There’s been a bit of time now to properly digest the latest offering from Gordie Broon and his big bag of vows, but you know that no one has been remotely whelmed by it when not even the Gordie Broon Fan Flub, otherwise known as BBC Scotland news, can be bothered to lead with it on either its lunchtime or Evening news programmes, preferring to lead with a story about dualling the A9. Calling it a damp squib is an insult to water soaked fireworks, which can at least be coaxed into a farting noise after being dried out, Labour is more like a firework at the bottom of the Mariana Trench which is not just thoroughly drenched, but crushed out of recognition by the weight of seven miles depth of water.
Of course the BBC wasn’t going to ignore Labour’s big announcement entirely, even though there’s as much chance of them actually seeing the light of day as there is of Gordie admitting that he ran away and hid and failed dismally to ensure that his 2014 Vow was implemented in full as he promised he would. When the piece was announced the presenter said: “I warn you that it contains… ” and I thought that she was going to say in a rare outbreak of constitutional honesty from BBC Scotland … “grade A bollocks delivered by a discredited liar.” But no, it was flash photography that we really had to be wary about.
It was so dire that not even BBC Scotland’s Glenn Campbell could muster up any enthusiasm for the new proposals, pointing out that they did not even go as far as the Labour manifesto commitments in 2019, never mind rehashing some of the promises made in 2014 such as the commitment to ensure that the powers of the Scottish Parliament are made safe from potential meddling from a future Conservative Prime Minister who is hostile to devolution. It was difficult to escape the conclusion that even BBC Scotland knows that the Labour party is merely going through the motions and the real purpose of these proposals is not to have something which can be implemented, but just to have a story to tell the voters of Scotland, a story that can conveniently go the same way as the Vow and previous Labour proposals to reform the Lords the moment that Starmer gets into Number Ten.
The BBC put up a protective cordon around Starmer, Brown, and Sarwar and did not ask them why we should believe that this time they are going to deliver something that Labour actually vowed to deliver in 2014 only for the UK Supreme Court to rule in no uncertain terms that it was a constitutional impossibility in a UK in which the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament is deemed to be absolute and in which no Parliament can bind the hands of its successors. So given this constitutional and legal framework, which Brown’s proposals notably did not address, how exactly does Labour propose to ensure that a future Conservative government which is hostile to devolution does not attempt to undermine or by-pass the devolution settlement without the express consent of Holyrood. The BBC did not see fit to ask.
This is not a hypothetical question either. The Sewel convention, which says that the Parliament of the United Kingdom will not legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament was written into the Scotland Act, albeit with the addition of the weasel word ‘normally’ but that has proven no defence against successive Conservative governments determined to use Brexit as as excuse to hollow out the devolution settlement. So how exactly is it going to be different this time round?
You might think that if Labour was at all serious about putting these proposals before the people of Scotland as an alternative to independence they might have a credible answer to that question, but there has been no mention of it, if indeed it exists, and the BBC and the anti-independence Scottish media do not appear overly concerned about pressing them on it.
Even senior figures in the Labour party are unimpressed by this plan or more accurately a plan to consult on a plan. Labour peers have warned Starmer not to waste political capital on an issue which they claim is of limited interest to voters. Former senior Labour advisor David Clark was deeply unimpressed, writing on Twitter: “I’m surprised and disappointed at how unambitious this is. It isn’t even quasi-federalism. More tinkering with the Heath Robinson contraption of the British state will create new anomalies without resolving the pressures pulling the UK apart.”
The proposals do not help Scotland restore closer ties with the EU, a few months ago Anas Sarwar said that 300,000 Scottish jobs depend upon British membership of the Single Market, this week Keir Starmer says there’s no case for rejoining the Single Market, and Anas Sarwar says nothing.
Starmer also finds himself exposed to a charge of hypocrisy. Just a couple of weeks ago Starmer dismissed the Scottish First Minister’s plan to use the next General Election as a de facto independence referendum, saying issues at a national poll cannot “be reduced by somebody else into a completely different constitutional question”. But that is precisely what Starmer is proposing, claiming a Labour victory in the General Election, even a victory in which Labour fails to win more than half of votes cast, would give him a mandate for far reaching constitutional change. He will claim this mandate even as he continues to deny that the Scottish Parliament has a mandate for another referendum. British nationalist double standards strike again.
Starmer denies Scotland a referendum on the basis of his claim that voters are more interested in bread and butter issues than the constitution, but insists that his constitutional proposals are necessary in order to deliver on those bread and butter issues while denying the exact same claim made by independence supporters about the necessity for independence in order to deliver on bread and butter issues.
A constitutional proposal for more consultations which puts Scotland on the same par as the English regions and mayorships. Yeah that will really win back hacked of Scottish voters angry that they have been lied to about the nature of the UK as a voluntary union. Especially when the proposal is being made by one of the politicians who has been doing the lying. Starmer used this launch to pontificate about allowing the people and not politicians to make the decisions while still refusing to allow Scotland to decide for itself whether it wants a referendum.
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