The Scottish referendum campaign and result have shown why we need to move towards a progressive, democratic, federal system for the nations of Britain.
Although the people of Scotland have voted against independence, many did so on the promise of more devolved powers for the Scottish parliament. The substantial minority of electors who voted for full independence reflected the even more widespread hostility that exists towards corrupt, capitalist, establishment politics with its careerist politicians and remote institutions.
Among the majority of voters on both sides there was the clearest rejection of the politics of neo-liberalism, austerity and privatisation in favour of the NHS, the welfare state and progressive taxation.
Redeeming the pledges given to the people of Scotland towards the end of the campaign must mean urgent steps to enhance the powers and resources of the Edinburgh parliament. Similar policies should be implemented for the Welsh assembly in Cardiff.
Both bodies must be able to protect and develop the economic, social and cultural interests of their peoples, including the capacity to intervene decisively in the economy, to exercise popular sovereignty over monopoly and market forces. A key part of this pledge is the renewed commitment to the redistribution of tax income across Britain on the basis of social need.
But the opportunity should also be taken to lay the basis for a fully democratic and federal system in Britain by abolishing the House of Lords and transforming the Commons into a federal chamber where the nations of Britain have equal status and where England’s MPs also constitute an English parliament to decide policies confined to that country. Furthermore, as part of the same process, the Westminster parliament should repatriate decision-making powers from the undemocratic institutions of the European Union.
The English regions should have their own directly elected assemblies where popular demand exists, with the powers and resources to direct economic development and take control of services currently run by non-elected bodies. The distinctive cultural and social characteristics of Cornwall should also be expressed through an elected assembly with powers which match local aspirations.
However, regional devolution must assist rather than impede the reinvigoration of local government, where powers over education, planning, housing and local taxation should be fully restored.
The special status enjoyed by monopoly capital in the Isle of Man and Channel Isles, which are run as tax havens and semi-feudal fiefdoms for the benefit of big business, will have to be ended. Instead, the peoples of those islands should be democratically represented in the Westminster parliament, with their own democratic parliaments strengthened.
While all these institutional changes would strengthen the democratic and progressive trends in political life, their full potential will only be realised through mass popular campaigning across Britain led by a united labour movement. The Communist Party and its left-wing allies played a significant role in reinforcing such a perspective among working class voters in the Scottish referendum.
Now we need to step up the challenge to big business domination on every front – economically, socially, culturally and politically.
The immediate objectives must be to build the People’s Assembly movement against austerity and war, and in favour of public ownership and progressive taxation; secure the defeat of the Tory-led coalition at next May’s general election; abolish Britain’s nuclear weapons system; and construct mass campaigns against membership of the European Union and NATO imperialist alliances.