The language of the British Government’s supposed concession to Scotland over the terms of Clause 11 of the EU Exit bill is breathtaking in its insensitivity. Insensitivity is what we have come to expect from a government which has deported British citizens of the Windrush generation and then expects them to be grateful for the supposed concession of giving them back something to which they were already fully entitled.
That seems to be something of a pattern with this Conservative government. They are stripping Scotland of something that is rightfully Scotland’s yet we are supposed to be grateful for the concession that they are only going to strip us of it in a humiliating way for a mere seven years. That’s if we believe their protestations that it’s only for seven years, and there are very good reasons not to.
What the supposed concession to Scotland actually says is that no matter what the Scottish Parliament says or doesn’t say about how UK ministers propose to use the devolved European powers that by rights ought to come directly back to Scotland, Westminster is going to interpret whatever Holyrood says or doesn’t say as consent. Look at the damage that the Tories have done in just two years, and now imagine what they can do in seven, without Scotland having any means of holding them to account.
Westminster is proposing to make an amendment to the Scotland Act which would say that with respect to devolved powers relating to retained EU law that UK ministers would only make a decision about the disposition of these powers after the Scottish Parliament has made a “consent decision”. It then goes on to define a “consent decision” as being an explicit granting of consent, a failure to grant consent, or an explicit denial of consent. To add to the insult, this amendment will naturally be pushed through the Commons without the consent of the majority of Scottish MPs. That’s how Scottish Conservatives can still tell the barefaced lie that the consent of the Scottish Parliament is still required, and tell themselves that they’re not actually lying. They’re only fooling themselves, and significant parts of the Scottish media.
Say yes, and it will be taken as consent. Say nothing, and it will be taken as consent. Say no, and it will be taken as consent. QC Jonathon Mitchell has described it as the rapist’s theory of consent. Agree, refuse to engage, disagree. It doesn’t matter. Westminster has ruled that they all mean Scotland agrees with what Westminster wants to do.
Naturally the Scottish media is outraged by this fundamental betrayal of the devolution settlement. They are up in arms at this Conservative inspired assault on the very foundations of something that generations of Scots fought and campaigned for and wrested from a reluctant and unwilling Westminster. They’re explaining to the people of Scotland at length and in detail how what Westminster is proposing is a fundamental betrayal of both the devolution settlement and what Westminster promised the people of Scotland back in 2014. Oh wait, no. Silly me. The most important political news in Scotland today is the fact that Ruth Davidson is going to have a wean.
That’s the Ruth who stood up in Holyrood on Thursday and claimed that after the UK government has passed its EU Exit Bill, the Scottish Parliament would still have the right to consent to legislative change affecting the devolved areas currently exercised by Brussels which will be seized by Westminster. It does have that right, it’s just that absolutely anything that the Scottish Parliament says is going to be interpreted as giving consent. When yes means yes, and silence means yes, and no means yes, the right to give consent is even more meaningless than one of Ruth’s cheeky photo opportunities.
So if the Scottish Parliament were to vote that Holyrood did not give its consent to genetically modified crops, or chlorinated chicken, Westminster has just given itself the right to interpret that refusal as assent and to impose GM crops or chlorinated chicken on us anyway, telling us that we’ve agreed to it.
Yet all Holyrood is asking for is meaningful consultation and that agreement should be arrived at by mutual consent. Holyrood isn’t saying that Westminster should have no role in how these devolved issues currently exercised by Brussels should be dealt with after Brexit. It’s Westminster that’s saying Holyrood should have no role. Remember how in 2014 we were told that if Scotland voted No we’d be a leading and loved equal partner in a family of nations, safe and secure in our membership of the EU? It turns out now that Westminster has given itself the right to interpret whatever Scotland says as whatever Westminster wants it to mean.
Some in the Scottish media are claiming that there is no popular and widespread outrage amongst the public at what they describe as highly technical and rarified changes to EU exit legislation. That’s a bit like saying that there’s no outrage from someone whose house has been burgled when you’re refusing to let them know that they’ve been robbed. The Scottish media hasn’t exactly gone out of its way to explain how the actions of this Conservative government derail and undermine the very basis of the devolution settlement, and now they’re saying that the lack of public awareness of the issue proves that they were right not to explain it. Move along, nothing to see here. It’s all just the SNP grievance mongering.
The partisan British nationalism of the vast bulk of the Scottish media stands exposed today. They are so terrified of independence, so afraid of publicising anything that explains how the actions of a UK government are damaging to Scottish interests, that they will not stand up for Scotland within the UK. Even on their own terms they are failing the people of Scotland. They might be happy with Westminster’s formula of “Yes means consent, silence means consent, no means consent”, but the rest of us aren’t.
Westminster is giving itself the power to do what it likes with the Scottish Parliament and has ruled that even an explict refusal from Holyrood will be taken as assent. It’s nothing less than a political declaration of war. Bend over Holyrood, Westminster is going to shaft you, and your refusal will count as a yes. If this isn’t the significant and material change in circumstances that the SNP manifesto of 2016 said would trigger a second independence referendum then nothing is. Enough is enough. Scotland has a choice. Independence or consenting to robbery even if we say no.
Many thanks to Phantom Power for the video. Subscribe to his Youtube channel here.
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