20 Years of Devolution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:03 pm on 11th July 2019.

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Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 2:03 pm, 11th July 2019

It is a pleasure to be able to speak in this debate. I thank Pete Wishart for securing it.

I would like to return to a point made by Ronnie Cowan, who said that the Scottish Parliament had not been paralysed by Brexit in the way that this one had. That may be the case, but it was certainly paralysed by the independence debate. There was an entire year of the 20 that we celebrate today in which the Scottish Parliament had no legislation before it—not a single law was passed. That, for many of us, perhaps goes down as one of the most disappointing aspects of devolution—that for a whole year our Parliament was paralysed by an argument over independence, which the majority of people of Scotland then rejected.

Those 20 years have indeed been an achievement. Deidre Brock recently commented from a sedentary position, “How long did devolution take?” Well, Liberal Democrats know that it took a century because it is a century since we first proposed home rule. It is great to see that, 120 years later, each of the parties in this Parliament is backing devolution, supporting the principle that was originally put forward by the Liberals. We worked on that with the Labour party in the constitutional convention, before eventually being joined by the Scottish nationalists and then, after the fact, by the Conservatives. It is perhaps the biggest single achievement of devolution that it has won over both the Scottish National party and the Conservatives to the position that we had all held before.