Wales and the referendum on Scottish independence

18 September 2013

In exactly a year’s time, on Thursday, 18 September 2014, Scotland will have an opportunity to have its say on whether it wants to remain part of the UK or become an independent state. The referendum on Scottish independence signifies the most important political decision the Scottish nation will make since the passing of the Acts of Union by the Scottish and English Parliaments in 1707.

If Scotland votes ‘Yes’, it would naturally raise fundamental questions about the nature of the remaining union of nations it would leave behind. According to the First Minister, Scottish independence would create significant political imbalances, particularly as England would constitute nearly 92 per cent of the population of the new state. Concerns, therefore, that Welsh interests would be marginalised in a ‘residual UK’ are not without foundation.However, a ‘No’ vote is unlikely to bring an end to the UK’s existing constitutional debates. In particular, there is a growing perception that the devolutionary settlements for Scotland, as well as for Wales and Northern Ireland, are incomplete, ad hoc and ultimately unsatisfactory. This perception may grow further following the on-going work of the Silk Commission, which aims to publish its second report in spring 2014, and as a result of the UK Government’s response to the McKay Commission, which considered the English Question, due in the autumn.

In light of this, figures from a number of parties, including the First Minister, the Prime Minister and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, have suggested that a constitutional Convention for the Future of the United Kingdom should be established soon after the referendum to provide a basis for a renewed UK. A House of Commons Committee recently concluded that there is some argument for a convention, although it acknowledged that issues relating to the governance of England should be addressed first.

Current opinion polls show that the ‘Yes’ side will struggle to win the referendum, scoring an average of 33 per cent in recent surveys. However, the ‘No’ campaign, according to Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, should guard against complacency. He has pointed out that ‘the remaining two-thirds of Scots are not all against independence’ as there are ‘a not inconsiderable group of ‘Don’t Knows’’ in all of the polls conducted. Whatever the result, the outcome of the referendum will undoubtedly be felt in all parts of the UK, not just in Scotland, for years and generations to come.

The Research Service will be publishing a paper on Wales and the Scottish Independence Referendum, which will include background details about the referendum, information about the referendum’s key themes and issues, and details of implications for Wales, in the next few weeks.

Article written by Owain Roberts.