Holyrood is a sub-national layer of a devolved administration, an executive branch of the UK Government, not the national government of a sovereign country – Stephen Bailey

Written by Stephen Bailey

The bottom-line fact of UK Constitutional Law is that under the devolution ‘settlement’, a Holyrood election CANNOT deliver a mandate for independence to a political party, as the Constitution is a reserved matter, irrespective of what’s in a party’s manifesto, or that independence is their reason for existing.

It can deliver a mandate for a party to form a devolved administration at Holyrood and look after Scotland’s day-to-day matters ONLY (i.e. all matters that aren’t reserved for Westminster’s consideration), but that’s all.

The same is true of devolved elections in Wales and Northern Ireland under UK Constitutional Law. A win at a devolved election will give a party a mandate to create an administration at the devolved legislature (the Welsh ‘parliament’ or Stormont in NI’s case) to look after that part of the UK’s day-to-day matters within their devolved remit, but NO other mandate.

Holyrood is a sub-national layer of devolved administration, not the national government of a sovereign country. Its job is to look after all areas of concern not reserved to Westminster. All matters of national importance (reserved matters) are the concern of Westminster, not Holyrood (or the other devolved legislatures, the Welsh ‘parliament’ and Stormont). Westminster is the national Government of the UK and the Prime Minister of the day leads it. His or her Cabinet of Ministers is the national Cabinet of the UK and the Ministers are national UK Ministers, who have UK wide authority to speak on matters that are allocated to them. The SNP are below this, a sub-national layer of devolved administration with spokespersons responsible for areas of policy that fall within their devolved remit, not ministers of a national Scottish government. They cannot form any kind of (real) Cabinet. They can all meet and talk about policy (as long as it’s not reserved for Westminster) and make decisions, but they are NOT a Cabinet of Ministers in the way that the UK Government national Cabinet of Ministers are.

The same is true of devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland. They are sub-national layers of administration with spokespersons to brief on areas of devolved responsibility, not national governments of sovereign nations with ministers.

Besides, across the UK, the electorate holds ultimate political sovereignty, not any parliament or assembly. In the UK, the people (i.e. the electorate) hold ultimate political sovereignty. They authorize their representatives (MPs) to carry out a programme of policies that they approve of (laid out in the MPs manifesto) by voting for them in an election. Under UK Constitutional Law, the House of Commons (HoC) holds ultimate legislative sovereignty (on behalf of and authorized by the electorate in a UK General Election) and in a unitary state like the UK therefore, the HoC, and not the devolved legislatures, is the supreme sovereign legislative body (i.e. it draws up and passes legislation to enact laws from their manifesto that the electorate have authorized them to pass). Holyrood, the Welsh ‘parliament) and Stormont (or the London Assembly for that matter) are NOT sovereign parliaments and the UK is a single (or unitary) country with constituent parts that pool their resources for the common good, not a ‘union of sovereign nations’.

It is also important to note that, in a unitary state, ultimate legislative sovereignty lies with the central political power, (the Commons in the UK’s case) and remains there, even after powers have been devolved to parts of that country. Holyrood, the Welsh ‘parliament’ and Stormont are NOT sovereign bodies.

Somebody has forgotten to tell the SNP these facts of UK Constitutional Law. They ignore their devolved remit, getting involved in reserved matters like the Constitution (independence) and Brexit (foreign relations/trade), both reserved matters, acting like Scotland is independent and they are her national government. Their leader parades around like the Prime Minister of Scotland, strutting around the world stage with exaggerated importance, setting up the trappings of a national government with a ‘cabinet’ and ‘ministers’ (devolved administration doesn’t have these functions). They aren’t any of these things. The party leader is the First Minister of the devolved administration at Holyrood (or the Welsh ‘parliament’ in Wales and Stormont in Northern Ireland).

Therein lies a very substantial problem. The SNP are greatly encouraged in these pretensions when they are described by others, including very lamentably the UK Government, as the ‘Scottish Government’. It buttresses their delusion that they are a national government and when said for any extended period of time, will stick in the minds of the public and eventually be accepted as true. When Unionists, or non-nationalists, do it, it’s even worse, as it appears that they are accepting it as true and greatly bolsters the case for independence.

When the UK Government or any of its members do it (and they often do) it creates the worst problem, as people reason that if the UK Government accepts the situation as true, that gives these claims much veracity, because they reason that Westminster must know what they’re doing and so the SNP must be right.

Added to the above, describing Holyrood (and the devolved legislature at Cardiff as well), as ‘parliaments’ further buttresses the false impression that these bodies represent national sovereign governments. They don’t, they are only sub-national devolved legislatures.

All this is creating forward motion for the SNP and aiding their push for independence greatly. If there is a ‘believable’ image (even though it’s not true in reality) or general public perception that Holyrood is the national parliament of a sovereign Scotland, then it will promote and eventually establish this falsehood as true.

Holyrood is a sub-national layer of devolved administration. Humza Yousaf is the First Minister of that devolved administration which consists of spokespersons, not ‘ministers’ in a ‘cabinet’. He and the SNP need reminding of these facts of constitutional law at every opportunity. Let’s not give him and the SNP any airs and graces that they don’t deserve-always call them by what they really are, Holyrood, a sub-national layer of devolved administration and its spokespeople.

Holyrood and its associated administration is also a failed experiment as ex-SNP, now Conservative MP, Lisa Cameron has stated, so is best abolished. Then it would be simply irrelevant what they’re called.

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