A curious concession

“There is a possibility that a legislative consent motion may be required in the Scottish Parliament but that is a matter that is being considered currently between the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government.” – Theresa May

There is much of hint and suggestion about the UK Government’s intentions in the matter of obtaining the Scottish Parliament’s consent for the Repeal Bill. Theresa May now seems to be implying that the Sewell Convention might be respected, despite the UK Supreme Court ruling that it is effectively meaningless. The notion of Holyrood being respected by the British establishment is outlandish enough that we are immediately prompted to ask, “What the hell are they up to?”.

Extra caution is required here because, while the British Prime Minister’s response to Stewart McDonald MP has the appearance of a carefully prepared position, this would hardly be typical of Theresa May; who has something of a reputation for impromptu policy-making. Like anything else she says, this statement may well be subject to ‘clarification’. For which we may read, ‘contradiction’.

But, taking her words at face value, what might we take from them? Always, of course, we must read these things mindful of the British establishment’s overarching priorities. We know, with all the certainty that’s possibly in the murky and shifting world of politics, that the British state regards Scotland’s Parliament, Government and entire political culture as, at best, a nuisance and, at worst, an existential threat to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. The incessant, grinding effort to undermine and delegitimise our democratic institutions is the stuff of day-to-day politics in Scotland. So, why would the UK Government acknowledge even the possibility of a need for a legislative consent motion to approve the Repeal Bill? Why would Theresa May raise the prospect of Scotland having an effective veto in this, or any other matter? May is, by her own account, a ‘One Nation’ British nationalist. Empowering any of the devolved administrations, but especially Holyrood, should be anathema to her. And yet, here she is, pointedly leaving open the possibility of the Scottish Parliament being able to block Brexit. We would be wise to be suspicious of her motives.

For reasons previously explained, the one interpretation which we can immediately discount is genuine respect for the democratic will of Scotland’s people as represented by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament. That’s just not credible. So what other possibilities might we consider?

We can also disregard the claim that this matter is “being considered currently between the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government”, This is obviously intended to suggest some sort of formal consultation process. But what is there to consider? The UK Supreme Court has already determined the position that the UK Government must take. And the Scottish Government cannot possibly do other than insist that the will of the Scottish Parliament must be respected. Even if there were any actual discussions, they would be hopelessly deadlocked from the outset.

Is it possible that the British government wants the Scottish Parliament to have a veto? A veto which will surely be used? Might they want the option to kill the whole Brexit process, and blame it on those pestilential Jocks? Do they, perhaps, see this potential threat to the process giving them some leverage in negotiations?

Or are they setting a trap? Is the intention to give the Scottish Parliament this effective veto because its use would allow the UK Government to claim justification for suspending the Scottish Parliament and imposing direct Westminster rule in order that the Brexit process can proceed according to the ‘will of the British people’?

Given what we know of the British state’s history, and of the imperatives driving the current UK administration, doesn’t this last seem by far the most likely explanation for Theresa May’s curious and uncharacteristic concession to democracy?

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15 thoughts on “A curious concession

  1. TheStrach

    As you indicate the Supreme Court ruled that Westminster is sovereign. Maybe all they want to do is rub our noses in the mud by once again ignoring a vote in the Scottish Parliament. It’s not just us; the Welsh and Northern Irish will also get a vote.

    If they did impose direct rule that would lead to chaos and the end of the union. I can’t see them being that daft but who knows with this shower of incompetents.

    1. J R Tomlin

      This is the same group that called the Brexit referendum and an unneeded general election that caused them to lose their majority, so I have to disagree that they’re that daft. Whether it’s correct or not, I don’t know but never underestimate the potential of their daftness.

  2. Anne McGaughey

    I’ve said that if tories got back into power they would do what they could to take back all powers from Scottish Government and we can’t allow this to happen. We must be prepared at all cost to fight this the SNP need to get tough

  3. bringiton

    Interesting that this seems to have come out around the same time as the Tories deal with the DUP appears less than stable.
    A coalition of the “soft” Brexiteers appears to be forming which will garner significant support from many Tory MPs.
    At the end of the day governance at Westminster and what is possible is solely down to numbers.
    Perhaps May is trying to do a deal of some sort with thr SNP?
    Unlikely but desperate times and all that.

  4. Big Jock

    I fully expect May to just press on and not even blink. Westminster is sovereign in the Supreme courts eyes. and the Sewel convention is just there for window dressing.

    This is democracy Tory style.

    Alternatively the fishing and Agriculture could be used to blackmail the SG into supporting the Great Repeal Bill. Could be Hobson’s choice. Damned if they do damned if they don’t. Personally I would let the Tories keep fishing and agriculture. Let them screw up the subsidies and fishing rights and show the short sighted North East Tory voters what they voted for.

  5. manandboy

    Excellent, Peter. This is a sound piece of political auditing, raising vital questions about this Westminster Government’s motivation and integrity, both of which, based on the Tories’ recent record, warrant the closest scrutiny and maximum caution.

    One need only consider May’s repeated and emphatic statements of ‘there will be no general election’, allied to the extensive organisation and funding of the Unionist campaign in Scotland, to know that any devious or treacherous plot is possible with this Tory Government.

    I wonder if anyone at Holyrood has the balls to ask Ruth Davidson when she first knew there would be a General election.

  6. Alasdair Macdonald

    The term ‘Perfidious Albion’ is not just a cliche. It describes the conduct of British Governments over the centuries. Mendacity has never been ruled out. Indeed, the relatively narrow clique which runs Britain have no compunction about lying and cheating to get their way, coupled with brute force.

    I think the Supreme Court judgement makes clear the status of the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Irish and Welsh Assembles vis-a-vis Westminster.

    Probably, the appropriate response to Mrs May’s vague answer is, “Aye right”, stated in an inexpressive voice.

  7. ScotsCanuck

    In my humble opinion, this is May trying to be consolatory after the Omni shambles of :- GE, terrorist attacks, lack of empathy after Grenfell tower fire.
    I can only say that if anyone in Scotland believes that “Whopper” ….. then I have a bag o’ Magic beans for sale, special price ( **after consultation** ).

  8. Ayrshirelass

    The Supreme Court said that the wording of the Scotland Axct meant there was no requirement in law for Westminster to consukt the Sxottish parliament by that this was a political decision.
    However the wording says that Westminster would ‘ normally’ consult and I think there will be great pressure for them to do so given the seriousness of the situation. This is not some minor change but something which will strip the rights of Scottish citizens who voted to stay in the EU. Its condescending at best of Westminster to say we might decided to consult you when its perfectly clear that any country wishing to call itself a democracy will do so.
    In the Scotland Act it is quite clear that areas not specifically reserved to that Westminster are reserved matters to Scotland. It was always incorrect that UK ministers werre representing Scotlands agriculture and fishinng industry at the EU. These powers WILL automatically come back to Holyrood and not Westminster unless the latter wants to break the Scotland Adt. There will be no weasel wording to get them out of this time.
    So May cannot use Scotlands fishing industry and agriculture as bargaining chips.

    1. harryhormone

      While I agree with you’re analysis of the situation, I have to raise concerns of Gove appearing up here for no apparent reason. The contempt that the man has for the Scots was shown in his responses to Mike Russell when he chaired the committee responses (“No’s”) to Scotland’s place in Europe.
      Also I would like to understand the brief that May has given him – particularly why he replaced Andrea Leadsom?
      Scary to imagine him “negotiating” with Europe over our fisheries when the mess he made in his past employment (Education) is considered.

      1. Ayrshirelass

        The conservative party is carrying on as they always do. Brazening it out, ignoring laws when it suits them, confident in the knowledge that for Scotland at least the press will look the other way.
        As to why she has replaced Leadsom with Gove?
        He is Scottish and so she thinks he will have more credibiliity in Scotland. I believe he comes from the North East which might be the only thing he has in common with the fishermen.
        Plus the union has always relied on Scots to do their dirty work for them in Scotland. Im talking about all three unionist parties here.They will always find Scots willing to do this for power and the possibility of a seat in the House of Lords.

  9. Robert Graham

    Trust them i wouldnt piss on them , as the american indians would say “White man speak with forked tongue ” , always bloody have done . Aye its a trap , as were the supposed tax powers . What twisted end game they hope to achieve is beyond us normal folk .

  10. william boyd

    I never could understand the Supreme court decision for two reasons. Firstly; two “equal” partners entered into the treaty of union. Scots law doesn’t recognise the concept of parliamentary sovereignty never has done and never will so i was never quite convinced that this concept was applicable given the nature of the union and the fact that its purely an English concept in a British setting. But the best lawyers in the land fought that one out and secondly: The EU is all about legal concepts and entities and treats, in family actions at least, the different legal areas of Britain ie Scotland and England as separate member states. see brussels biz ii regulations

    1. Kangaroo

      My understanding is that the SC decision should be seen as reflecting English Law only. For the decision, the SC only needed to find that EITHER Scots or English Law assured that May could NOT proceed without further processes applying. As Englsh Law prevented May from proceeding they did not need to look at Scots Law to reach a decision on the matter. Therefore most of the Scottish and Welsh submissions were not required and therefore not assessed by the SC. They are therefore still available to be used in any future cases.

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