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Scotland’s big day, morning thoughts on devolution and inequality

Today is the big day. The Scots are voting for or against their independence from the United Kingdom. Some thoughts before I start my day.

The polls show the two sides starting the day head-to-head, with a slight advantage given to the Better Together campaign. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, it is safe to say that the tendency towards decentralisation will continue, and more powers will be devolved to Scotland. Quite a lot of focus has been placed on the devolution of powers, mostly to reassure those that have been flirting with a YES vote. The message is clear: this is not the end of the road, more powers will be coming to Scotland anyway, there is no need to break-up the union for this.

The Tory angle was also interesting. Don’t vote YES just to get rid of the effing Tories, the Tory Prime Minister said. But the problem is not as simple as “Scots don’t like the Conservative party”. Even if the Labour Party was in office, with it being at the right edge of most social-democratic parties, the problems would persist. The UK would still be a neo-liberal economy, it would still be a nuclear power, and the City of London would still be a state within a state that feeds off from the rest of the UK that has to pick up the tab every time there is a crisis.

The most critical problem pertaining to the relationship between the UK and Scotland, and the only persuasive argument that the populist Alex Salmond has given, is that the UK is one of the most unequal places in the western world. The biggest challenge for the UK is not the continuation and enhancement of the process of decentralisation. Rather, it is how to ameliorate the inequalities that are so deeply engrained within the fibres of its society. The top jobs, all in London, are going to privately-educated white males; working-class people are not represented in the parliament; university graduates are forced to go to London to seek employment with unpaid internships and sky-high rents. All these are examples of how systemic inequalities work in the UK, which cause the stark variations between the core and the periphery.

The UK might survive this time but it will not be able to maintain the trajectory of rising inequality for long. And this is where the Labour party comes in. If anything, Scotland has sent a clear message to Ed Miliband, that the majority of Labour’s electoral basis want the party to be much more than a welfarist version of the Tories. This is something that was obvious from Gordon Brown’s speech yesterday. I can only hope that Ed Miliband got the message.

Time to get to work now. I leave you with the hope that tomorrow Scotland will still be part of the UK.

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