Michael Gove’s record on powers for Scotland stinks
Yesterday we heard from potential future Prime Minister Michael Gove. He told us about the shiny new powers for Scotland we will receive post Brexit.
This piqued my interest in his voting record with regards to such matters. After all, he is Scottish, he may actually be a member of the Scottish Resistance working undercover to maximise the powers of Holyrood. Suffice to say, after a quick glance at They Work For You, I was disappointed but not entirely surprised to learn:
Michael Gove generally voted against transferring more powers to the Scottish Parliament
The list of him voting against Scotland’s interests is pretty substantial. Some highlights include:
- On 26 Jan 2015: Michael Gove voted not to devolve the regulation of shale gas extraction in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament.
- On 15 Jun 2015: Michael Gove voted against giving the Scottish Parliament a veto on the repeal of the Human Rights Act as it applies to Scotland.
- On 15 Jun 2015: Michael Gove voted against requiring the consent of the Scottish Parliament and of the Scottish people in a referendum before the Scottish Parliament can be abolished, and against strengthening the constitutional status of the Scottish Parliament.
To be fair to Gove, although he has done next to nothing for Scottish devolution, the other people who are also running for Tory leadership have managed to perform worse in this area:
- Theresa May – Generally against
- Stephen Crabb – Almost always against
- Andrea Leadsom – Consistently voted against
- Liam Fox – Generally against
It is clear then that Gove and his cronies are against giving Scotland more power so why was he saying we would get more?
Well, it’s because currently a lot of devolved issues such as agriculture and fisheries are guided by EU law. When we are dragged out of the EU these should in principle default to become the responsibility of the Scottish Government. Although in practice it probably wont be as simple as that. There are a few reasons for this:
- Some of the areas of policy that will come back from the EU are not fully devolved to Scotland and have aspects controlled at Westminster. So, as with many other areas of policy, there will have to be compromise with the UK. Fisheries is one of these areas, as explained by this Lawyer.
- The money to spend on each department will come from Westminster. So while Holyrood may have complete control over agriculture policy they will be reliant on funding from Westminster. Gove is talking of reforming the Barnett formula and it’s not clear whether a pro-austerity Tory government is going to be as generous as the EU Common Agricultural Policy which essentially subsidised farming in Scotland. The Tories are not big fans of subsidies.
- The last problem is that many in Westminster, particularly within the Tory party, will be against Scotland having complete control over the EU competencies. They were only devolved in the first place as they were controlled by the EU and nobody foresaw us leaving the EU.
Ultimately, Westminster has the power to make laws with regards to devolved matters.
However, there is a convention called the Sewell convention whereby if Westminster is going to do this they normally ask for consent from the Scottish Parliament so a compromise can be reached. The Smith Commission recommended that this convention be passed into law. However, last year the UK parliament voted on this but it was narrowly defeated. And Gove along with all of the other people running for Tory leadership voted against doing so.
On 9 Nov 2015: Michael Gove voted against requiring the UK Parliament to have the consent of the Scottish Parliament before making laws applying to Scotland on devolved matters.
So, while leaving the EU will mean that under current law more powers will default to Holyrood this is not due to the goodwill of people like Gove. They have done everything they can to diminish the Scottish Parliament. The powers are an unintended consequence of the EU vote. In the Brexit negotiating period UK and Scottish law will need to be re-examined and I wouldn’t put it past the Tories to try to locate some of those powers in Westminster. Even if they don’t do that those powers are not as strong as many have argued and Scottish policy decisions can be interfered with by Westminster due to the way Gove and co. voted in the past. Even if not interfered with, the scope and success of policy decisions will be dependent of funding from a Westminster austerity budget.
Perhaps I am being overly pessimistic to not trust the likes of Gove based on their previous voting record.
However, surely his recent behaviour suggests he is not one to trust. Check out his multiple denials of Prime Ministerial ambition if in any doubt.
Join the debate below.