In response to the near secession of Scotland from the United Kingdom, the British government is promising to decentralize, giving more power to regional and local governments. (Not just Scotland but Wales and Northern Ireland already have their own parliaments. England hasn’t, being content to rule all of the others, but now England itself may become more like a state in the larger United Kingdom.)
The desire for weaker central governments seems to be a world-wide phenomenon and is exactly what American conservatives have been calling for. But the British have always put on the best Tea Parties.
The decisive rejection of Scotland’s independence referendum set off an instant scramble Friday to fundamentally reorganize constitutional power in the United Kingdom, with Prime Minister David Cameron citing a chance “to change the way the British people are governed.”
With Thursday’s “no” vote, Cameron avoided the eternal stigma that would have come from allowing Britain to break up on his watch. But with parliamentary elections due next spring, the prime minister still faces a raging anti-establishment tide that helped to fuel the Scottish independence bid and has penetrated all corners of the United Kingdom.Within minutes of results showing that the union had been saved, Cameron was in front of cameras at 10 Downing Street on Friday to announce a response to the growing outcry that would make the United Kingdom more like the United States.
That means power over taxes, spending and welfare shifted away from the central government in London and toward the regional administrations that govern the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Crucially, Cameron said that the English — who do not have their own assembly — would also get more say over their own affairs.
The effort represents what could amount to a radical rethinking of power in the union, bringing it closer to the local and regional levels.