London’s relationship with Scotland has been complex over the years. But then, London has always been a complex city.
London is sometimes described as the capital of three nations; it’s the capital of England, of Britain, and of the United Kingdom. All these are separate political entities, and yet they have the same parliament based in Westminster. Note that London is not the capital of Scotland. Alex Salmond would say that’s a huge part of the problem, that politicians in London are too far removed from Scottish life, that there’s a great gulf geographically and culturally between a Westminster elite and the average Scottish resident.
I must admit I find that a really weak argument. If Scotland votes for independence I hope it’s not because of this perceived distance between voters and politicians, because independence won’t solve that problem. This is an issue that all capital cities suffer from, and that affects all places around the UK. People in Scotland may well feel frustrated they are governed by a class of people they feel light years removed from. But people in Cornwall, Glamorgan, Lancashire, Norfolk and Northumbria also feel the same way. Should they all leave the UK too?
What’s more, people in Lerwick (that’s in Shetland), in Kirkwall (Orkney), in Stornoway (Hebrides) and even in Inverness often feel very distant from Scottish politicians in Edinburgh. Voting to break with Westminster won’t do anything to solve that sense of disenfranchisement. It may actually serve to compound it. Many Shetlanders feel much closer cultural ties with Norway than with the rest of Scotland. How will the Edinburgh elite deal with those issues?
Whatever happens this Thursday, there will be more power shifting from Westminster to Edinburgh. The referendum has also increased the calls in England for more devolution. Interestingly here the call is more for power to be given to cities rather than to regions. Manchester is currently the most outspoken city calling for greater freedom to run its own affairs, but the Core Cities Group of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Nottingham (the eight largest English cities outside of London) are increasingly advocating for this as a group. Another interesting point here is that Glasgow applied and was accepted to join this group just last month, August 2014. Right in the thick of the referendum campaign, Scotland’s largest city joined a group of the largest English cities that are advocating for more power, and more joined up thinking and working between them.
Clearly there’s a need for Westminster to realise these trends and make some changes. Pray for our politicians in Westminster (and Edinburgh) to become more in-touch with the day-to-day lives of all people across the UK. Pray for wisdom as they will debate and agree in coming years the best ways of devolving power across the country. And pray that all of our cities can prosper rather than be pitted one against the other.
Mark Williamson also blogs regularly for One Rock, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markraynespark.