After Scotland’s SNP landslide in the 2015 UK general election, the idea of saving the union by the introduction of a federal constitution is gaining traction, but a 4-unit federation of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would not solve the problem as the UK would still be dominated by England with 85% of its population, especially if the UK government remained at Westminster; and acting on other suggestions currently in vogue, such as London-style devolution to other English cities such as Greater Manchester would probably just lead to yet another transient stage in the bizarre and ever-changing patchwork of local government in England and Wales without addressing the problem of Scottish national identity that looks set to trigger its secession from the union. The UK does not need any more of this trivial tinkering. It needs a bold, visionary once-and-for-all constitutional settlement which gives due regard to the history, geography, economics and identity of England’s regions as well as the UK’s smaller national and provincial units. The federal solution we need would comprise units of equal status and a new federal capital located more centrally within the union than at Westminster. So, here’s a suggestion that would tick all these boxes, presented as a list of possible units and a 6-step guide to a possible transition:
UNITS (with populations):
1. Northern Ireland (1.8m);
2. Scotland (5.3m);
3. Wales (3.1m);
4-9. 6 New English Regions:
4. Lakeland (7m; Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Shropshire; New Cap: Manchester);
5. Northumberland (7m; Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham, Cleveland, Yorkshire; New Cap: Durham or York);
6. Middle England (15m; all counties not listed in 4, 5, 7, 8 & 9; New Cap: Birmingham);
7. Cornwall (0.54m);
8. Wessex (8m; Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, Surrey, West Sussex; New Cap: Winchester);
9. Essex (12.4m; Greater London, Essex, Kent, East Sussex; New Cap: Westminster);
10. Isle of Man (0.09m);
11. Channel Islands (0.16m).
Making the Change:
1. Develop a UK Federal Capital Territory; e.g. around Solway Firth near the M6, building a new M6 Junction, Airport and Parliament & Government buildings.
2. Use a Constitutional Convention to clarify powers devolved to all the UK’s 11 federal units.
3. Dissolve the Westminster UK parliament and abolish the House of Lords.
4. Elect a new UK Parliament to sit at Solway, including 1 MP each for the Isle of Man and Channel Islands.
5. Elect the 11 new national, provincial and regional parliaments.
6. Use existing government buildings for new parliaments and regional governments, with the new Essex region taking over the Palace of Westminster.
Ian Hackett, former AWF* UK Chair (1991-2) and Treasurer (1983-91 and 2004-8); One World Trust Director (1994-9); Head of the International School of London (2000-1); author, The Spring of Civilization (1973); Transcending Terror (2004); Succeeding Revolutions (2006), The Hackett Chronicles 1012-2012 (2013). (*Association of World Federalists, now part of Federal Union.