Wales politics

Scottish No vote may still mean change

Union Jack and Scotland flag Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Significant constitutional change could still be ahead, if Scotland votes to remain in the UK

In an earlier piece, I looked at some major potential implications for Wales if Scotland votes Yes on 18th September.

I suggested those implications could be greater than many of us have realised.

But what about the implications for Wales of a No vote?

It's tempting to think that No means no change.

In terms of the existence of the UK as a country, and the scope of its territory, that's correct.

But in other respects things may well not stay the same.

Even if there is a No vote, ongoing debates about constitutional reform will continue.

All the parties campaigning for a No in Scotland have promised greater powers for the Scottish Parliament.

But some significant voices within these parties, including Carwyn Jones, have argued that changes to Scottish devolution should not be considered in isolation, but included in a UK-wide constitutional convention to re-consider our whole system of government.

Much is unclear about how such a convention would work:

  • Who would be the participants? Would it be the governments of the respective UK nations (which raises the interesting prospect of Martin McGuinness helping re-write the UK constitution)? If so, who represents England? If not the governments, then who?
  • What would be the agenda? Would the convention try to re-work the entire UK constitution? Would it seek to produce our first ever written constitution?
  • How would any document be approved? Would all participants have to approve any agreement? Would public approval in a referendum be needed? And, if so, would every part of the UK have to say Yes?
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption UK funding of Scotland is generally considered more generous to Scotland than Wales

But it is clear that Wales would need to participate in any convention, and would be greatly affected by it.

Instead of a convention, the UK might continue its traditional, piecemeal approach to constitutional reform.

Even so, further devolution for Scotland might impact on Wales.

Some would argue for extending Welsh devolution further in order that Wales not be left behind.

And there might be consequences for the status of Welsh MPs.

Enhanced Scottish devolution would make the role of Scottish MPs at Westminster even more anomalous, and increase pressure for some form of 'English Votes for English Laws' (EVEL) in Parliament.

But Wales' more limited devolution, and much Westminster legislation and UK government policy operating on an 'England and Wales' basis, could greatly complicate any attempt to introduce EVEL into Parliament: one could have the situation where some votes would involve English MPs only, some English and Welsh MPs, and some MPs from across the UK.

One way to simplify things would be making the respective devolution settlements more uniform: and current promises of more powers for Scotland would surely mean that Welsh devolution would have to be 'levelled up' nearer to Scotland's, rather than Scottish devolution being 'levelled down' to match Wales.

Finally, a No vote might have important implications for money.

Prominent No campaigners in Scotland have promised retention of the Barnett formula, which is generally agreed to treat Scotland more generously than Wales.

Campaigns for 'fair funding' for Wales over the next few years might find this task rendered more difficult by what is currently being promised to Scotland.