And this the Dutchmen know!
by Elias Blum
I wonder if anyone, anywhere, in Holyrood or Westminster (or, for that matter, in Cardiff Bay or Stormont) has heard of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
This Statute is the constitutional instrument that regulates the relationship between the European Netherlands and the two countries of the Caribbean Netherlands.
It provides for full internal autonomy for each country, except for in matters of defence, foreign relations, nationality, orders of chivalry, the flag and the coat of arms, regulation of shipping, immigration and extradition. These are handled in a co-operative manner, with representatives from the countries of the Caribbean Netherlands joining the ministers of the European Netherlands in the cabinet.
The statute cannot be amended without the consent of all the countries.
If such an instrument were adopted in the UK, it would give us a chance to rebuild the UK as a decentralised confederation of equal states. I think this would satisfy most of the demands of the Scottish independence movement – demands for autonomy and for recognition – while also being something that most Unionists could accept.
In contrast to other models of federalism (e.g. Canada, Australia), it would also provide a way around the problem of England’s disproportionate size. There would be no need for an additional ‘federal Parliament’. Westminster would become the Parliament of England, except when joined by representatives of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments for the discussion of ‘United Kingdom-wide’ affairs. In this way, it would satisfy English demands for EVEL and for more say over their own national affairs as well.
Adopting a ‘Statute of the United Kingdom’ modelled on that of the Kingdom of the Netherlands would also provide an underpinning meta-constitutional structure for the state that would strengthen guarantees of democracy and human rights, while still allowing different forms of internal governance to develop in each country.
This might be the healing compromise. This might be the win-win solution.
Of course, it would take is some real statesmanship to make it happen.