At the debate with all seven parties, Scotland and Wales used the opportunity to call on the larger national parties to ensure any in/out referendum on the EU would have to reach majorities in all UK countries in order for the UK to leave, a so called “double majority”. As the UK seems be going further and further down the road of devolution and decentralization, this option should not be ruled out. Furthermore, as David Cameron himself does not want the UK to leave the EU, this stipulation could be his escape route from being the man that took Britain out of Europe.
One conclusion to be taken from the 2015 UK general election is that the country is becoming more and more decentralized. Scotland voted overwhelmingly for the SNP, who took all but three Scottish seats at Westminster compared to less than ten in the previous election. David Cameron is now pushing ahead with plans to ensure that only English MPs will vote on matters that concern England at Westminster, a vote on this concept of “English votes for English laws”, also known as EVEL (the worst acronym ever), is due in September. This combined with further devolution to Scotland in coming years is starting to make the future of the United Kingdom look a bit less sure. With more devolution to Scotland and Westminster becoming something resembling an English parliament, the UK is seeing itself being stretched into four different directions. This is on top of planned autonomy for larger cities and London already governing itself in many areas, becoming increasingly disillusioned with the rest of the country.
As the Greek crisis develops, opinion towards the EU could change at any time. At the moment polls give the “yes” side a plurality, rather close to a majority. It is of course not anywhere near safe for those who wish to stay in the union. David Cameron will be arguing his case to stay in the EU, trying to convince the public that he will change the UK’s relationship with the bloc. It will clearly be a tough sell as it is becoming obvious that there will be no treaty change just for the UK to get its own special relationship.
As the Tories push on with the referendum, David Cameron is entering unknown territory. While he and the other major parties support the UK staying, many politicians, even within the Tories, do not. The campaign could go either way, and events elsewhere in Europe are out of his control and could swing the vote towards the “no” side. The double majority idea put forward by Nicola Sturgeon is controversial but a way to ensure the “yes” side comes out on top, and protecting David Cameron’s own legacy, letting him be the man who kept the UK in Europe.
Although Wales and England may be more eurosceptic, Scotland is clearly more pro-EU, with polls showing an early lead in the “yes” campaign, well over a majority. There has also been talk of a second referendum in the case of the UK voting to leave the EU. A Scotland forced to be outside the EU against its own will is much more likely to vote to leave the UK in order to rejoin Europe. David Cameron could see himself be put into the position of being the man who not only took the UK out of Europe, but also split up the UK itself.
A doubly majority is a way for David Cameron to ensure that this scenario does not happen. Many political systems require parties to garner a certain amount of votes in a certain amount of regions. The same can be done for the referendum campaign, especially as Scotland becomes more and more autonomous.
Already with its own parliament and first minister, Scotland will now boast even more powers being devolved to its own legislature and the fact that is has a largely popular nationalist party. It is looking more and more like an independent country, even if it voted to stay in the UK (although 45% voted to leave). Scotland, along with the other entities of the UK, deserve to have their own say on if they want to stay in the EU or not, or else the referendum risks becoming a question on if English voters wish to stay within the EU.
The UK is already showing signs of strain and Nordic or other northern European examples show that it is possible for a small country to do very well in Europe, something Scotland is very well aware of. The success of the SNP after the referendum shows us that the issue of Scottish independence is not over, and the scenario of leaving the EU will bring it back to the forefront once again, this time with the nationalists even more popular and the threat of leaving the EU being a factor.
In the end, a double majority is a win for the United Kingdom and for David Cameron personally. He gets to better secure the UK staying within the Union and the UK itself will not see another independence referendum anytime soon. The increasing amount of devolution in recent years has made it clear that the UK does not consist of England and the provinces. It is made up of four distinct entities and the government in London must realize that and respect it, or else risk pushing certain part of the country away.