The title “Power devolved is power retained” is attributed to the late Enoch Powell, a hard right Tory also remembered for “rivers of blood”, his condemnation of immigrants, chiefly if not exclusively, coloured. He became a Northern Ireland Member of Parliament, which seems appropriate.
As I look at the cantrips of the Tory Party, and at a confused Labour Party, I have to say I am not sure what will happen even before I get to the end of the page – the Liberals still not sure. However, the direction of travel is evident.
Before and since the inception of the Scottish Parliament the Tories have been agin it, but believers in getting their snouts in the political trough, decided to get as much as they could from it – Taxi for McLetchie anyone? So where do they stand now?
When the Parliament was established there was a new mechanism for meeting with other nations in the British Isles, the Joint Ministerial Council, whereby relations with other countries would be maintained. Strangely, while this was implemented at the start, there were few meetings held until the SNP came into office in 2007. The places named were Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. As there is joint agreement between Ireland and Westminster called the Good Friday Agreement, Ireland was included. It is all quite confusing because the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man also figure, as dependencies; not sure if Gibraltar fits in anywhere. In any event the SNP got this working, and it is useful. When I was Editor of the Scots Independent, we had decided I should go to see what was going on; the meeting was to be held in Jersey but we were curious. In the Press Accreditation application we discovered that the Press would not be allowed into the Meeting but there would be a Press Conference after it. On that basis I decided not to go. The press coverage given was minimal, but the Irish Press coverage blew the gaff, as it reported things that they did not wish to be made public – I cannot remember what the issues were – faulty memory, but there was a great hoohah. A reporter for the Irish Times, I think, attended and was put in another room; the broadcasting system had not been switched off, so he heard it all and made copious notes. As Ireland is an independent country they ignored the British/English rules. I think I published this at the time.
After the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, which we lost, the then Prime Minister David Cameron, announced the morning after the vote that he would implement English Votes for English Laws, a move that would make every MP for a Scottish constituency second class. Among other aspects was that no Member for a Scottish seat could become Prime Minister, or I think a Cabinet Minister. The chronology was thus: Referendum 2014, General Election 2015, 56 SNP seats,1 Tory, 1 Labour and 1 Liberal. The sole Tory was David Mundell who became Secretary of State for Scotland, maybe the Act had not been implemented by that time. Then we come to the EU negotiations; all attempts for the SNP to be listened to were ignored, the Tories demanded that powers previously devolved and covered by the EU were to be repatriated – to Westminster, not to Scotland, so control of fishing, agriculture, health and safety and a whole raft of other issues would be retained by Westminster for 7 years, then passed on to the relevant vassal state, if ever! There had also been an agreement that Westminster legislation affecting devolved issues would have to be passed by the devolved administrations; this has also been bypassed, filed under the weasel word “usually”.
And the Scottish Office with a Secretary of State for Scotland? It was widely assumed that this post would be abolished. On the day Alex and Nicola signed the Referendum agreement I was at the Government buildings and watched as David Cameron and Alastair Carmichael posed for a photoshoot, and a voice in the crowd called “Mr Carmichael, how does it feel tae be the last Secretary of State for Scotland?” Answer there was none. If you remember this was a Tory Liberal coalition; Cameron was the Prime Minister, Nick Clegg was the Deputy Prime Minister, and as a further sop, Alastair Carmichael, a Liberal, was the Secretary of State for Scotland, with a Minister of State position allocated to one David Mundell, presumably to keep a watching brief on Carmichael. Somehow he managed to miss Alastair Carmichael’s snide attack on Nicola Sturgeon, or just kept looking out of the window.
It was anticipated that the office would eventually disappear, after all the Scottish Parliament dealt with all the important things but “jings, crivvens!” more and more Civil Servants were employed doing who knows what; I have forgotten how much the costs have so far soared to, but know that in 2015 David Mundell became the Secretary of State for Scotland, owing his promotion to the fact that he was the single Tory MP in Scotland. After Theresa May’s walk in the Welsh hills there were an additional 12 Tories elected, making the numbers a lucky 13,but she lost a few in England and had to cobble up a deal with the DUP in Northern Ireland to supplant them. She decided to keep Mr Mundell as she knew she could rely on him not to resign, as he has promised on a regular basis. So far none of the additional Tory MPs have shown much support for Scotland, following in the resigned manner; their appeal was mainly to do with fishing and the fact that this will stay in EU control is causing them some anxiety.
However, this somewhat longwinded tale is as much for my memory, but there have been too many breaches of bad faith to be overlooked. Where is this all going? Well, the Tories have ignored Scotland and the SNP Government in all the negotiations so far, even managed to let Gibraltar know what is happening but Scotland is the invisible country. Britain means England; the fact they use “Great Britain” a lot is symbolic; that term is correct – but it is a geographical name not a statement of its place in the scheme of international affairs.
It is my belief that the Tories wish to abolish the Scottish Parliament, as they did not want it in the first place. Consider that they need Scotland for two things – in the first instance, but not the most important, are the oil and gas revenues which the Treasury squandered but still like doing so. The second and most important one is nuclear weapons. We all know that they are illegal, immoral and will never be used; this would lead to the destruction and desolation of the Earth, but as Tory dictum goes “We never know!” so let us keep them anyway. But to have nuclear armaments they require a place to keep them “far from the madding crowd” ie Southern England so not anywhere near their favoured places, but up in Scotland they could not do much harm, the fact that the largest concentration of nuclear weapons in Europe is stockpiled within a thirty mile radius of Glasgow is academic – it is not near London. The world has become a much more dangerous place since the election of Donald Trump and President Putin
The main reason for the existence of Trident is that it gives the UK a seat on the United Nations Security Council; the 5 permanent members are China, the Russian Federation, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. All these other countries represent large numbers of people and have nuclear weapons; Little England has to be in there – we used to have an Empire – so did Greece, Rome, Turkey, France to name but a few, but they don’t hark back to glory days. So “England Expects” as Lord Nelson put it at the Battle of Trafalgar, forgetting or being unaware that a large proportion of the sailors were Scots, not all David Mundells I would expect.
I heard just today (Tuesday) that the UK Government appeal to the Supreme Court on Joanna Cherry’s motion has been thrown out but in the very complicated political world that we have I am not sure if it will be honoured; the motion states that a vote must be held at Westminster before Brexit can take effect, but does not need the 27 other countries to vote. Do not know all the ins and outs, but the Government do not like it, so it has to be good?
Right, you can go back to sleep!