Theresa May prepares ground for a Scottish power grab
I must say I was slightly worried about Theresa May’s Scottish Tory conference speech. I thought that there was an outside chance she was going to pull a referendum busting rabbit out of her hat.
I wasn’t entirely sure what it was going to be. Most likely a promise of powers over immigration, farming and agriculture, or a proposal to look into shaking up the antiquated UK political system. I should have known better. Tory concessions are only made reluctantly when they realise they are on the precipice of a major disaster.
What we did see today was a performance from someone who feels confident about preventing Scottish independence.
This confidence may prove to be justified or it may be delusional and bolstered by hubris, worse still, she may be calm because she is prepared not to allow a second indyref happen at all.
Whatever the reason, today she laid the groundwork for a power-grab of some competencies that are currently already devolved to Holyrood.
The devolution settlements were designed in 1998, without any thought of a potential Brexit. In areas like agriculture, fisheries, and the environment, the devolution settlements in effect devolved to the legislatures in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast the power to implement EU directives in these areas, within a common EU framework. As we bring powers and control back to the United Kingdom, we must ensure that right powers sit at the right level to ensure our United Kingdom can operate effectively and in the interests of all of its citizens, including people in Scotland. We must also ensure that the UK which emerges from the EU is able to strike the best possible trade deals internationally. In short, we must avoid any unintended consequences for the coherence and integrity of a devolved United Kingdom as a result of our leaving the EU.
The way things stand, post-Brexit control over fishing and farming would default from the EU to the Scottish Parliament.
What May is essentially telling us is that she is going to re-write the Scotland Act in order to pinch these powers from Scotland and grant them to London. Once again proving that Scotland is in the eyes of Westminster merely a region whose rights can be fiddled with at will.
Brexit though isn’t just a betrayal of remain voting nationalists.
One of the supposed advantages of Scotland leaving the EU, as promoted by the likes of Tom Harris, was that Holyrood would gain more powers. Many Scottish people voted leave in the belief that the decision would give Scotland more control.
We argued at the time that even if the tale of more powers was true, an independent Scotland in the EU would be much more powerful than a Scotland within a post-Brexit UK. Well, today Theresa May is letting us know that that argument was hypothetical. We are not even going to get to keep those competencies. It is another demonstration that Scotland is a passenger and not a partner in this so called union of equals.
Question is, will May’s stance begin to move the Yes voting Brexiteers back to independence?