Claim of Right for Scotland

Part of Opposition Day - [15TH Allotted Day, 1ST Part]Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 4th July 2018.

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 5:46 pm, 4th July 2018

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Now, thanks to the Tories, we have reached a dangerous and difficult place, which has exposed their lack of commitment to the Sewel convention. Their Brexit power grab has basically ripped up the Sewel convention and plunged us into constitutional crisis. We are in unknown territory. Only if the UK Government act to recognise and respect the will of the Scottish Parliament can we repair some of the damage. I say again to the Government: you have acted without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

Bring forward legislation that will protect the powers of the Scottish Parliament, and do it now. If the Secretary of State recognises his role in defending devolution, he should do so, and a failure to do that should mean, quite frankly, that he should resign because he is not standing up for the interests of the people of Scotland.

The House should know that it is not simply the SNP’s view that the Tory power grab has thrown the devolution settlement into crisis. In Scotland, the feeling is apparent everywhere you go. People right across Scotland want power in Scotland’s hands. Recent polling from NatCen revealed that a majority of Scots trust Holyrood to make decisions in areas that the Tories want to grab for Westminster. Over 60% want fishing decisions in Scotland following Brexit and 59% want farming powers in Scottish hands.

Of course, they have form because we know that in 2013, the European Union voted to give additional payments to Scottish crofters and farmers—€230-odd million of additional support—86% of which was supposed to come to Scotland between 2016 and 2020. What has happened? Westminster has handed over 16.5%. The rest has gone into budgets across the rest of the United Kingdom, and crofters and farmers have been short-changed by a Government that have not accepted their obligations to Scottish farmers. It is little wonder that people in Scotland want to make sure that the Scottish Parliament have powers over farming and fishing, and not this Tory Government that have not just grabbed powers but have grabbed money out of the pockets of hard-working Scottish crofters and farmers.

A majority of Scots have lost confidence in the UK’s handling of Brexit, with a full 69% now saying that they believe it has been badly handled. During earlier debates, we heard the Tories trying to justify the UK Government’s shoddy power grab by falsely claiming that Scotland would not lose powers. However, the Scottish Government published a list of powers at risk. They include powers over fishing, farming, rail franchises and fracking licences, to name but a few, but this Government have shown disrespect to our Parliament more than once. Their legal challenges to the Scottish Parliament’s continuity Bill, for one, clearly show the arrogance of the Conservative Government when faced with the will of the Scottish people. Why is it right that the Conservative Government believe that they can take the Scottish Parliament and, by extension, the Scottish people to court? That is exactly what is happening—what arrogance!

The Scottish Parliament voted by 95 votes to 32 to pass the continuity Bill, aimed at preparing Scotland’s laws for the impact of leaving the EU in the light of the refusal to grant a legislative consent motion to Westminster’s European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The people of Scotland expect the two Governments to co-operate on these matters. They also expect that the decisions and responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament should be respected. The decision, therefore, of the UK Government to attempt to overturn the will of the Scottish Parliament in the courts is unprecedented and unacceptable.