Posted on December 14th, 2017
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
Two votes in the House of Commons this week have attracted a great deal of comment among people who follow Scottish and UK politics.
The first was the defeat of an amendment to Theresa May’s Great Power Grab Bill which means that Westminster will have the power to alter the Acts governing the establishment and constitution of the Scottish and Welsh Devolved Administrations. Effectively, Westminster will be able to vote to abolish the Scottish Parliament.
This is pretty serious stuff and poses a huge problem for Nicola Sturgeon. If she goes back to the Tories and humbly begs permission to hold a second IndyRef and they say No, we could then see Holyrood abolished before we are allowed to vote on whether to escape Titanic UK.
Quite what alternatives that leaves is a really big question. One possibility is to call a National Assembly of all MSPs, MPs and Councillors who could vote for a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Another option would be for the SNP to stand in the next UK General Election on a platform of declaring UDI if they win a majority of Scottish seats.
Either of these is fraught with problems. It’s not UDI itself which is the issue, since the majority of new nations are created that way. When the Soviet Union broke up, countries like Lithuania and Latvia didn’t sit around waiting for Russia to give them permission to become independent – they simply stated their new status and were recognised by the international community.
No, the problem is that this will mean the break will be carried out with a very hostile Westminster doing its best to derail things. It is good news that the Scottish Government is busy establishing things like a new National Investment Bank and such things as Rail and Power Companies, but an acrimonious split will create a lot of practical issues in the short term as Scotland tries to establish new national organisations for such things as passports, Driving Licences etc, not to mention disentangling our electricity grid.
Of course, all these issues will be sorted eventually, but UDI will present a lot of short term pain. It would still be worth it in the long run, but independence on agreed terms would be much better. Sadly, that is looking increasingly unlikely.
The other noteworthy thing about this particular vote is that Colonel Davidson’s 13 MPs voted to give Westminster the power to interfere in Scotland’s democracy. Perhaps that’s why the BBC have been very quiet about this particular bit of legislation. After all, they don’t want Scots to know just how badly they are being shafted.
In contrast, the other vote has attracted a great deal of media comment. That’s because the UK Government lost the vote by a small margin thanks to some Tory MPs rebelling.
But what were they rebelling about? What it boiled down to was that they wanted Parliament to have a vote on the final Brexit deal instead of allowing May and her cronies simply to agree to it without consultation.
It is important to note that this is not likely to prevent Brexit. MPs had the chance to vote on a measure which would have insisted on the UK remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union. They voted against it, with Labour adopting their usual position of abstaining. So, when it comes to the final vote, don’t expect the rebels to vote Brexit down. Their rebellion was not about Brexit but about power.
In the 17th Century, England fought a civil war to ensure that Parliament is sovereign. This is why they want to vote on Brexit and why they demand the power to abolish the Scottish Parliament and Welsh assembly. It is all about power – nothing else.
So let’s not get too excited about May losing one vote. The Great Power Grab is still very much on, and the only thing likely to derail Brexit is the Irish border question. The recent agreement was a fudge, merely agreeing a commitment to find a solution. No solution will satisfy all parties.
In the meantime, all we can do is sit and watch the calamity unfold while hoping that Nicola Sturgeon really does have some plans up her sleeve. If she doesn’t, we face a very bleak future indeed.