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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘federalism

[LINK] “The case for Northern devolution”

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Writing for Open Democracy, Paul Salveson makes an argument for the establishment of devolved regional assembly in the North of England, part of a more general federalization of the United Kingdom and a response to the marginalization of the north. It’s worth noting that reactions in the comments is hostile to this idea, with an English Parliament being mooted as an answer.

What do the English want?

It’s widely recognised that England is a highly centralised nation with power and resources increasingly concentrated on London and the south-east. The historic ‘north-south’ divide is getting bigger and virtually every index of deprivation shows the North (Yorkshire and the Humber; North-West and North-East) becoming poorer in comparison to the South-East. The Scottish referendum campaign has forced the political establishment to accept further devolution for Scotland and the ‘English Question’ – how to re-balance England itself so London and the South-east becomes less dominant – has shot up the agenda. The response from the political establishment has been to avoid creating any new directly-elected bodies but instead to devolve some powers and resources to ‘combined authorities’ in Northern city regions. Some of these already exist, for example in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. They bring together the local authorities in their respective areas, with the council leaders forming a leadership group. They have growing budgets covering a range of sectors, including transport and economic development. While it could be argued these are a pragmatic response to existing needs, their big problem is the lack of accountability. Indirectly-elected bodies such as these give greater powers to officers and effectively remove any semblance of popular participation. Further, almost by definition, ‘city regions’ have an excessive focus on the main city conurbations and less emphasis on the more peripheral urban centres and rural areas.

The alternative is ‘democratic devolution’ to the regions, with elected assemblies having similar powers to Wales and Scotland. They should be elected by PR to allow a better balance between town, city and rural hinterland. It has been suggested that this merely creates ‘another tier of bureaucracy’ but surely regionalisation should be an opportunity to radically reduce the size of the central civil service, with fewer MPs at Westminster. Further, it should involve a fundamental re-organisation of the dogs’ dinner that is English local government, with smaller and more accountable local authorities which reflect people’s local identities. Again, critics have said that there is no ‘public appetite’ for regional assemblies and cite the 2004 referendum in the North-East as proof. Yet ten years is a very long time and we’ve since seen the success of devolution in the UK. And the original ‘offer’ in 2004 was not only a top-down fix but offered little concrete advantages.

Popular regionalism needs to reflect strong historic identities and be of a manageable size. In the North of England, it means accepting that there are three ‘regions’ – Yorkshire, the North-east and North-West (at least). They have many things in common and need stronger physical links – through improved transport infrastructure and telecommunications – but also economic and other forms of co-operation. The political implications of this are assemblies for Yorkshire, the North-East and North-West who co-operate with each other on a number of issues.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2014 at 10:48 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO looks at what the Financial District was like in the 1970s and 1980s, recommends things to do in Little Italy, and has ten quirky facts about the Toronto Islands.
  • Centauri Dreams notes simulations of how solitary stars like our own Sun are formed.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting that evidence of a planetary system outside our own was first gathered in 1917, from a spectrum taken of Van Maanen’s Star. It was only a matter of no one recognizing what the spectrum meant.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a study of filesharing services suggesting that rich countries tend to see music downloads while poor ones download movies.
  • The Planetary Science Blog takes a look at the discoveries of Dawn at proto-planet Vesta.
  • pollotenchegg maps changes in industrial production in Ukraine, noting a collapse in rebel-held areas in the east.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer compares the proposed Home Rule that would have been granted to Ireland in 1914 with current proposals for Scotland.
  • Torontoist notes that despite population growth nearby, the Redpath Sugar Factory will be staying put.
  • Towleroad notes that Estonia has become the first post-Soviet nation to recognize same-sex partnerships.
  • Why I Love Toronto recommends Friday night events at the Royal Ontario Museum.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the collapse of Russian civil society is a responsibility of Russian citizens as well as of their state.

[LINK] “England should get what England wants – it’s time to find out what that is”

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Sunder Katwala’s Open Democracy essay makes the sensible argument that, in the context of political reform, English issues should be answered. First, though, the English have to figure out what they want.

If ‘more powers to Scotland’ is the right response to democratic pressure, it is incoherent to argue that some measure of English devolution must prove divisive.

The charge of party interest from Labour voices sounds very much like a case of pots challenging kettles. No doubt all politicians keep the party implications of political reforms in mind but Labour’s own partisan interests, particularly representing 41 of the 59 Scottish constituencies in the House of Commons, would appear to be playing a significant role in the party’s difficulty in articulating any coherent view about England’s place in the evolving constitution of the United Kingdom.

That core principle is simple: devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland makes the issue of a fair say for England important and unavoidable.

The answer has to be that England should get what England wants.

But what does England want? Nobody can yet be certain of the detail of that.

Here, the proposal of an open and inclusive process is valid – but it has a power only once the core principle has been accepted and agreed. Otherwise it will look, to most people, like an attempt to kick the question into the long grass and to hope it does bit return.

Some form of constitutional convention could usefully be contrasted with the limits of deciding on devolution to England in a Cabinet sub-committee in Whitehall – but only if it is deciding on how to represent England, rather than whether to do so. It should also offer a clear timescale for an outcome to be implemented, as is the case with the Scottish vow.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 7, 2014 at 11:22 pm

[NEWS] Some Monday links

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  • Al Jazeera notes anti-Muslim ads in the New York City subways, China’s likely counterproductive crackdown on Uighurs, Kosovo’s efforts to stem the flow of fighters to the Islamic State, and observes the spread of Buddhist anti-Muslim chauvinism from Burma to Sri Lanka.
  • Bloomberg notes Japan’s strengthening of sanctions against Russia, notes that super-yacht sellers in Monaco are disturbed by anti-Russian sanctions and looks at the freezing of an oligarch’s assets in Italy, observes that Italian economic reforms are proceeding slowly, notes the relative strength of the Mexican economy, observes the travails of the economies of NATO-looking Ukraine and credit-crunched Russia and Bulgaria.
  • Bloomberg View considers the right of migrants from countries drowned by climate change to go to polluters, looks at Japan’s debt trap, an examines Ukrainian options in the wake of Russian victory in the Donbas.
  • CBC reports on Iraqi claims of Islamic State plans to attack subways in the United States and Paris.
  • The Inter Press Service notes the rapid growth of the world’s urban population, the rapid growth of the population of the Sahel region, and the growth of intra-Caribbean migration.
  • MacLean’s fears that constitutional reform in the United Kingdom may complicate the Scottish question and shares Indian Mars probe MOM’s Twittered photos of Mars.
  • National Geographic notes the relationship between poverty and poor food, observes the role played by guano in securing American territorial claims, and looks at the eventually rapid divergence of birds from dinosaurs.
  • Open Democracy is skeptical about the prospects of Ukrainian accession to the European Union, considers Ukraine’s security options, looks at the Azerbaijani perspective on the Ukrainian crisis, and considers strategies for the Scottish left and South Tyrolian separatists.
  • Universe Today looks at Russian contributions to the International Space Station, dates ancient Earth water, and notes that the ESA’s Rosetta mission will see the Philae lander touch the surface of its target comet on the 12th of November.

[LINK] “Banks to Distillers Weigh Cost of More Scottish Tax Powers”

Bloomberg’s article looks at the potential economic costs of federalism, and the continued possibility of separatism, in Scotland. This sounds familiar from Canada, I have to say.

The day after Scotland voted to remain in the U.K., companies began counting the cost of staying together.

Lloyds Banking Group Plc may still consider moving south to England, according to a person familiar with the matter. Diageo Plc, the distiller that makes Scotch whisky including Johnnie Walker, said after the vote that “the future for this sector will remain bright provided there is no further regulation or taxation on the industry.”

While companies expressed relief about the outcome of the vote, they voiced uncertainty about the devolution of more tax powers to Scotland. Conservative U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said today he will make good on pledges to give more policy-making control to Scotland, known as “Devo Max.”

Proposals outlined by Cameron on handing more power to Scotland and changing the way the U.K. Parliament functions would influence decisions made by Lloyds on where its legal headquarters should be, said the person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Tax rates are one factor, as is coming regulation on separating retail and investment banking, the person said.

“There is the potential for Scotland to become a relatively less attractive base for banks, so over time there could be a more subtle and less costly partial drift south,” said Ian Gordon, an analyst at Investec Ltd. in London. “Banks could conceivably consider the possibility of changing domicile when regulations are overhauled, especially when ring-fencing rules are introduced in 2019.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • blogTO notes an interesting play being put on at Buddies in Bad Times about a same-sex couple’s divorce.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post from Andrew Lepage examining habitable exomoons.
  • Crooked Timber notes the exceptionally high voter turn-out in Scotland.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes China’s attempts to construct a new security architecture in Asia.
  • Eastern Approaches notes that Poland’s Radek Sikorski is now foreign minister.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh notes that the Eurozone is set to become Japan-like economically.
  • Far Outliers has a whole slew of posts on Romanian history, noting early Romanian history, the autonomy of the Danubian principalities from Ottoman rule, and the complex relationships in Transylvania and with central Europe.
  • Geocurrents notes that one Islamic State map was made from a computer game.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the final segment of New York City’s High Line park is complete.
  • Language Hat notes the Scots dialect of Yiddish.
  • Marginal Revolution looks forward to the complexities of Catalonian separatism.
  • Registan notes Kazakhstan’s concerns with Russia.
  • The Search examines methodologies for preserving E-mails.
  • Towleroad notes that a Grindr poll in Scotland accurately predicted the outcome of the Scottish referendum and also notes Grindr’s concern with Egyptian police use of the app.
  • Understanding Society considers the idea of turning points in history. Do they exist, or not?
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Ilya Somin comes out in favour of allowing informed teenagers–16 years and older–to vote.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russification in the Gagauz leadership and observes Russophilia among Ukrainian evangelical Protestants.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell imagines likely issues with devolution in the near future in the United Kingdom.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross wrote last night about the political consequences of the Scottish referendum.
  • blogTO notes that east-end strip joint Jilly’s could become a boutique hotel and restaurant combo much like the Drake.
  • Centauri Dreams reviews the discovery of Pluto’s moon Hydra.
  • Engage with Crooked Timber‘s open thread on the Scottish referendum if you wish.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper predicting the existence of an exoplanet, Kepler-47d.
  • The Dragon’s Tales shares the story of how Soviet space station Salyut 7 was saved by two cosmonauts.
  • Geocurrents notes the unreal claims of the Islamic State.
  • Joe. My. God. shares the story of the lesbian couple in Iowa together for 82 years before marrying.
  • The Lawyers, Guns and Money discussion on the consequences of the Scottish referendum is noteworthy.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the Irish economy is starting to see faster growth now.
  • Torontoist notes that Doug Ford has launched his campaign website.
  • Towleroad shares the story of San Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener who has announced that he takes PrEP.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia is set on an Argentine-like trajectory of missed growth and calls for more attention to the plight of Crimean Tatars.
  • Zero Geography’s Mark Graham maps the pre-referendum Scottish presence on social networks.
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