Tuesday, October 20, 2015

UK and the local benefits of devolution

I have just come back from a trip to Denmark and the UK, This is the first of several posts reflecting on the lessons for New England from the experience. The photo shows one view of the Welsh capital, Cardiff, from the castle.

When I was first in the UK for an extended period, devolution had yet to occur.The arguments used against self-government for Scotland and Wales were very similar to those previously used against self-government for New England. Scotland and Wales were too small, they had nothing to gain. Further, those who had opposed New England self-government on the grounds that Australia needed fewer, not more states, constantly pointed to the UK to support their case.

Scotland has a population of around 5.3 million, capital city Edinburgh (Scotland's second city) has a population around 493,000, 1.33 million in the greater Edinburgh region.Wales has a population of 3.09 million, Cardiff 346,000. Northern Ireland a population of 1.81 million. To put these numbers in context, England has a population of 53 million, of which 12-14 million live in Greater London depending on the definition used.

You can see that in demographic terms, Wales and Scotland are totally dwarfed by England. Both were effectively swamped, lacking in influence within a then rigid party system.   .  .

The wheel turns.As a consequence of constant agitation especially in Scotland that threatened to tear the Union apart, power was progressively devolved from Westminster.This could never have happened without that constant agitation. Now as I walked the streets, I could see some of the results.

This  is the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, capacity over 72,000. The nearest Newcastle equivalent is in Newcastle, an open air stadium with a capacity of 33,000 thousand.

It wasn't just the new or rebuilt institutions, but the focus on local character and interests, the buzz in the streets, the presence of young people. .

Now that the benefits of devolution have become clearer, North England (population 14.5 million) too is starting to demand some measure of devolution as a way of reducing London dominance. 

All this means that that the UK has moved from an argument against new states to a case study of the way that local benefits can flow.

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