Not worth the vellum it’s written on

By Pete Wishart MP

pete wishartLet me take you back to last year in the House of Commons, to one of the first pieces of legislation that was discussed in the new Parliamentary term. To the debate on the still then Scotland Bill.

Remember, the newly installed Secretary of State proudly telling us about this ‘historic’ piece of legislation? We listened in awe about the ‘permanence’ of the Scottish Parliament and how the Sewel Convention would be ‘enshrined’ in law in the making of this, the most ‘powerful devolved Parliament in the world’.

We now know of course that this Scotland Act isn’t worth the vellum it’s written on and that this ‘most powerful Parliament’ can be simply done away with on a Westminster whim.

Letting the ermine clad cat out of the bag, Lord Keen, the Tory Government’s top Scottish legal officer at Westminster, helpfully clarified the situation for Scotland, when he said – ”the correct legal position is that Westminster is sovereign, and may legislate at any time on any matter.” In a piece of unusual candour and honesty from the Tories it was a case of you’ll have had your ‘most powerful devolved Parliament in the world’ then.

The Tories petrified that Scotland might have some sort of legal entitlement and say in their cluelesss Brexit were obliged to dispense with the myth of permanence, statutory footings and respect for our national Parliament. On ‘serious’ issues such as Brexit where large swathes of Scots law is impacted we are simply subordinate, as we are in every aspect of our relationship with Westminster. Keeping us out of any Brexit say was worth dispensing with the veneer of constitutional equality and respect.

Just to make sure that we fully knew our place, there was more from the noble Lord. Legislative Consent Motions, where Holyrood has to give permission for Westminster to legislate on its behalf, are simply “a self-denying ordinance, a political restriction upon Parliament’s ability to act, no more and no less than that” and “in no sense any qualification or inhibition upon parliamentary sovereignty.”

Ensuring that there was no dubiety the Secretary of State for Scotland confirmed that this was indeed the case to the Scottish Affairs Committee telling us that we should have been paying  more attention to what was being debated in the House of Lords….

I’m pretty sure in the next few years there will be another Scotland Bill. Perhaps when it kicks off we can just gently inquire ‘what’s the point? There is, though, serious issues about where powers lie when, and if, Brexit is concluded. The Scotland Act is unusual that all powers are considered devolved unless they are listed. Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act provides that list and big EU powers like agriculture and fisheries are not there. There is a sense in the clear ‘know your place, Scotland’ statement from the Tories that we are being softened up to be disappointed in the repatriation of those powers.

But that’s all for the future because road signs are now fully devolved. Just make sure that we don’t have one directing us towards a Scotland in the EU, because, who knows, Lord Keen and the Westminster Tories might just be back with a road closed sign and all traffic redirected to Westminster.

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Pete Wishart is the SNP MP for Perth
This article first appeared on his blog.  It is reproduced here with his permission

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6 thoughts on “Not worth the vellum it’s written on

  1. Gordoz

    And 50% of Scots residents still don’t get that this And always has been a partnership of equals ! (As always – some are more equal than others, such as th good Lord Keen)

  2. Dr Jim

    I remember it all very well with Mundell and Carmichael bleating out on every TV channel that would have them the same rhetoric about our parliament being “recognised” and how Westminster wouldn’t “normally” legislate to overturn decisions and John Swinney like a dog with a bone refusing to let it go but in the end like always without support from our favourite Scottish abstinance party and their bosses the Tories and of course the Liberal Democrats who barely know what day it is

    This will come back to bite us I thought because if Westminster were genuine (which it never is)
    they would have changed the wording at the time and when they weasled constantly on the matter you just knew it was deliberately meant for just this sort of occasion

    There is and always has been only one answer to Westminster and that’s extrication from this appalling dictatorship
    If indeed it were a partnership of a Union then you and your fellow MPs would not be able to be voted down any time out of tribal reasons by MPs representing England combining to make it so
    Which makes a nonsense of EVEL as a piece of legislation when it exists in practice anyway making Westminster in effect the English Government and not anything to do with a so called United Kingdom

    Maybe they think we haven’t noticed eh or we have short term political memory loss, except they don’t seem to have caught on to the new craze sweeping the nation that information is freely available and accessible on that new Interwebby thing or other facts that are concealed within books

    I suppose we uneducated tenement dwellers in Scotland will never understand the complexities of politics as argued by the English government so wouldn’t it just be more convenient for them if we were to leave quietly and save them the vast fortunes they say they maintain us with and they could keep all those funds the claim they gift us in that offensive term the “block grant” which is our own money, and we’ll muddle through on our own as best we can and they wont have to listen to our whinging any more, particularly over Scotlands actual GDP and not the English governments makey uppy numbers as part of the “UK”

    “Flexibility of EU law would allow special deal for Scotland says legal expert”
    But there’s the rub, that first word is not a word that Westminster has ever fully grasped unless applied to themselves, co-operation is another one

    Ah Pete , I would get typists fingers if I carried on so I’ll stop and let the anger and the irony wash away while I think more amusing thoughts

    “Boris Johnson” That’s it I feel better now, fairly made myself laugh

    1. Robert Graham

      Excellent Appraisal of the whole one sided Union, We now , well a lot of us now know it’s not a Union it’s an ‘ Occupation ‘ and never has served us well .
      And if never will , only one remedy for this situation ‘ Independence ‘ it’s a pity those who voted NO couldn’t see further than next week.

    2. Philip Maughan

      Maybe the best way to get independence is to drive round England in a big bus with a very large sum of money printed on the side indicating how much would be saved if Scotland wasn’t in the Union? Seemed to work well for Brexit.

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