Better together: Have we arrived at our federal moment?

Scotland’s NO vote in Thursday’s referendum has left a number of hugely important questions. What will Devo-Max look like? what are the repercussions for England, Wales and Northern Ireland? is a federal solution the answer? will this be based around regions, cities, or both? What will happen to the House of Lords?


Here we provide a blog debate to sample the ideas of passionate Chartists. There is a strong role for organisations like Chartist and the Hannah Mitchell Foundation to present radical ideas before Cameron tries to ram home his ‘English votes for Enlish MPs’ idea. We probably only have a small window to make big ideas happen before the Westminster machine pushes out all but the piecemeal, so let’s hear em’!




What will Federalism look like?




Ideas and coverage of what comes next

Decentralisation Decade – IPPR North. New Publication.

Now it is Yorkshire’s turn to stand up for devolution, Julian Smith. Yorkshire Post.





  1. What do we mean by federalism? people bandy this phrase about so casually in reference to the UK, the EU it is not immediately clear what is meant by it. It comes in different forms!

    I feel before we start punting advanced ideas about new layers of government at a regional level, a discussion about the role of local government is essential. It’s been so hollowed out continuously since the 1980s.

    Note on federalism and local government: Brazil’s federal constitution provides a constitutionally enshrined role for local government (unlike the US or Germany which are the federal models usually reached for).

  2. Before we embark on a huge time-comsuming navel gazing exercise with grand constitutional designs, perhaps it’s time to take a deep breath.

    What is the problem? Well, Owen Jones thinks it’s the Establishment.

    He has a point. So how has the Labour Party allowed itself to become part of the problem rather than the vehicle for change?

    What we have seen over who knows how long is scope for local initiative sucked out of local government and concentrated in the hands of UK politicians and their civil servants.

    That’s the challenge – and all the Constitutional Conventions now being floated are not going to get to the nub of that problem.

    The first Wilson government had a go with the creation of a Department of Economic Affairs headed by the late tired and emotional former Deputy Leader George Brown.

    I would propose a different approach with local government leaders voluntarily combining to put together regional revenue and capital budgets for 2015/16 and subsequent years. In turn they could combine with the devolved nations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and existing regional government in London to hammer out a settlement with the UK national government – thus demonstrating national unity for budgetary, fiscal and monetary policy purposes.

  3. Certainly greater voice for local government would be part of a constitutional convention. Not good enough for Labour to be offering more powers to local councils without more cash and local revenue raising powers. this means a break from austerity hard or lite.

    The pledges made to Scottish people need to be honoured. They result from the enormous popular movement for change that developed in Scotland during the referendum campaign. Almostt 85% turnout is the highest voluntary vote anywhere in UK and probably Europe for generations. But those vows to protect Scottish NHS and public services need to be extended to England, Wales and NI.

    On the broader question Owen Jones and Hannah mitchell Foundation are right we need more powers to regions and nations, and local government. It does not mean creating new tiers of government.

    But this referendum also means re-visiting the antiquated British state –a democratic revolution–as Jones calls it in The Establishment. End the undemocratic House of Lords, change the cringing national anthem, reform parliament along the lines of Chartist’s 12 point plan, end the powers of the Crown, open up workplaces to worker’s representation. These are some of the key issues for a constitutional conference.

    \Like Andy agree we need to define what we mean by federalism and subsidiarity, but decision-making at the most locally feasible level with the widest engagement of workers and users seems like a start.

  4. That phrase the ‘antiquated British state’ is good place to start, given that this will be a point of sharp division between the Tories and the rest. Will constitutional reform entail removing some of those features of the British parliamentary system (e.g. its primacy over the Lords)? The establishment will hate anything that undermines the Commons. I can’t help but think it’s unavoidable for proper reform to take root. Maybe that’s wrong.

    For me, the role of local government must be central to debate on this. Peter’s idea about local government is interesting for two reasons: One, in recent years some local councils have banded together to borrow money on the bond markets. They should be given more opportunities to do this through RDA type vehicles (that the Tories got rid of). Two, in Scotland a concordat was formed between the Scottish govt and councils. A far cry from the top down, ‘do as you’re told’ approach UK central gov has to councils in England and Wales.

  5. Constitutional reform is long overdue – by a couple of three centuries in my view. The present situation is not the best in which to think it out, so Labour’s present idea of a Constitutional Convention sounds best. What we do not want is Right-Wing Tories ukipping on about England. Some points, top of head:

    1. Time to dig up Tony Benn’s Commonwealth of Britain Bill, just for ideas
    2. If Federalism, it should not be by nation but by region, because England so obviously overwhelms the rest of the country
    3. We need to decide items which undoubtedly are all-UK:
    a) Budget: a UK Income Tax to which regions may add but not subtract
    b) NHS – we should adopt the Scottish variation and at least kill the 2012 Act
    c) defence : but have we lost the opportunity to get rid go Trident?

    4. The Barnett formula should be re-thought: we have Indices of Multiple Deprivation for England and Wales at least, so funding should be determined by these at the lowest practical level, then grossed up to regions.
    5. A written constitution, minimum demands
    a) that our economy will be a mixture of cooperative-, state- and privately- owned productive organisations and services.
    b) European Convention on Human Rights
    c) Democratic and Non-discriminatory
    d) a National Health Service, publicly provided, free at the point of use and broadly uniform across the UK
    e) that Constitutional matters may be changed only by a high bar majority in Parliament
    6. An elected second chamber of savants whose duties will include reviewing legislation, representation of the regions, organisation of special enquires when required.
    7. Disestablishment of the Church of England and ending all faith schools
    8. The ending of the legal fiction of ‘The Crown’ superseding Parliament. A commission to examine the future of the monarchy

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