It is a pleasure to follow Anna McMorrin, and I want to add my thanks to Pete Wishart for securing today’s really important debate, in which we can celebrate 20 years of devolution. In 2016, I was elected to the Scottish Parliament. It was a privilege to serve in Holyrood, and it is also a huge privilege to serve here in Westminster and to take an active part in the devolution story of this country.
Devolution takes decision making closer to people, offering a greater voice for and more accountability to communities across these islands, while ensuring that those communities enjoy the huge benefits of being part of our wider United Kingdom. Devolution has marked the next chapter in our Union’s successful story—that of an increasingly vibrant and diverse country, in which devolution not only lets the unique nature of our four nations shine but celebrates the shared values that bring us together.
Devolution means that we can have distinctive Scottish policies taken forward to address distinctive Scottish problems. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire listed some of those achievements. However, I feel that the full potential for that has not been realised, sometimes due to a lack of ambition on the part of successive Administrations but also to a real paralysis that has been caused by such an obsession with the constitution. Although there are substantial powers to make positive change, it is disappointing that on important areas such as health and education, time is squeezed out by the constant prioritisation of the constitution. Even the First Minister says that independence “transcends” all these important bread and butter issues.
I believe that devolution and a strong Scottish Parliament is good for Scotland. Sadly, however, there are Members on the SNP Benches in this Chamber who do not believe in devolution. They have no vision for the good that it can do, or trust in the strength that it brings to all four nations in our United Kingdom, because they want to ensure that devolution does not succeed. They want to see the devolution settlement ripped up, the constitution upended and our Union torn apart. But devolution is the evidence of an inherent strength to our Union that allows debate to prosper with a diversity of views from all corners of the country. Devolution also allows resources to be directed to those who most need them, often in areas that are hard to reach.