Saturday, 30 October 2010

Yorkshire as a federal state

Before I start I wish to apologise, I once was very much, anti-federalist in my ill-advised youth. I misunderstood what the call for independence meant. I could see my beloved union (UK) being dissolved into separate nations. I could see the UK being neutered first by the defection of Scotland, wales and Northern Ireland, followed by Yorkshire and England ending up just as the rump of the south east (with London enjoying the status of a city state).

So I think it would assist your movement to clarify what independence means and what being a federal state means. Federal states are largely apart of modern European nation forming, they are a result of German / Italian and even USA unification. They are a result of small nations tied by tradition and language forming into larger nations they are not a result of larger nations slowly dissolving.

Here is my first issue with current federal state structure; they have level upon level upon level of representation and bureaucracy. They start with the medieval parish governance aka parish councils and then there are towns with their majors and often town based administration and above them the larger councils and above them the federal fiefdoms and above them the nation and now above them, like a great yoke, the EU and sitting as deity to all that is bureaucracy sits the UN.

My second issue is the form of the federal state, which areas should be unified together to form these new federal state? Unlike Germany or Italy, Britain though formed of some nations; lacks areas which would naturally form into an easy system of federal areas. This is less true of the northern region and even lesser true of Yorkshire a notable exception. The south east on the other hand holds no such strong identities and would care little for a new federal area.

I mention this second issue as one the failings of the new labour constitutional / devolution reforms was its attempts to impose federal areas for which a senses of history and cultural identity did not exist and they were of course opposed and eventually removed completely. So an important step towards any regional independence must be a national conversation regarding the total complete federalisation of Great Britain. Either all of Britain must be a federal state or none should be.

As long as the federal states do not have national voting rights (as they do in the US) they do not even have to even be evenly sized, they just need reflect the wishes and cultural uniqueness of the populace. Indeed this ideal would greatly assist Yorkshire independence as the sole purpose of federal areas would be to interpret legislation within a particular cultural setting and of course drive economic funding and bring democracy to their people. Also this would prevent the farce that was the south east region used by the EU which was designed solely for population’s considerations.

The idea of culturally determined federal areas (I would prefer not to use the word state) is not the only unique idea an independent Yorkshire nation could forged ahead with. Another is the removal rather than the addition of bureaucracy. It seems to me that Yorkshire is perfect for a little experiment in the true devolution of power.

Firstly the end of the town hall politics as we know it, in this model the newly federated Yorkshire would abolish all local councils and replace the elected councillors with one town specific mayor and smaller villages could elect a single parish councillor, empowered to take charge of local policing a local budget and even limit control of other areas of polices. Above these would still be the newly formed Yorkshire federal legislature and the UK government but no more duplication with town mayors and councils as town mayors again represent a particular cultural identity and need instead of councils based on random population distribution.

This would remove one level of bureaucracy instead of merely adding level upon level and of course strengthens local accountability and local values and identity. As for the shape and form of the federal body, that should be an issue for the locality rather than enforced nationally. Again beyond external policy (military and foreign policy) the exact power distribution between the differing federal areas should be decided by the people of the differing federal areas and even be allowed to differ between towns and villages.
So what I hope that any new structure of British politics can achieve uniqueness, less central dominance and a new focus on the cultural and economic difference behind the calls for federalisation and above all if not a decrease in bureaucracy certainly not an increase in bureaucracy.

1 comment:

  1. Excuse me, I come from Kent - not "the south east". What gives you, a Yorkshireman, the right to assert that we in Kent have no strong identity and would care little for a new federal area? So you can bugger off and govern yourselves, but we have to carry on being dominated by the bloated and sprawling monstrosity that is London. Charming.