Wednesday 9 September 2020

The only threat to devolution is the SNP


Who is the biggest threat to devolution? Do the Conservatives seriously want to abolish the Scottish Parliament? No. Some people like me never wanted a Scottish Parliament. I sometimes reflect that the Scottish Parliament could be abolished by repealing the Scotland Act. No previous Parliament can bind a successor so an 80 strong Conservative majority could get rid of Nicola Sturgeon and Co quite easily and legally. But no one seriously thinks that this will happen. A referendum established the devolved Scottish Parliament and it would no doubt require another one to abolish it.  

But what is another way of describing a referendum to abolish the devolved Scottish Parliament? It is of course a second independence referendum. If Scotland became independent, there would be no devolution and there would be no devolved parliament.

The SNP opposed creating a devolved Scottish Parliament. They were not involved in the Constitutional Convention that eventually led to it. As soon as the SNP won a majority in the devolved Scottish Parliament, they immediately demanded that it should be abolished. They asked David Cameron for permission to hold a referendum on abolishing the devolved Scottish Parliament and it was granted. We all spent a great deal of time and effort debating whether to abolish the devolved Scottish Parliament in 2014. The SNP argument lost.

Since then at every election the SNP has argued that we should abolish the devolved Scottish Parliament. They have continually asked for permission to hold a second referendum on abolishing devolution, but at each occasion a Conservative Government has said no you may not abolish devolution.

So, who is the greater threat to devolution? The Conservative Government has not once suggested that devolution should be abolished and has opposed all attempts to abolish it. The SNP on the other hand has continually expressed the wish to abolish devolution and would be delighted if it succeeded.

It is in this context that we must understand complaints from the SNP about the Internal Market Bill.

Naturally the SNP oppose the British Government’s attempt to protect the UK’s Internal Market from any unintended consequences of our leaving the EU. One of the affects of the SNP’s abolishing devolution if they won a referendum on Scottish independence would be to abolish the UK’s Internal Market. There could of course be no Internal Market between places that have an international relationship and Scottish independence would not merely abolish devolution it would abolish the UK.

In 2014 the SNP pretended that leaving the UK would not disrupt trade between Scotland and the former UK, but subsequent events have shown how this argument depended entirely on the whole of the UK remaining in the EU. Now we know that an independent Scotland would have to reach a trade agreement with the former UK in order to continue to trade freely.

Since 2014 the SNP has complained about the UK’s leaving the EU’s Single Market. It was willing to accept that the European Commission would regulate the functioning of this Single Market and would happily allow the EU to control issues that are presently devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

The UK’s Internal Market has always been more important to trade within the UK than the EU’s Single Market. The Scottish Parliament will soon gain new powers due to the repatriation of powers that are presently controlled from Brussels.

But EU powers were exercised uniformly across the UK. There were not different EU food standards or fisheries rules in England and Scotland because the EU rules were applied the same everywhere. The Internal Market Bill will make sure that this remains the case. Without uniformity there would be no Internal Market.

The devolved Scottish Parliament will lose zero powers. Instead it will gain many new powers. The former role of the EU in coordinating rules and regulations will be reserved to the British Parliament because this issue is something that affects the whole of the UK not merely England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

This is not a fault of devolution it is a feature. Something that affects everyone in the UK such as foreign policy or macroeconomic policy is reserved. Well obviously, the Internal Market affects all of us. It is vital to our prosperity.  For this reason, it is logical and indeed essential that it should be reserved.

The British Government is elected by the whole of the British electorate. Its job is to make sure that Britain works for everyone. The SNP is elected by a minority of the Scottish population. Its job is to make Britain work as poorly as possible. The SNP does not to use devolution to benefit both Scotland and Britain, but rather it uses devolution to abolish devolution. This is the central dishonesty of the SNP.

The SNP did not win the argument in 2014. Scotland is a part of the UK and Scots remain British citizens. The SNP may not like this, but it nevertheless is the truth. Why then do they continually object to the use of words like “UK” and “British” describing a UK wide cultural festival. It’s the equivalent of secessionists in Burgundy objecting to the use of the words France and French.

You may not like being British, but unless you take on the citizenship of somewhere else and renounce your British citizenship then you are British whether you like it or not. There is no such thing as Scottish citizenship, because there is no sovereign nation state called Scotland. Look at the member states of the EU and the UN if you have doubts about this. You will not find Scotland.

We cannot let the SNP damage the whole of the UK by complaining about the British Government doing things that the SNP were happy for Brussels to do. The SNP may wish to destroy the UK’s Internal Market and abolish devolution, but in the present economic crisis most Scots would prefer that the SNP cooperate on UK wide matters and focus on those devolved areas that they do control instead of continually trying to destroy devolution.

The only threat to devolution is the SNP.