Scotland Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:12 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee 2:12 pm, 27th January 2011

I am very happy to follow Ann McKechin, who made a fair analysis of the co-operation and consensus that have characterised the process over many years. She presented a constructive role for the Opposition, as is right and proper, in scrutinising and trying to improve the legislation, and in addressing some of the issues. I certainly hope that matters are proceeded with in that spirit.

I am very happy also to welcome the Bill, as someone who has been involved in the process since its very early days-indeed, for 25 or more years. Frankly, however, I see it as a further step along the way to home rule within the United Kingdom. I never thought, any more than others did, that the Scotland Act 1998 was the end of the process; most of us recognise that the constitution is evolving. The first Act, which established the Scottish Parliament, was seminal legislation, but it was always work in progress, and this Bill falls into the same category.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland does not find any discomfort in that, but I completely understand that his role in government, operating on an agreed cross-party consensus, is to put forward a Bill that commands the support of the House and the Government and does not prevent any of us from arguing the case for further reform and development. That puts the SNP in a difficult position, but that is precisely where it wants to be.

For many of us who have been through this debate a few times, my previous point might sound ponderous, but we are making history because we are shaping the evolution of the United Kingdom's constitution, and this stage will be monitored for many years to come as one of the stages along the route. It will represent the foundation of a much more radical and decentralised United Kingdom over time.