The SNP’s laughable hypocrisy on legislative devolution – Stephen Bailey

By Stephen Bailey

THE SNP ARE very quick to loudly excoriate Westminster (or anybody else) that they think is attacking the devolution ‘settlement’.

This is the height of sheer hypocrisy from them. The SNP’s monomaniacal and pathological mania for breaking up the UK at any cost drives them to ignore the legally applicable tenets of UK Constitutional Law when it suits their purposes in order to force their separatist agenda on a Scotland that most opinion polls show the majority of Scots don’t want.

There have been clear examples of this with the Gender Recognition Reform Bill (which was framed incorrectly by the SNP and interfered with the operation of UK law and so was rightly denied Royal Assent and didn’t become a law) and their constant attempts at getting the UK Government to transfer powers to hold a referendum on independence from Westminster to Holyrood, something that is outside their devolved remit (the Constitution is reserved for the consideration of the UK Government under constitutional law).

The best way to permanently cure this issue is to abolish Holyrood. Meanwhile, the SNP could be forced to comply with UK Constitutional Law by setting up an oversight committee that monitors Holyrood’s legislation and compels them to frame it correctly, in accordance with both its remit and all other aspects of constitutional law.

Hypocrisy is a major trait of SNP thinking. At the time of the 1975 referendum on confirming the UK’s earlier entry into the then EEC, the SNP was arch anti-Marketeers, with several prominent party members publicly very stridently asserting that staying in the bloc was an exceptionally bad idea. Click on the following link to read a fuller discussion on this:

The multiple previous attempts by the SNP to amend the 1998 Scotland Act (passed at the House of Commons) clearly demonstrates how that bill and the legislative devolution it introduced is totally impracticable in real-world operation.

It has now become clear that the concept of reserved matters, that is areas of policy that Westminster (the Houses of Commons and Lords) solely and not the devolved executives, holds authority over to debate and legislate on, has been revealed by the real-world experience of the last twenty-six years of legislative devolution to be nothing more than a constitutional fiction.

Take the Constitution of the UK, for example. It’s a reserved matter, but the SNP simply ignore this and keep pushing for independence referenda, despite the supposed constitutional bar on them getting involved in such matters.

What exactly does the term ‘reserved matter’ actually mean in practice? It clearly doesn’t mean that these anti-UK nationalists can’t get involved at all in such matters as they do all the time, persuading David Cameron hold a referendum on independence in 2014 (a direct clear and present danger to the existence of the Union) even though support for independence stood at 28% at that time plus they are supposedly not meant to get involved in reserved constitutional matters as well as trying to introduce an amendment to the 1998 House of Commons Scotland Act enabling Holyrood to hold referenda on independence whenever they want (why was that allowed to even happen if the Constitution is a reserved matter-the 64 million pound question)?

It’s also clear that it’s time to stop pretending it’s the UK Government that has the final say on whether a referendum is held. Furthermore, it’s patently obvious that, despite constitutional law stating that the UK Government has sole control over the constitution, based on the contradictory statements issued by different members of the UK Government in the past, if the SNP (or Plaid or the Irish nationalists for that matter) do formally ask for another independence (re-unification in the Irish nationalists’ case) referendum, there’s a danger that the Government will just cave in and grant one, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the matter (indeed, this author can remember being told repeatedly by pro-legislative devolutionists over twenty-six years ago to relax about devolution as the UK Government would retain control over the constitution and so there was ‘zero chance’ of it being used to break up the UK-such irony). David Cameron’s surrender to the SNP’s pressure in 2012 to hold a referendum, even though only 28% of Scots supported it at that time, is ample proof of this. Boris Johnson stood firm and refused SNP requests for a referendum, as have his successors’s. Let’s hope they’ll continue to. The Prime Minister should be encouraged to ignore the flip-flopping engaged in on this matter by fake Unionists in previous governments, like Michael Gove, who show no consistency on this matter or genuine desire to maintain the Union against the assault from anti-UK nationalism.

Legislative devolution is an out of control, careering Frankenstein’s monster that has failed to be contained by constitutional rules and the only way to destroy this monster of modern aggressive nationalism, as personified by the SNP and the increasingly aggressive, bellicose Plaid Cymru and Irish nationalism, is to abolish the mechanism that enables it to pursue its independence/re-unification agenda: the devolved legislatures, Holyrood, Stormont and the Welsh ‘parliament’.

The UK Government’s indulgence of the SNP’s pretensions to being the national government of a sovereign nation is slowly killing the Union. The UK Government needs to stop imperilling the existence of the UK by indulging and not challenging the SNP’s (and the other anti-UK nationalists’) blatant disregard for their devolved remit by pretending to be the national government of a sovereign state as they’re not according to UK Constitutional Law.

Devolution was just supposed to be a junior tier of local government, but in reality, the SNP, since displacing the Labour Party and coming to power at Holyrood in 2007, have pursued a programme of turning the devolved Holyrood executive into a kind of national government. They re-named it ‘The Scottish Government’ (Labour had initiated this move earlier). They act as if they are a sovereign national government and interfere in reserved matters, especially the Constitution (under which heading independence falls) and international trade/relations (i.e., Brexit). Furthermore, they have a national government ‘cabinet’, with ‘ministers’ that ape the jobs of the real ones at No.10. All the while, the UK Government does nothing to stop this, and consequently, it gets worse, year in, year out, which has caused and is worsening the constitutional crisis that the UK currently finds itself in due to the introduction of legislative devolution.

The picture is the same in Wales, with the Welsh Assembly being re-designated as a ‘parliament’ and the Labour led devolved administration increasingly acting like Wales is independent, and they are its sovereign government.

In Northern Ireland too, the devolved executive at Stormont has adopted the manner of a sovereign national government, ignoring its devolved remit and getting involved in reserved matters. All over the devolved parts of the UK, the remit system employed by legislative devolution has failed to contain the careering misuse of their powers by modern aggressive anti-UK nationalism.

What’s needed is for the UK Government to stand up to the SNP’s (and the other anti-UK nationalist parties’) abuse of devolution before it’s too late and abolish Holyrood (as well as the other devolved legislatures, Stormont and the Welsh ‘parliament’). Sturgeon went running around various places abroad, acting like she was the real Prime Minister of a sovereign country, opening ‘offices’ (read ‘embassies’, an obvious attempt at projecting the impression to the world that the SNP devolved executive at Holyrood is the national government of a sovereign country), trying to do trade deals on behalf of Scotland, trying to negotiate deals with Eurocrats over trade arrangements on Scotland’s behalf (all of which she knew she shouldn’t as these areas are outside her devolved remit), going to America to drum up support for independence, among other misdemeanours, not just the relatively unimportant First Minister of a sub-national devolved assembly.

Her successor as First Minister has continued her bad practices and ignores his devolved remit. Their behaviour (ignoring their devolved remit) proves that the SNP wouldn’t respect their devolved remit and that the only way to solve this problem is to completely abolish Holyrood. The same pattern of behaviour is evident in Wales’ and Northern Ireland’s anti-UK parties and leaders.

A Conservative MSP was criticized a while ago and urged to apologize for asserting that the Scottish Parliament isn’t sovereign. She had nothing to apologize for. Holyrood is simply a sub-national assembly with authority over all matters not reserved to Westminster (its devolved remit). That was the purpose of devolution from the beginning twenty-six years ago. The devolved executives were simply supposed to deal with local matters (that is Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Ireland affairs) only and national issues were strictly reserved for the UK Parliament at Westminster. These executives were given the ability to initiate and pass primary legislation onto the statute book, but, were meant to be within the UK-‘autonomy within the UK’. In no way were they supposed to be the equivalent of the House of Commons, the national parliament of the UK. They were simply supposed to be a junior tier of local government, a local executive branch of the UK Parliament.

The UK is a unitary (single) country in which, whilst power over any matter can be devolved (or delegated) to other bodies within its borders, it remains a singular political entity-the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The House of Commons retains ultimate legislative sovereignty (with ultimate political sovereignty being retained by the electorate) but authority over certain matters, to a certain degree, in certain parts of the country is given to bodies in those areas to oversee (that is, they are devolved). However, it must be stressed that the Parliament of the UK still retains full sovereignty, even over issues it has devolved to these devolved executives and has the power to remove them at any time if so authorized by the electorate in these parts of the UK. Westminster can also legislate on any devolved matter at any time if it deems it necessary.

Anti-UK nationalists, especially, but not exclusively, the SNP, don’t appear to understand this principle of constitutional law and have abused their devolved remit by ignoring its boundaries and acting like they are a sovereign parliament, getting involved in matters that they shouldn’t, like the Constitution and Brexit. Consequently, legislative devolution hasn’t worked and won’t work in the presence of such aggressive separatist nationalist movements. The only realistic, viable, solution to this is to completely abolish Blair’s disastrous legislative devolutionary constitutional ‘settlement’ and replace it with its administrative equivalent, so de-centralizing power over purely local (Scottish, Welsh, and NI) matters to the constituent parts of the UK and also 100% guaranteeing the Union as there are no devolved legislatures through which modern aggressive nationalism can rise to power and utilize as a platform to pursue its independence/re-unification agenda, the major intrinsic flaw in legislative devolution (the type that exists now) and undeniably the case in Scotland (and increasingly so in NI and Wales).

For twenty-six years now, the citizens of the UK have had this constitutional fiction fed to them by pro-legislative devolution politicians and various media sources. It’s been claimed over and over again that legislative devolution is just ‘autonomy within the UK’, has limits placed on its powers, like with the Constitution, which it’s not supposed to become involved in as such matters are reserved for the House of Commons (it’s devolved remit) and so can’t possibly threaten the unitary constitutional integrity of the UK.

This has been the grand theory, anyway.

Reality, however, has been markedly different. Modern aggressive nationalism, as personified by the SNP in Scotland especially, but also by other nationalist parties in NI and Wales, has simply ignored the constitutional restraints placed on the devolved legislatures and utilized legislative devolution as a tool to pursue its independence/re-unification agenda.

This situation is totally untenable, and the only solution is to repeal legislative devolution and localize power in the constituent parts of the UK, whilst 100% guaranteeing the Union, by replacing it with the administrative variant. This way, the parts of the UK maintain 100% control of their own local affairs, whilst matters that affect the whole UK are dealt with by the House of Commons and the Union is completely safe from nationalism.

There are 650 seats in the chamber of the House of Commons, and each member of the Union is allocated a proportion of those seats based on the size of their population. Decisions are taken collectively, with parliamentary bills being amended for different circumstances that may arise in the constituent parts of the UK. This can best be described as common representation in a single, sovereign national parliament. In such a set-up, if the devolved legislatures were abolished and all representatives from all parts of the UK sat in the Commons again, minority extremist parties, like the SNP, IRA/Sinn Fein and Paid Cymru could, if they got elected, return an MP to sit in the House, but even if they swept the board and won all the seats in their part of the UK they would still only be in a minority, contained by the majority of the Unionist representatives of all the other parties who represent the majority of the electorate’s political will. In this way, minority extremists are prevented from forcing their agenda on an unwilling public. This system ensures that the will of the moderate majority is represented and those on the political fringe are kept in check as they are unable to get a parliamentary majority to progress their unwanted anti-Union agenda.

Tony Blair’s legislative devolutionary constitutional ‘settlement’ (a misnomer as it’s clearly unsettled society and politics, leading to very substantial disruption, splitting society and provoking a full-blown constitutional crisis) just doesn’t work in practice, as the real-world experience of its operation over the last twenty-six years clearly demonstrates. Further ill-conceived constitutional vandalism, as all the mainstream political parties have embraced, will do no good, simply further advancing the fragmentation of the constitutional integrity of the UK. Anti-UK nationalism (especially, but not exclusively, the SNP) has demonstrated that it is monomaniacally and pathologically obsessed with pursuing independence/re-unification and will never give up until it’s forced its agenda on the majority that the most opinion polls show don’t want it. The only viable path forward is to get rid of the mechanism that enables this farce to go on, legislative devolution-abolish Holyrood, Stormont and the Welsh ‘parliament’

NB: The article does not represent the views of Scotland Matters.

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