Most of the handwringing over how the UK government can deal with the aftermath of the Scottish voting results seems unnecessary, perhaps done simply as a hook for news stories. The high share of the vote for independence was expected for years as there was a clear sense of the strength of national identities, particularly in Scotland, and the strong sentiment for the devolution of some responsibilities. As a result, many government and regulatory agencies have been hard at work on creative ways to better capture and reflect these sentiments.
For example, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) – the UK parallel to the FCC – created a Nations Committee several years ago. It brings together representatives of the devolved nations and England to discuss communication and regulatory issues in order to discover and react to different national perspectives on issues. As you can see from reading the blog of the Advisory Committees for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, called ‘Advice to Ofcom‘, these national issues are most often unifying. For example, nations such as Scotland have great concern for rural access to communication services, but discussion reveals that this concern is very much shared with the other nations, including England. Similarly, England has been concerned over how communication services, such as broadcasting, reflect the cultural diversity of England’s cities, with London being at the extreme, but discussion leads to the realization that this is an issue for cities across the UK.
In such ways, national perspectives are being built into some governmental and regulatory processes in ways that are likely to have very positive outcomes. The government is not being caught off guard, from my perspective. The mechanisms are not like the US federal system, so they might seem confusing to Americans, but they are developing incrementally in ways that are compatible with the pragmatic and pluralist traditions of the UK and Northern Ireland. Progress will not be easy, but it has been an evolving project. And the resulting debate can be fruitful for the UK as a whole.