English fears of Welsh devolution point to underlying constitutional problem with the UK…

One reason why the devolution debate should not, as the Doc and Martin suggest, be understood in splendid islolation. According to IPPR, the English are distinctly discomfited by the Welsh Assembly:

  • 31% of people thought the Welsh assembly had a negative impact on how Britain was governed, compared to 11% in 2007.
  • Those who thought devolution to Wales had made no difference fell to 24% from a high of 66% in 2003.
  • About a quarter (26%) thought Wales got more than its fair share of UK public spending, with slightly more (28%) saying it got “pretty much” its fair share.
  • Only 7% thought England got its fair share, while 40% thought it got less than it deserved.
“Reforming the organs of the UK state to take into account these sentiments in England is actually really quite difficult,” he said. “Much more difficult than devolution for Scotland and Wales.

“If we ever move to a situation, and it could easily happen, whereby the UK government doesn’t have a majority of English MPs – that happened in 1964, 1974 – if that day ever dawns, you’re going to have a full-blown constitutional crisis.

The operative word being if. But it gives a decent sense of how, under the skin, loosely wrapped the United Kingdom has become.

  • All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. No system where the centre has more power in some places than in others can ever be stable. Proposed solutions like differing classes of MPs will only make matters worse. Until the current ad-hoc devolution paradigm is replaced by a symmetric federation (whether that includes single or multiple English states), tensions will be unavoidable. If they go for the easy option, a four-state federation with a dominant England, that may only be delaying the fateful day. And it still wouldn’t solve the problem of over-centralisation of government within England itself.

    The question is whether the English are willing to fundamentally change their own governance structures in order to save the UK. I’m beginning to suspect they don’t care. An absent-minded unravelling, Czechoslovak style, is looking more likely by the day.

  • Dewi

    “About a quarter (26%) thought Wales got more than its fair share of UK public spending, with slightly more (28%) saying it got “pretty much” its fair share.”

    If the English think we are getting our fair share we must bein real trouble.

  • Brian

    How much does Wales put into the Treasury and how much does it get in return?