Even those powers were anticipated as evolving at some point as the institution deepened and the world developed.

It’s not my first preference as I remain committed to sovereignty for Scotland, including the right to chose on critical issues of defence and foreign policy. Removal of nuclear weapons and even membership or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) or EU membership are restricted, if not precluded by it.

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That said we’re at a constitutional impasse in Scotland where not only is the nation deeply divided, as polls continually show, but Scottish politics is stultifying as a result of it. Indyref2 remains the main debate yet has been rejected by Westminster and deferred indefinitely by Holyrood.

Something needs to be done to break the logjam and move the country on, as the weekly cycle of “we demand it”and “you’re not getting it” is doing no-one any good. There’s work to be done and if there’s ever a moment to think outside the box it’s now. If coronavirus recovery is the issue then powers to address it are required and the status quo’s inadequate.

Building a coalition to expand the powers of the Scottish Parliament without breaking the Union must surely be possible. It also has the benefit of allowing proponents of both absolute positions to see it as a basis for either going forward incrementally or entrenching the foundations more firmly.

It’s clear that there’s dissatisfaction in Scotland with the status quo and disinterest in the UK with the issues facing Scotland. Let Scotland get on with addressing those social and economic problems, as Jimmy Maxton once passionately demanded a century ago. It would show willing from Westminster in taking cognisance of Scottish democracy.

For however you interpret the recent election results, Scotland isn’t satisfied with it’s current settlement. On the other side, work on currency, borders and other issues has yet to be done, let alone be agreed.

There’s a template as businessman Ben Thomson has written a very erudite book ”Home Rule” that makes these points. Why shouldn’t Scotland have the powers to address its drug crisis or borrow funds to build the homes it so badly needs?

Surely this is the time to build a coalition for such a proposal, undermining neither independence nor the Union but yet facilitating necessary progress for our land.

Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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