Westminster “power grab” row intensifies after publication of Brexit bill

Concerns over wide ranging powers granted to government by proposed law

THE CONTROVERSY over potential Westminster centralisation of power has been sharpened by the publication of plans for a Brexit bill that lacks plans for the transfer of powers to devolved administrations.

The SNP were joined by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones in voicing protest at the so called ‘Great Repeal Bill’, which will transfer EU legislation into UK legislation so it can be altered at a nation state level.

The draft legislation was published yesterday (13 July), suddenly and, opposition parties say, without the necessary room for debate.

During the 2016 EU referendum, the eventually victorious Leave campaign led by senior Tories, repeatedly promised that Scotland would gain more power over areas including fisheries, agriculture, and some energy and renewables policy.

Responding to the content of the bill leader of the SNP’s Westminster group Ian Blackford MP said: “The Bill does nothing to protect the interests of Scotland and the other devolved administrations – and is final confirmation of a Westminster power grab.

“Before the EU referendum, the Leave campaign repeatedly said that significant new powers would automatically come to the Scottish Parliament - and David Mundell and others have repeatedly assured us since the vote that more powers will be coming to the Scottish Parliament – so where are they?

Read more – Leading expert: Scottish Tories will help Westminster “claw back” powers from Scotland after #GE17

Blackford also accused Scottish secretary David Mundell of failing to protect Scotland’s interests and secure powers for Holyrood from Brexit

He added: “Once again, David Mundell has shown himself to be the Cabinet’s man in Scotland, rather than Scotland’s man in the Cabinet.

“Mr Mundell’s description of the bill as a powers ‘bonanza’ is quite frankly ludicrous -  this is a Westminster power grab laid bare, and his attempts to defend the indefensible do him no credit.

Fears were also raised over the extension of minister’s powers to amend the law without consulting parliament.

The so called Henry VIII powers could allow ministers to even establish whole new government agencies and regulatory bodies without reference to MPs.

Mundell said that the bill was “transitional” and that new powers could be transferred to Holyrood after Brexit had been carried out.

Before the Scottish election, Professor Michael Keating told CommonSpace that growing Tory power could mean the loss of power for the Scottish Parliament.

Picture courtesy of Scottish Government

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Sat, 07/15/2017 - 08:33

This has been coming for some time. From a British establishment perspective, devolution has gone terribly wrong. It was never the intention that Scotland should have a real parliament. It was never envisaged that we would have a real government and real political leaders treading the world stage alongside UK leaders rather than walking a respectful distance behind.

It was never part of the plan that Holyrood should become the primary locus of Scottish politics. Nobody foresaw the extent to which devolution would result in Scotland developing a distinctive political culture.

The British state does not happily tolerate rivals. Challenges to the supremacy of its political elite are regarded as an affront to the natural order. The British establishment fears and hates the SNP. Democratic dissent poses no problems. The British political system has evolved to be able to easily withstand the action of popular movements. What can’t be crushed is absorbed. But a popular movement with access to effective political power is a different matter. The SNP is a threat because it provides a progressive independence movement which would otherwise be ineffectual with an agency able to challenge the British political system from within.

The combination of the Yes movement, the Scottish Parliament and the SNP represents a very real threat to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Contrary to popular belief, the electoral system for the Scottish Parliament was not designed to prevent the SNP gaining power. It didn’t have to be. It only had to be designed to prevent any single party from gaining power. This should have ensured that some combination of the three British parties would always be able to keep control. That all went wrong in 2007. Ever since then, the British establishment has been desperately seeking a way to retrieve the situation. The SNP is the lever. The Scottish Parliament is the fulcrum. The Yes movement is the force. Removing any one of these from the equation will end the threat.

The full might of the British state’s formidable machinery has been brought to bear on the Yes movement and the SNP. Both have been targeted by a massive and totally unprincipled propaganda campaign such as is seldom seen in peacetime. The SNP has been the main target, because it’s easier to attack a party than a principle. But this onslaught has not been effective. That troublesome trio of components remains intact. Despite the best efforts of an almost universally hostile media and a devolution process which has been transformed into a weapon against the SNP administration, the threat to the British state persists.

Brexit offers an opportunity to take out one of those vital elements – the Scottish Parliament. The nature of the devolution settlement is such as to make Holyrood vulnerable to the actions of a UK Government desperate, stupid and unscrupulous enough to use its powers to effectively cripple Scotland’s democratically elected parliament. What we see in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is the playing out of a process which many have anticipated ever since it became evident that the No vote in 2014 had not been the death blow to both the SNP and the independence movement that the British establishment had hoped for.

Surely nobody now can be in any doubt about the malign intent of the UK Government. A government that has been repeatedly and emphatically rejected by the people of Scotland is now set upon ripping the heart out of the Parliament that is elected by the people of Scotland. Every citizen of Scotland, regardless of their views on the constitutional issue, must now ask themselves whether they are prepared to tolerate this. And those who continue to insist on preserving the union even at the cost of our Parliament and our democracy must face some hard questioning.

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