Today is a chance for major constitutional change in the UK. If ‘yes’ wins, then the result would be a shock for both sides. Given the choice Devo-Max, Scotland would stay in the UK. A party with one MP in Scotland decided this couldn’t be an option as it would be a win for the opposition, so it’s a gamble all or nothing.
There’s various reasons it’s come to this, but one is that there is no provision for painless constitutional change in the UK. This is stupid.
The unwritten constitution of the UK is a mish-mash of arrangements built over hundreds of years. The idea that something that worked a couple of centuries ago should be immutable is simply ridiculous. Communications, education, society have all changed. We are governed in a system which haven’t consented to and have little legal opportunity to change unless someone can manufacture a crisis. So we let problems fester till we lurch from one place to another.
Plaid Cymru are asking for ideas to govern Wales. I have one, but I’d be happy for any party to take it up for the UK. It’s this: There should be a constitutional conference every 25 years.
Too frequent and the rules become a free for all, but too infrequent and there’s no gradual evolution of the state and every change becomes a trauma. Twenty-five years is up for discussion but it’s close enough that a reasonably young adult could have hope of being consulted on their participation in a democracy. It also means that there is (relatively) recent precedent so the next conference isn’t a complete shock to the political body.
Moving fundamental political questions, like constituency sizes, how often should general elections be, how to the member countries relate to the UK, onto a scheduled basis would remove them from being laid down by an ad-hocracy.
Whatever the result today, it’s the payoff of a massive gamble by David Cameron who’s put everything on Red (White and Blue) and is hoping the right number comes up. There’s got to be a better way to manage a constitution than that.