Westminster is using Brexit, something that Scotland didn’t vote for, in order to undermine something that Scotland did vote for. Those were words which Mike Russell used in Holyrood yesterday, words which I’m proud to say first appeared in this blog. That’s the fundamental issue here. Westminster is using the results of the Brexit referendum, which Scotland voted against, in order to undermine the result of a referendum which Scotland voted for, the devolution referendum of 1997.
There are a couple of ways of describing what’s happening with the matter of negotiations between Holyrood and Westminster about the EU Exit Bill’s power grab of devolved powers. You could follow the bulk of the Scottish media and say that the SNP stands alone in its opposition to a deal with the Welsh government has accepted. All of which kind of implies that Theresa May is considerate and conciliatory and the current impasse is all the fault of those nasty separatists. Or you could say that the Scottish Government is standing firm for Scotland’s interests in its opposition to the Conservative government’s attempt to use Brexit to undermine the devolution settlement, which puts the blame where it belongs. I prefer the latter.
There is far greater pressure on Wales to accept a deal from Westminster. Unlike Scotland, Wales voted in favour of Brexit. The Welsh government cannot allow itself to be seen to frustrate the Brexit process, a political imperative which is not felt in a Scotland where public opposition to Brexit is solid and remains solid. Support for independence in Wales remains at a fairly low level. The Welsh government cannot realistically use the threat of an independence referendum if Westminster doesn’t agree to Welsh demands. Cardiff is in a far weaker negotiating position than Scotland. The Welsh Senedd, which has fewer powers than Holyrood, also has less to lose.
But there’s another reason why it’s important that Holyrood continues to resist the attempts of Theresa May’s government to use Brexit to upend the devolution process. Holyrood and the powers it enjoys and exercises of behalf of the people of Scotland was hard earned. Holyrood does not have the power that it possesses because Westminster in its infinite wisdom willingly and freely gave them to Scotland out of the kindness and goodness of its heart. Holyrood only exists because of a long and arduous campaign. Scotland’s civic society had to fight Westminster every step of the way.
It took decades to wrest the devolved powers that Scotland does have out of Westminster’s grasping maw. Even when a Scottish Parliament was finally established, its powers fell far short of what was originally envisaged. That is why, to use one example, Scotland’s parliament does not currently have powers over broadcasting. Such a power was in the original white paper, it was proposed by the campaign to establish a Scottish parliament, but it was wheeched away at the last minute by a Westminster which is jealous of its power and which is unwilling to share any more of it than it absolutely has to. In that case it was Labour MPs who refused to concede the devolution of the power. All the powers that Holyrood has were wrestled out of Westminster’s unwilling grasp.
We saw the exact same grudging unwillingness during the Smith Commission discussions after the Scottish independence referendum. The anti-independence parties used the Commission as an opportunity to compete with one another to see how many of the promised new powers they could take off the table without bringing the entire teetering process crashing down. They treated the Smith Commission as a game of devolution Jenga. We were told we were getting, in the gushing words of Jackie Bird in her infamous interview with Alistair Darling, “so devo max then”, and then Holyrood got powers over road signs and some limited powers over income tax which the Scotland Secretary boasted were a trap for the Scottish Government.
It’s important to understand this background, because Westminster wants us to believe that it will freely and willingly restore the devolved powers back to Holyrood after a period of time. History tells us that it will do no such thing. History tells us that if Westminster grabs back a power for itself then it will not return that power without a fight. We are where we are in these negotiations because successive Westminster governments have proven that as far as devolution and promises to Scotland are concerned, they cannot be trusted.
The Tory deal proposed that Westminster would exercise the devolved powers currently exercised by Brussels for seven years after Brexit, and would then return them to Holyrood. Pinkie promise. It’s a Vow. Honest. During that seven years, Westminster would have a free hand to decide for itself what it wanted to do with Scottish fisheries, Scottish agriculture, and Scottish interests that ought to be devolved. Westminster is not proposing that any such changes should be made and implemented with consultation with Holyrood, never mind with Holyrood’s consent.
The problem with this proposal is that, as Westminster is very fond of telling us, the decisions of one Westminster Parliament cannot bind the decisions of a future Westminster Parliament. Westminster’s sovereignty is absolute in what passes for a British constitution. After seven years have passed there will have been at least one Westminster General Election. That means there are not and cannot be any guarantees that this future Westminster will regard itself as being bound by an agreement between Theresa May’s government and what Westminster regards as a subordinate body. And remember, here we are dealing with a Westminster which has proven itself untrustworthy in its dealings with Scotland. How’s that Union of equals working out for you all?
Scotland must continue to resist Westminster’s attempts to unilaterally undermine the devolution settlement. We campaigned long and hard for devolution, we’re not going to allow Theresa May to weaken and undermine it because the Tories find it politically inconvenient. This issue goes to the very heart of the question about whether Scotland within the UK can get what the people of Scotland vote for, and that’s a question that increasingly looks like it can only be answered in the negative.
England’s vote in referendums must be respected, Scotland’s, not so much. That’s the democratic deficit of the UK for you. There’s only one way Scotland can get what Scotland votes for, and it’s not as a subordinate part of the UK.
Meanwhile, and on an entirely unrelated topic, there’s been a wee bit of discussion amongst people posting on this blog about ad homs. Here’s how to do ad hom.
We must have fallen through a hole in the fabric of space time into one of the more baroquely bizarre universes in the multiverse. Sometimes you want to be erudite and witty, but facts are facts and the fact is that Jacob Rees Mogg is an absolute bell end. Some people worry that Jacob is the kind of person that the British establishment and certain sections of the English press and public would accept as a dictator. He’s already part way there, he’s been a dic for quite a long time. Jacob is the kind of person who’d demolish your house and then complain about the noise and disruption caused by the rebuilding work.
Jacob makes you wish that you could invent a time machine so you could go back and bully mercilessly him at school in order that he’d be left with a lifelong crushing sense of inadequacy, and then none of us would have to thole that insufferably smug face of his and his reeking stench of entitlement. If the fact that this creature is being seriously touted as a leader of the Conservative party and as a potential Prime Minister doesn’t make you question the collective sanity of the UK’s politics, then bugger all will and there’s no hope left.
Jacob, who supported the repeal of the human rights act, voted in favour of the Conservatives’ anti-immigration measures, and who spoke at the annual dinner of the far right Traditional Britain group, apparently believes that the scandal of members of the Windrush generation being deported is all the fault of socialism. That’s the Jacob who fully supported Theresa May’s measures to create a hostile environment for migrants. You know what they say about lies. If you repeat a lie often enough then people start to believe it, or in Jacob’s case it becomes a headline in the Daily Mail. Although to be honest you don’t need to repeat a lie for it to become a Daily Mail headline, since they’re all lies to begin with.
There is however a kinder explanation, and that is that Jacob has confused socialism with “being a cynical appeaser of racists because knuckle dragging Daily Mail and Express readers have a vote too.” It’s an easy mistake to make, at least it’s an easy mistake to make if you’re Cuthbert Cringeworthy from the Bash Street Kids who grew up and joined the accountancy branch of the Gestapo.
With this self-serving politician on the make we have the living breathing proof that in the UK, an upper middle class background and the self-confidence that comes from an expensively purchased education will get you a lot further than actually knowing what you are talking about. You can sum up all that is wrong with the British class system in just four syllables, Ja.cob Rees Mogg. Jacob is famed for his impeccable manners, but just because you’re a bastard politely doesn’t make you any less of a bastard. It just makes you a hypocritical bastard. The fact remains that he’s an upper middle class chancer aping an aristo and like all chancers on the make he doesn’t get it quite right. The only bit of his schtick that’s convincing is that he does a very good impression of the devastating effects of inbreeding. Jacob is nothing more than a sixth toe in a double breasted suit.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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