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Scottish vote has wider implications

With just weeks to go until the independence referendum, there are now clear signs it is having a ripple effect, prompting renewed debate about Westminster's relationship with the other nations and regions of the UK.

Two days ago, a major poll on English attitudes to the Scottish constitutional debate showed English voters have started to consider what Conservative MP John Redwood has termed the "lopsided" nature of devolution. A strong majority of English voters understandably felt, for instance, that Scottish MPs should be prevented from voting on laws that apply only in England. Mr Redwood is among those calling for an English Parliament, though a complicating factor is that "English only" laws at Westminster are actually relatively few and far between.

Today, the ramifications of greater Scottish devolution for Northern Ireland are aired in The Herald. The Democratic Unionist Party's Sammy Wilson voices concern that greater devolution for Northern Ireland, prompted by greater devolution in Scotland, could actually bring down the province's power-sharing administration.

The challenge of reaching consensus within the rainbow coalition dominated by the DUP and Sinn Fein already makes decision-making problematic, so the argument goes, so loading the administration with still more powers could lead it to collapse altogether amid disagreement.

Meanwhile, Danny Morrison, a former Sinn Fein publicity director, raises concerns that if the Barnett Formula was reformed after a No vote, it could threaten public spending in Northern Ireland, which is subject to a separate calculation under the formula and which currently receives the biggest settlement per head of any of the UK nations. He goes as far as to suggest that could lead to social unrest.

Whatever happens on September 18, it will have wider implications. In Wales, polls show little desire among voters for independence, but Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and his party have long argued for greater devolution, with Scotland's referendum only fuelling those demands.

Perhaps surprisingly, voters in the English regions have so far shown little appetite for having their own regional assemblies, a cause that was undoubtedly damaged by Labour's abortive attempt to encourage it in 2004 (when there was a perception it was being imposed by London Labour). Still, that might change.

And federalism within the UK is back on the agenda, thanks to the referendum. Even Gordon Brown has invoked it, calling for a senate of the regions and nations in place of the House of Lords. The Liberal Democrats are long supporters of UK federalism and senior Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser also advocates it.

There now seems little doubt that a slumbering beast has been awoken in UK politics. Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, there will be ramifications for the rest of the UK. The country looks to be entering a renewed period of constitutional flux and the debate on it is just beginning.

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