Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region in the north-east of the country and has a somewhat fractured relationship with the government in Baghdad. Relations between the two authorities is much better than under Saddam Hussein, although this is a very low bar, but there remains a perception in Erbil that the Iraqi central government is both corrupt and incompetent. It is this perception that last week resulted in leading politicians announcing that the region would hold a referendum on independence from Iraq. This development is something that I have long argued for and could be a game-changer for the Middle East.
One of the most inspirational movements of political history was the movement for female suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was a struggle by a disenfranchised group that sought to radically transform how the existing political order functioned, and succeeded despite the fact that none of their group were in the corridors of power. Men and women came together to rectify an injustice that in modern discourse could only be conceived of as a thought experiment rather than as a serious policy proposal. Thankfully in democratic countries this arbitrary distinction has been removed, but the campaign for women’s suffrage can, in my view, easily compared to the struggle for Kurdish liberation. On the surface this may seem like a bit of stretch but hopefully this article will convince you of my case.
Scotland’s place in the EU was one of the key issues in the 2014 referendum campaign and at the time there was much talk of Spain vetoing Scotland’s potential membership of the EU in order to quell secessionist feeling in Catalonia. However now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, the Spanish government appear to have acknowledged the situation has changed and have now said that Spain wouldn’t block an independent Scotland from joining the EU post-Brexit. Although the political dynamics of this situation would appear to favour the pro-independence camp, it would be foolish to think that independence was now the pre-determined course of Scotland.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has today announced that she will seek to deliver a second referendum on Scottish independence due to, in part, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Sturgeon has said that she will introduce a bill at Holyrood to hold a second referendum, before asking for a vote in the House of Commons on a Section 30 order that will allow the vote to be held. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has accused the SNP of “tunnel vision” when it comes to the issue of independence, but the move by the First Minister is incredibly interesting to me in terms of timing and strategy.
The government have announced that after Brexit the Scottish Parliament shall have more powers. David Mundell announced the move in the House of Commons after questioning from the Scottish National Party. Scotland has been given a lot of attention because of the large cohort of SNP MPs at Westminster, and as such almost all discussion of devolution has been concerning Scotland. But this piece shall look at what the impact of Brexit will be on the Welsh devolution settlement and how the government should respond. In other words, what about Wales?
The UK voted to leave the European Union around 9 months ago and since the result became clear to the whole country the SNP have said that the referendum vote was a “material change in circumstances” from 2014 and thus could be used to justify another referendum on independence. I happen to agree that this is true but I have also been cautious when it comes to the issue of independence. As someone who would like to see Scotland as a self-governing nation-state I was wary of rushing into another vote as failure a second time around would take the issue off the table. The SNP have been walking the line between caution and agitating for another plebiscite, and evidently Westminster is taking note.
The Conservatives entered government in 2010 on a manifesto pledge to reduce government bureaucracy and restore decision-making power to the people. Indeed the word they used was ‘localism’ which was evidently a repackaged way of calling for more decentralised government. And I’m here to say that I actually agree. I think that power should be returned to the people and a good thing to do would be to massively decentralise power away from Westminster. A good place to start would be the government departments who oversee devolved administrations.