When hope fades
Last week, I published a blog talking about the chances of a solution to the power-grab being found in the House of Lords.
Amendments to the EU(Withdrawal) Bill had been tabled that could have given the devolved administrations meaningful influence over the repatriated EU powers that Westminster is set to take from them.
Anyway, I said in that blog I would provide an update as to how the amendments fared. As such, I had been keeping an eye on the House of Lords twitter feed and the media in general. It was only when the twitter feed announced that the report stage was over that I began to wonder what had happened to the amendments. Maybe I had just somehow missed the coverage due to being busy.
So, I googled Lord Hope’s EU(Withdrawal) Bill amendments and couldn’t find much information at all. Clearly, an issue of utmost importance to devolution isn’t deemed in the public interest by the media. Hardly surprising I suppose when there are far more important things to report on like, how cribs burn when you douse them in petrol and set a match to them.
Anyway, it turns out that these important amendments that could have solved the constitutional crisis were withdrawn before they were even voted on.
I discovered this by spending several hours reading Hansard. Which, given the shitshow that passes for a media in Scotland, seems to be the only way a citizen can find out about things of such importance. The relevant part of the debate can be read here but I’ll give you the abridged version in case you have what passes for a semblance of a life.
There were two Lords who had tabled amendments that could have protected devolution.
Lord Hope of Craighead and Lord Wigley. To cut a long story short, in the Lords debate, both of them argued, in different ways, that the UK shouldn’t use the contentious repatriated powers without the consent of the devolved administrations.
After they had made their cases other Lords had a chance to speak. What followed was a succession of Labour and Lib Dem peers siding with the Tories. A fact that I find extremely newsworthy given that only days before the debate, the leaders of the Scottish Lib Dems and Scottish Labour made a big song and dance about how the bill was unacceptable to them. Incidentally, yesterday the alleged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was all over the media condemning the power-grab, despite the glaring fact his party accepted it in Wales and supported it in the Lords.
Lord Bruce of Bennachie sums up the gist of what the Labour and Lib Dem Lords argued. Basically, Scotland should get back in its box and respect the needs of the UK as a whole.
That is why the sentiment of this House—and I suspect the sentiment of those people in Scotland who think about it—is that the Scottish Government should be very careful that they do not over-push their position, because Scotland has voted to be in the United Kingdom, is part of the United Kingdom, and recognises that there are shared interests, where we will need to make decisions together.
The UK government was represented by Lord Keen of Elie who embarked on a similar line of argument intermingled with a plea to trust the Tories as they really love devolution and wouldn’t ever do anything horrible:
The devolution settlement is a reality of our constitutional situation and one that we extended under the 2016 Act, really quite recently, in light of the Smith review. We continue to respect, understand and wish to apply the devolution settlement. But it is a devolution settlement that has to work for everyone in the United Kingdom. I return to the point that it cannot work for everyone in the United Kingdom if one devolved Assembly or Government assume that they have the ability to exercise what amounts to a veto over legislation that is relevant, pertinent and important to the entirety of the United Kingdom.
The problem with their logic is that when they say the UK as a whole, they really mean England.
The only country that essentially does have a veto over legislation that is relevant, pertinent and important to the entirety of the United Kingdom. A country that is set to get a whole lot more powerful as we leave the EU. This blind spot gets to the heart of the debate. It didn’t matter how the country of Scotland voted in the EU referendum. A party England voted for called the referendum and we are leaving the EU because England chose to do so. The power-grab is happening because English Lords and English MPs have decided it must regardless of the near unanimous political will against the plan at Holyrood.
Despite the weakness of the counter-arguments, Lords Hope and Wigley seemed convinced by them and decided to withdraw their amendments.
No doubt they knew that the Labour and Lib Dem peers would not support the amendments and not support the position of their Scottish branches.
Once again all of the spin we were fed in 2014, about the strengthening of devolution and the UK being a family of nations, was exposed as a sham. I can’t say that I’m surprised that a bunch of unelected toffs didn’t stand up for devolution. but I do find it shocking we have a media that is unable or unwilling to do these matters justice.