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Where the Scots have led, the English, Welsh and Northern Irish can follow...

Professor Conor Gearty, Director of LSE's Institute of Public Affairs, looks at the potential fallout from the Scottish independence referendum and says it is time for a change for the whole of the UK.

"In the old days Scottish opponents of English rule risked death in battle, their land lost and families destroyed as punishment for their challenge to southern power. Today's equivalent is maybe more arcane but deadly in a different way: impoverishment via a downgrading of the Barnett formula with (thrown in for good measure) destruction of the UK Labour Party through removal of their Scottish MPs from any say over English affairs. The Coalition government needs to be careful here: what looks good in the political equivalent of the Bullingdon Club may not play so well in the country at large.  The Irish rising of Easter 1916 was successfully put down, only to be reignited after the brutal decision to shoot its leaders. The modern equivalent might happen here.  Imagine a Salmond-Brown axis at the head of an SNP/Labour movement declaring the Scots to have been betrayed by the Downing Street elite.

Conor2-largeWhose victory was it anyway? Hardly that of conventional politics, on either side. The turnout , the level of debate, and the engagement of the young, middle-aged and old shows it to have been a victory for that amorphous entity, the people - here the Scottish people. Where the Scots have led, the English, Welsh and Northern Irish can now follow, seizing the leadership of constitutional change from the orthodox parties, all of whom trivialise change by their trumpeting of window-dressing as revolution. 

Who are the people? The Scottish referendum campaign shows they can be reached.  So does our LSE project on Crowdsourcing the UK Constitution .  In our first year we coordinated a mixed web-based and direct participatory activities which resulted in the identification of a series of common values and principles that should underlie a modern British constitution. This culminated in our Constitutional Carnival earlier this Summer.  Next up: the nuts and bolts. Using the innovative capabilities of modern technology we are involving a mass community of civic-minded residents and citizens in Hacking the UK Constitution. It will be on the web, it will produce a single document which is the product of scores of brains, from all classes, creeds, gender, orientation, faith and ethnicity. It will be a Constitution for all the people, and it will be built by the people."

On 26 June 2014 LSE’s new Saw Swee Hock Student Centre hosted Constitution UK’s Constitutional Carnival. Featuring special guests including Peter Tatchell, Martin Lewis, and Baroness Joyce Quinn, amongst others, this special one-off event brought together members of the School and of the general public in order to create LSE’s very own constitutional moment in the run-up to the project’s second stage: hacking a written constitution for the United Kingdom.

25 September 2014

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