Monday, 28 September 2015

Cross party think tank proposes 'new Act of Union'

Two recent articles on Three Thousand Versts have expressed concern that the UK’s constitutional issues have been allowed to drift, since the ‘No’ campaign won the Scottish independence referendum.  With that in mind, it was interesting to read a piece in yesterday’s Sunday Times, proposing a new Act of Union. (Free version here): http://www.constitutionreformgroup.co.uk/only-a-new-act-of-union-can-save-the-uk-from-break-up/

The article launches a cross-party group called the Constitution Reform Group and carries the signatures of Sir Menzies Campbell, Peter Hain and Robert (Lord) Salisbury, who belong to the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative parties, respectively.  The group, it claims, consists of “retired cabinet ministers, practising politicians, former parliamentary officials and civil servants, lawyers, journalists and academics”.

The authors express concern about the government’s provisions to create ‘English votes for English Laws’ on the basis that they will create two classes of MP in the House of Commons.  Using parliament’s standing orders as a vehicle to effect constitutional change adds to the impenetrability of the UK’s constitution, they say.

‘The bones of the constitution should clear and understandable to any interested citizen, not just legislative anoraks.’

The Constitution Reform Group believes that nationalism’s threat to the UK is current and serious.  It proposes to write a paper on how a new Act of Union might look, in time for elections to the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, scheduled for May 2016. 

A more urgent debate on the United Kingdom’s future is certainly needed.  Hopefully this group can make a useful contribution to strengthening the Union against nationalist challenges and repairing bonds between the various nations and regions of the UK.  

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