How do we solve the threat to devolution?

How do we solve the threat to devolution?

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Tuesday 24, November, 2020

I BELIEVE a simple one paragraph Act of Parliament to tidy up the Scotland Act would ensure the devolution we voted twenty-three years ago is delivered. Having seen all the twists and turns of Brexit I believe this is best dealt with using three basic principles.

The first is that Westminster must make clear it is sovereign over the UK. No one else. Any solution to calls for indyref2 must be made there and that means an Act of Parliament to stabilise devolution by repairing the damage caused by the 2012 amendments to the Scotland Act that allows Sturgeon to issue a Section 30 request for a referendum. 

The second is the Sewell Convention is moribund and has been since Holyrood voted for the right to have a second referendum. At that point devolution was abandoned as a going concern by the Scottish Government and became something to undermine and replace. The UK government alone has the right to amend the Scotland Act to restore devolution.

The third is that no referendum in Scotland was ever had on the subsequent changes to devolution. The SNP cannot have this both ways. It has repeatedly undermined the UK as a government "we didn't vote for" – yet is happy to negotiate with it to amend the primary legislation for the Scottish Parliament and devolution. 

Personally, I am sick of this. I am part of the Scotland that wants to get off the neverendum merry-go-round. We have voted for devolution twice in referendums, once in 1997 to have it and another in 2014 to keep it. This really should be enough. It is not beyond the whim of any Member of Parliament to draft a Private Member's Bill on a second independence referendum and seek parliamentary support. That should be enough. 

It is not acceptable to hold devolution hostage by Saltire draped Walter Mitties who call for independence because they cannot handle devolution. These are MSPs who boast of a Scottish navy post-independence that cannot build two ferries. They boast of a world-leading Scottish NHS but cannot build a children's hospital. They refuse to engage in inquiries of their own parliament if it does not suit them. Add in the Brexit referendum – after which the First Minister toured in yellow bus calling on us to Stop Brexit – and that makes THREE referendums in a row the SNP has no intention of abiding by.  They are beyond satire in their attitude to taking responsibility.

If we do not have loser's consent for these referendums then why do we need Nationalist grifter's consent to revise back the Scotland Act to what it was, a mechanism for delivering devolution as a going concern? 

They said repeatedly their referendum was once in a generation and once in a lifetime Whatever that means to them, it clearly means that parts of Section 30 of the Scotland Act, stuck on by the Coalition government are no longer needed.

So let's repeal them. A nice simple Act of Parliament is all that is needed. Parts 5 and 6 of Section 30 allow the Scottish Parliament to call for changes to reserved powers and protected provisions of the Act,

5) Subsection (6) applies where any alteration is made— 

(a)to the matters which are reserved matters, or 

(b)to Schedule 4,(whether by virtue of the making, revocation or expiry of an Order in Council under this section or otherwise). 

(6) Where the effect of the alteration is that a provision of an Act of the Scottish Parliament ceases to be within the legislative competence of the Parliament, the provision does not for that reason cease to have effect (unless an enactment provides otherwise)

This is quite absurd. If the powers are reserved and protected even the mechanism by which they can be challenged MUST come from Westminster and nowhere else. Not Holyrood, not the High Court or Supreme Court. 

Repeal would return devolution to being a going concern, not a highway to independence, and would allow SNP MPs to raise #indyref2 as a Private Member's Bill at Westminster at any point. The text for triggering Article 50 (2) of the Lisbon Treaty is how we began to leave the European Union legally. It was a single paragraph. If revised to amend the Scotland Act by removing parts 5 and 6, it would look something like this,

Revision of the Scotland Act 

"1. Subsections 5 & 6 of Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 are repealed. 

 2. This section has effect despite any provision made by or under the Act or any other enactment"

The Scottish Parliament has rendered the Sewell convention moribund until devolution is again a going concern and protected from shenanigans within Holyrood. It is the duty of the UK government as the creator and preserver of devolution to actively destroy threats to it from within Scotland. Devolution is British and needs British politicians to back now that Scotland has voted for it twice. 

It's time to tidy up the Scotland Act and tidy away these awful Saltire Mitties. If they can't work with the tools they have, they need to hand the job over to those who will. 

Dr Jonathan Stanley has worked in a variety of frontline NHS positions in the UK since qualifying as a surgeon twelve years ago. 

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