2014 could see Scotland separate from the rest of the UK. The Independence referendum takes place in September, and having been way behind in early polling, the Scottish Nationalists appear to have gained some momentum in recent months with an effective charm offensive from its leader Alex Salmond, combined with a lacklustre approach from the ‘NO’ campaign which is being led by former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling.
The resurgence of support for Independence reminds us once again of the importance of charisma and personality in modern politics. Salmond has both in abundance, and whilst Darling has a huge intellect he is hardly likely to match Scotland’s First Minister when it comes to rallying the troops.
In the end my gut instinct tells me that, despite Salmond’s best efforts, the Scots are too cautious to take a leap of faith into the unknown, and that the lack of economic clarity offered by the Nationalists, coupled with doubts over what Scotland’s relationship with the EU would be if they were to opt out of the union will see the status quo maintained.
Nonetheless, the discussion and debate in the run up to the autumn poll will be fascinating, and will continue to highlight the fact that, even without total independence, the Scots have enjoyed significant devolved powers through its own parliament for over a decade now. How long will it be before the regions of England begin to demand similar devolution that would enable the charismatic and big personality politicians to take on the Alex Salmond or Boris Johnson role in areas like the North West and Yorkshire?
That the North is still suffocated by London’s financial and political power is irrefutable. It is no good us moaning about London though. We have to take advantage of the fact that one of the most successful global cities is on our doorstep and demand the political tools that will help us do it.
Metro mayors, regional parliaments and county commissioners have all been debated and discussed. Perhaps it’s time for us to turn one or more of these ideas into reality?