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Mark Gilbert

How to Calm Secessionist Fever

The U.K. has promised to decentralize power to its regions in the wake of Scotland's independence referendum. It's a model Spain might successfully adopt to satisfy Catalonia's autonomous desires.
Devolution might satisfy their demands.
Devolution might satisfy their demands.

"Devo max" is the dystopian-sounding term the British government is now using to describe the nation's tax-and-spending future in the wake of Scotland's failed-but-still-seismic referendum on independence. It refers to the devolutionof government that is supposed to occur throughout the realm along the lines of what was promised to Scotland during the heat of the campaign. The British government -- one of the most centralized in the world, delivering 48 percent of public investment in the country, almost twice the global average -- has pledged to transfer some control over taxes and spending to the regional governments of not just Scotland but also England, Northern Ireland and Wales. It's a model that other nations -- particularly Spain -- might successfully adopt to satisfy secessionist-minded regions.

The U.K. isparticularly in need of decentralization. London already has 19 percent of jobs in the U.K., 21 percent of its company headquarters and 25 percent of gross domestic product. More than half of Londoners have post-college education, compared with less than 40 percent for the country as a whole. And better skills mean higher wages; household income is 22 percent lower for those living outside of the capital.