SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: The process of constitutional change in the wake of the Scottish referendum result will be “extremely uncomfortable” for many at Westminster but is vital to “ensure harmony across the whole of the United Kingdom”, former prime minister Sir John Major has said.
He said the current unbalanced constitutional arrangements, with the Scottish Parliament set to get even more devolved power, would create “bitterness and resentment”. He gave his backing to David Cameron’s plan to create a new constitutional settlement and said the process should be above party politics.
Sir John said there would be a “collective sigh of relief” that Scots had rejected independence.
“The referendum has delivered a clear-cut result that settles the issue for a very long time – perhaps for good,” he said. “It has been a superb model of democracy in motion and has shown the world that, however passionate and intransigent views may be, opposing factions can come together peacefully at the ballot box to make their voice heard.
“Scotland’s future is now assured, and I have no doubt that the proposed additional powers will be devolved to them. But if we are to ensure harmony across the whole of the United Kingdom, we must … address the aspirations and ambitions of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish electorates as well. They, too, have an interest over greater self-government. An unbalanced constitution cannot survive, and would create bitterness and resentment across the United Kingdom.”
He said no-one was more aware of this than Mr Cameron, adding: “Parliament must therefore take this unrivalled opportunity to re-fashion our constitution, and offer devolved powers to all four nations of the United Kingdom.”
He acknowledged the difficulties the process would face, saying: “This will obviously have repercussions for Westminster, some of which will be extremely uncomfortable for many parliamentarians.
“But Westminster has an overarching responsibility to focus its gaze upon a long-term settlement in order to avoid the possibility of setting region against region.”
Sir John described the process as “well above any party politics” and said: “In recent weeks, the eyes of the world have been focused on the Scottish referendum, and I believe there will be a collective sigh of relief that our small but significant island will continue to speak with one voice.
“Let us now show the world the very best of what democracy can bring: all four nations of the United Kingdom, working together to form a new constitutional settlement that will reform – and, I hope, make more fair – our existing system of government.”