Increased localism renews interest in democracy and can save Great Britain

About the Author: Ian Freeman was born in Edinburgh and studied in the city, achieving a degree in Journalism at Edinburgh Napier University. His main interests in politics include the importance of increased localism, finding effective alternatives to prevalent neo-liberal ideologies and the effectiveness of liberal social justice policies. 

Having announced that Scotland is to be granted more powers, the expectation from Westminster may be that this will placate even the most ardent supporters of independence. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Across the European Union, ongoing struggles to gain further devolution are rife. Such movements may have a groundswell of popular support - such as in the Belgian region of Flanders, or in Catalonia, where a recent poll showcased the overwhelming support that the notion of independence generates. These calls, however, often either fall short of their proponent's expectations or are ignored altogether.

In other regions of the world, devolved powers have become increasingly widespread. Across America the federal government has, at long last, begun to allow states to craft aspects of their individual drug policies. This received consternation from certain quarters but has predominantly been accepted as a positive development. In Australia, a similar shift was called for when Prime Minister Tony Abbott was elected upon calling for "empowered communities" instead of "empowered government".

With the British Labour Party having finally dropped their opposition to certain powers being granted to the Scottish administration in Holyrood, will Scotland now experience the promised panacea of "devo max" (full fiscal autonomy)? And, if they do, will it be enough to counteract the seemingly unstoppable momentum towards another independence referendum?

Labour, until only recently, dominated the Scottish political landscape, yet has recently experienced an almost startling descent into obscurity. Reliant on the Scottish people's inherent dislike of Conservative policy to hold on to their rapidly diminishing support base, they formed the main impediment to more powers reaching Scottish shores. Considering the incessant clamouring from across Scotland for further devolved powers, they wisely renounced their stance this week. Major roadblock traversed; income tax and welfare spending will now be at Holyrood's provision. 

The importance of this cannot be understated, with many Scots wary of the encroaching right-wing nature of Westminster politics. Such moves to lower tax and spending have never resonated with the Scottish public. More powers being granted to them not only reinforces the power of local democracy but may do much more - may even be responsible for keeping together the United Kingdom. 

The importance of localism in politics has always been a key component of democracy. “No taxation without representation” as the old American revolutionary maxim went, and that is the growing feeling amongst the general Scottish public. London remains geographically distant yet proves overbearing in the political landscape. 

The SNP has capitalized fantastically on the current state of affairs, and look set to prove robust even in the UK wide general election. In the 2015 Scottish election there are odds for winning; and only a very wealthy, or ill-informed voter, would bet against them, thus holding a commanding majority afterwards. Their charismatic new leader, Nicola Sturgeon has promised that becoming an independent nation will remain a top priority - and the latest polls suggest that such a re-vote would result in Scotland being declared a new nation. 

The UK government could, of course, veto any future referendum but such a move would prove massively unpopular and would lead to further feelings of resentment. Repeated moves by the Spanish government to block Catalunya becoming a separate state have raised tensions and may prove to be counterproductive in the long run. The same would almost certainly be the case for Scotland, with a potential for short term uprisings and riots, which all political parties would wish to avoid. 

Further powers have been shown to work to placate nationalist sentiment - as it is the case in Quebec. The fact the once champions of Scottish politics, the Labour Party, chose to stand against such powers being implemented represents another stain on their chances of ever being re-elected as the majority party in Scotland again. Local powers must continue to grow for the union to hold. The introduction of welfare and income tax policies must represent only the beginning of a wide range of new laws for Scotland.