Thursday, 2 July 2009

10 Years of Devolution

The Queen was at the Scottish Parliament yesterday meeting MSPs, and the media has run a few modest retrospectives of ten years of devolution, talking about the achievements of the new Parliament, founded in 1999 after a 1997 referendum in favour of devolution. These include banning smoking (EWaNI followed soon after) and hunting with dogs, and plans to abolish student tution fees and medical prescription fees. Gay marriage has been legalised, and the latest piece of legislation is a Climate Change Bill. There has also been a small, but noticeable shift of public focus towards Scottish approaches to issues, with Scottish MPs feeling a little purposeless and left out of many discussions.

The Scottish Parliament:


Outside it was a sunny day, and there were a few people milling about. Not many, and nobody seemed to have come to the awkward site at the bottom of the Royal Mile with the express purpose of celebrating devolution or seeing the Queen - as interviewed on TV, people (mainly tourists) seemed to have been passing by, wondered what all the fencing and security was about, and stopped for a gawk.

Let's be honest. The overwhelming feeling throughout Scotland about devolution is "meh." There was far more interest yesterday in Andy Murray's march to the Wimbledon semi-final, and, now it is recess, a third of MSPs didn't bother attending the celebrations. It reminiscent of the day after the referendum: Scots voted overwhelmingly in favour, and yet there was no great celebration, no great dream realised, no Barack Obama or toppling of the Berlin Wall to set things alight. There was more joy in 1997 when the Conservatives were booted out than after the devolution referendum.

Andy Murray yesterday:


Maybe it is just the character of the people in Scotland. If Scotland becomes independent, will there be at least one horn-hooting, Saltire-waving patriot on the streets with a tear in his eye? Or will Scots wake up the next morning, go to work as normal, and undemonstratively nod "aye" to each other, as they did for devolution?

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