20 Years of Devolution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:26 pm on 11th July 2019.

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Photo of Hugh Gaffney Hugh Gaffney Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 2:26 pm, 11th July 2019

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me in this important debate.

We recently held a moving debate in this House to mark the 25th anniversary of John Smith’s death. Members who participated reflected on John’s unwavering support for Scottish devolution. In 1994, John referred to the creation of a Scottish Parliament as

“the settled will of the Scottish people”.

In 1997, the referendum proved him right, with 74% of voters supporting the creation of a Scottish Parliament.

I would like to pay tribute to all those involved in the campaign for Scottish devolution, from Keir Hardie onwards and right throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Groups such as the Scottish Constitutional Convention brought together civil society, political parties, trade unions and others in support of devolution. Its tireless campaigning was in no small part responsible for ensuring that we now have a Scottish Parliament.

I also want to commend those individuals in the Labour party, such as John Smith and Donald Dewar, who championed the cause of Scottish devolution, and others such as Tom Clarke, who served this place for 33 years as the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. Their efforts led Labour to adopt a firm commitment in favour of devolution to Scotland. I will always be proud of the fact that it was a Labour Government who created the Scottish Parliament and delivered devolution to Scotland. Let us never forget that the Tories opposed the creation of the Scottish Parliament, and their reckless pursuit of a no-deal Brexit poses a real risk to such devolution today.

The Scottish Parliament has achieved significant changes, which have had a positive impact on the lives of all people across Scotland. We have heard about many of them. They include free personal care, land reform, the smoking ban, free bus travel, votes for 16 and 17-year-olds in Scottish Parliament and local government elections, and the passing of the equal marriage Act for same-sex couples. All these changes highlight the real potential of a Scottish Parliament to deliver positive change for Scotland.

However, the potential of a Scottish Parliament to deliver real change is not being met. We have entered a period of constitutional politics in Scotland that has seen the powers of the Scottish Parliament go unused in the pursuit of social justice. The SNP and the Scottish Government in Edinburgh are focused solely on pursuing independence, and their Tory opposition in the Scottish Parliament has just one policy: to oppose a second independence referendum. The people of Scotland are being badly let down by both the SNP and the Scottish Tories, who have chosen to put the constitution before the interests of their communities.

Nearly 500,000 workers in Scotland do not earn the living wage. [Interruption.] I will repeat that in case the House missed it: 500,000 workers in Scotland do not earn the real living wage.