THE author of the shock report that Britain faces “a decade of disruption” due to Brexit and other factors yesterday stood by his thoroughly-researched claims and added to them with a prognosis for Scotland.
In an exclusive interview with The National, Mathew Lawrence, research fellow of the Institute of Public Policy Research, said that Westminster politics were “creaking” and predicted that political pluralisation would alter British politics.
A key element of his forecast is that the Unionist parties in Scotland have seen their support wither away.
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The political section in his report Future Proof, Britain in the 2020s was ignored by the London-based media, perhaps because it makes unhappy reading for metropolitan-based newspapers and broadcasters.
Lawrence wrote that British politics was a democracy divided by age, class and region, and added: “The UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system will struggle to represent an increasingly diverse political landscape.
“The idea of a unitary ‘British’ electoral map is going to become redundant on current trends given the decline of Unionist parties in Scotland.”
Pointing out that his sources included Government departments and bodies such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Lawrence wrote: “The next decade will see extensive devolution to the cities and regions of the UK.
“Political power and decision-making will become more diverse, yet devolution will remain patchy and incomplete.
“Cities, not Westminster, are likely to be where political experimentation takes place in the 2020s. The politics of place and identity, whether neighbourhood, city, region, or nation, are therefore likely to rise in political importance, fragmenting politics but also offering routes to democratic renewal.
“Political divergence will drive further devolution to Scotland – or potentially even independence. The political aftershocks of Brexit could outlast the economic effects.’ Calling it a Decade of Democratic Distress, Lawrence predicted: “Brexit will reshape a democracy already divided by age, class and region. Deep shifts in politics and culture will continue to overturn old certainties as group ties and identities structure political commitment and attitudes.”
He adds: “A mood of anxiety, insecurity and declining trust in public institutions is set to be the backdrop. Divides over migration and the management of globalisation will be continue to be a critical dividing line in a post-EU Britain.
“The politics of place – from neighbourhood to nation – are likely to rise in salience after Brexit. At the same time, substantive devolution to the cities and regions of the UK is set to continue ...
“Politically, a complex mix of liberal, solidaristic and conservative impulses will shape the decade, with regional and sectoral interests clashing over the terrain of Brexit.”
Lawrence, who was painted as a Remain “doom-monger” by the right-wing press, told The National: “Historically the political parties had representation in all parts of the Union. Now the Tories are all but shut out of Scotland and most of Wales, Labour is disappearing in its former heartlands, and the Liberal Democrats have been reduced to a tiny fringe.
“The idea of an electoral map that represents the UK as a whole is just not there any more and that is raising the question of whether further fragmentation or devolution is inevitable.
“If current trends continue then questions of representation will arise.”
Though the IPPR think tank has been neutral in its position on independence for Scotland, Lawrence said: “Given the upheaval that is coming, while we are not predicting it, it would be foolish to discount it.”