Wider consequences of the Scottish independence referendum

Many political commentators regard the Scottish independence referendum as a turning point in the UK's political history.

Greater devolution for Scotland will impact on decision making for the rest of the UK. As a result, former Conservative Party leader William Hague MP said in September 2014 that he would be prepared to chair a government committee to review the entire UK constitutional situation.

Further devolution timetable according to unionist parties

Timetable from September 2014 to May 2015 of how the Scotland Bill will come to fruition.

Future constitutional consequences

Due to so many areas of policy having been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, many MPs representing constituencies in England have called for legislation where only English MPs could vote on English laws (Scottish MPs would be prevented from making decisions which affect only England). This is known as English votes for English laws (EVEL).

The EVEL proposals were controversial because different parties had different views on how much power should be devolved (the Liberal Democrats tend to favour more decentralisation, whereas the Conservatives tend to be opposed to full devolution as they believe the UK is a small country which does not need so many different levels of government).

It has been argued that EVEL would lead to difficulties with regard to what constitutes an 'English-only' law. It has also been pointed out that this would lead to the creation of two types of MP, ie those MPs who could vote on all legislation and those MPs who could only vote on agreed UK legislation.

A form of EVEL was introduced in October 2015. Under the new system any law being discussed by the UK Parliament which would affect only England would need to be approved separately by a majority of English MPs, in addition to being passed by the House of Commons as a whole.

The decision making powers held by the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies may also need to be reviewed in light of the new powers granted to Scotland. It would be seen as inconsistent to grant further powers to the Scottish Parliament and not Wales and Northern Ireland.

After effects of the Scottish independence referendum

The Scottish independence referendum had two other important long-term consequences for Scotland and the UK.

First, the levels of public political engagement were unprecedented by modern standards. Of the 4.29 million registered voters, the largest electorate in Scottish voting history, there was a record turnout of 85%. This has translated into an increased turnout at General Elections in Scotland and Scottish Parliament elections. At the 2016 Scottish Parliament election the turnout was over 5% higher than 2011.

Second, in allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the independence referendum, there is now a growing level of support to lower the voting age across the UK to 16. In June 2015, the Scottish Parliament passed the Scottish Election (Reduction of Voting Age) Act was passed allowing 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in Scottish Parliament and local council elections.

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