There’s one thing that you can always rely on the Scottish Tories for, and that’s giving toadies a bad name. Somewhere deep in a rain forest in Costa Rica there’s a poisonous species of toad which is threatened with extinction, hiding under the leaf litter in deep shame and embarrassment because people might confuse it with Jackson Carlaw. Scottish Tory party spokesapologist Surname Surname on the other hand knows no shame or embarrassment. They are qualities which are alien to his party.
Whatever piece of dreck flies past from the British Government of boorish Johnson, Surname Surname shoots out that long and sticky amphibian tongue and swallows it whole. Then he insists to the rest of Scotland that it’s a juicy and filling meal. There is nothing from the British Government, no matter how poisonous, no matter how damaging, no matter how unpalatable, that Surname Surname and the Scottish Tories will reject. Their job is not to speak up for Scotland. Their job is to tell Scotland to get into line and to do as it is told.
Even the Scottish branch office of the Labour party is capable of standing up to its London headquarters. When Corbyn was leader he said that he wouldn’t block an independence referendum if that’s what the people of Scotland wanted, and the Labour party in Scotland said – No. We’ll never pander to nationalism because we’re British. And we’ve seen Thelma and Louise and reserve the right to drive ourselves off an electoral cliff if we want to. It was a wrong decision, it was a stupid decision, but it was a Labour branch office in Scotland decision.
On the other hand the Tories are genetically incapable of standing up against anything that’s dictated by party headquarters in London. If they were acting out Thelma and Lousie they’d have resigned themselves to a life of misery with a shitty husband and spent the rest of the movie telling everyone else that’s what they had to do too.
The latest Westminster Tory dreck that Surname Surname has swallowed wholesale and wish to regurgitate upon the Scottish body politic is Johnson and Gove’s plan to further cut back on the powers of the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments and to claw back powers over food standards, public health, and the environment. The next time that the Scottish Conservatives bang on about the need to respect the result of a referendum, they can be reminded that they’re none too keen on respecting the promises that they made to Scotland in 2014 in order to secure a no vote. Telling Scotland that they’d undermine the devolution settlement and grab powers back for Westminster was not on the agenda.
Michael Gove has oiled all over the devolution settlement with his plan to enshrine a so called “internal market” in law. It will reduce the Scottish Parliament’s competence to little more than a rubber stamping exercise over large swathes of legislation relating to food and consumer standards and agriculture. The plan would see the introduction of an unelected body appointed by UK Government ministers which would assess whether legislation from the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments had an impact on the UK’s “internal market”. Legislation which was deemed by this undemocratic, unelected, and unaccountable body of Conservative appointees would not be allowed to pass into law. It’s hard to imagine a more naked assault on Scottish democracy. The Tories can’t get elected in this country, so they propose to impose their will through an unelected board of their cronies. The plan would effectively hand power over a range of devolved issues to Conservative government ministers.
According to Mike Russell, the Scottish Government minister with responsibility for Constitutional Affairs, if this Tory legislation had been in force a few years ago, Scotland would not have been able to abolish tuition fees for students because Scotland would have had to provide free university education to students from elsewhere in the UK as well. We would not have been able to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol or been able to introduce a smoking ban before the rest of the UK. This new proposal from the Conservatives is a lot more than minor haggling about food standards, which is no doubt how it will be portrayed in the British nationalist media in Scotland. It strikes at the very heart of the devolution settlement.
There has of course been zero consultation with the Scottish Parliament or the people of Scotland about these plans. They are being imposed upon Scotland by a Conservative Government which has a long history of taking policy decisions without consultation with the Scottish Parliament, even on issues which directly affect Scotland and the devolution settlement. They are a blatant and undemocratic power grab by the Johnson regime which seeks to hollow out the devolution settlement from within despite the fact that he has no mandate to do so from the people of Scotland.
Asked about the power grab plans on Sky News, Surname Surname claimed that it was “absolutely the right thing to do” for his bosses in Westminster to unilaterally undermine the devolution settlement and traduce the promises that they had made to Scotland to keep this country in the UK. You can always rely on a Scottish Conservative to sell out Scotland, so at least they can be counted on for one thing.
The Conservatives have never liked devolution. Surname Surname was himself one of the leading figures in the no campaign against devolution back in the 1990s. His party has never resigned itself to a Scotland that has the ability to speak up and to act for itself. They’re determined to use Brexit as a hammer to beat Scotland into submission.
This development shows that Scotland cannot have a safe future within the UK, even with devolution. Devolution was introduced after a long campaign throughout the 1970s until the end of the 1990s in order to give Scotland a democratic line of defence against Westminster policies which this country neither voted for nor supported. Yet under this Conservative party the devolution settlement is not safe. If the Tories imagine that weakening and undermining devolution is going to bring hordes of grateful Scots flocking back to support opposition to independence, they’re in for a big disappointment.
All they are doing is providing us with more reasons why Scotland will only ever be able to make its own decisions when it once again becomes an independent nation – and they’re hastening the day when that happens. They’re creating the conditions when support for the Scottish Conservatives becomes as hard to find as a Costa Rican toad.
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