The Principle of Consent

So THIS is what they meant by “Taking Back Control!”

Actually, that’s not just a flip remark. “Take Back Control” worked so well as a slogan in the Brexit Referendum because it answered a very specific social and psychological need. For the English people to take back something they felt they’d lost. The globalised economy was felt to have robbed economic life of a sense of identity and purpose. The systematic destruction of the welfare state over the last thirty years had robbed people of a sense of “us”…the people “they” were supposed to look after. Brexit, ever more explicitly, is an English nationalist moment…and Scots should not be entirely surprised by it, or feel unconnected to many of the impulses behind it. After all, many Yes voters also voted to Leave. However, it is now becoming clear that a suppression of the qualified autonomy represented by the Scottish parliament is very much among the things that Brexit is “taking back control” of. Resentment of noisy jocks is absolutely smack dab at the centre of the agenda. This English National Moment is, in the usual confused way, mixed up with BRITISH hegemony. What the next few days and weeks will tell us is just how explicit the consequences of the English National Moment are for us…and whether this grotesque insult to the principles upon which we thought devolution were built is as accidental and unthinking, or a deliberate act of bureaucratic violence springing from the same poisonous source as the Windrush Scandal.

(Surely there can be no one left who thinks that this generation on West Indians were targetted by accident!)

“Clause 11, in particular would “adversely impact on the intelligibility and integrity of the devolution settlement” and was “a fundamental shift in the structure of devolution in Scotland”. Presiding Officer, let me focus on the precise words of the Committee Report for a second. What does it mean to say that the approach of the UK Government is “incompatible with the devolution settlement”? It means that clause 11 subverts the principles of that settlement – principles which have given the people of Scotland a stable and effective Parliament for nearly 20 years, supported by all parties in this place, and which have throughout that time secured good government under different administrations, and in response to many political challenges.

Notwithstanding the more benign language now being used, the effect of the UK Government’s latest proposals remains this: the Scottish Parliament’s powers could be restricted – for a period of up to seven years – without its consent. That is not something the Scottish Government could recommend the Parliament approves.”

– Mike Russell

The events of the last few days in Scotland and Westminster, and the provisions of the bill now published, are an absolute vindication of a simple proposition. You can have a unitary Brexit, or you can have effective devolved government. You cannot have both.

Brexit, as I’ve indicated, is an expression of English national feeling, which is hardly something in itself to criticise from a website that supporterd the Yes campaign in 2014. But it is taking the twisted form of a nostalgic resentment of 21st Century reality. Part of the Resentment of Empire is the visible…hence annoying…limited autonomy of the “regions.” The fact that all that was really “added” to the constitution in the late 1990s was a democratic element to a federalism that already existed…is neither here nor there. The Union settlement itself is a triviality in contemporary British politics. What matters is the irritation. All that matters politically is that the irritation be soothed or removed.

The Labour Party have now removed Wales from any future consideration as a stone in the pathway of a “Smooth Brexit.” And the voters of Wales will reap the harvest of obedience. But Wales at least VOTED for Brexit as well as devolution. Scotland voted decisively against Brexit and for at least a measure of democratic participation in specifically Scottish matters…such as agriculture, fishing and energy policy that were themselves partially devolved to EU coordination. Can those who devised that Parliament now act with the Tories to strip back that measure of democratic self government in the name of a Brexit that the country voted decisively against? On what possible grounds?

The Devolution settlement of 1997 is now untenable. It cannot survive Brexit. The alternatives are either an absorption into a unitary UK State that has never existed in this form before…(the Barnett Formula, for example, is unlikely to survive)…or fundamental re-negotiation. This may or may not be called “Independence.” , itself a very 20th Century term in a very different set of realities in the 21st Century. But be sure that unless Scotland remains as a “problem” for Brexit, Scotland will cease to exist politically in the UK except as a footnote. Any consideration of the needs of the people of Wales in the context of agricultural or regional policy is already fading into irrelevance. Everyone who supports devolution as a meaningful element of Scottish life HAS to stand firm with the Scottish Government, or face oblivion.

Just as a footnote, the influential Tory think tank, The Institute of Fiscal Studies has just reporterd that they see no future for the Barnett Formula after Brexit. Taking control of the portfolios coming back from Brussels is very much the thin end of the wedge. This is the essential context for the “deal” that WM has offered Scotland. If we take the deal, we are handing all control over ScotGov funding to Tory Government discretion. Not just a bit of it. All of it. Is that really okay with everyone except Nicola Sturgeon?

There are lots of things about Brexit we in Scotland can’t do anything about. If this point of principle is conceded on the Continuity Bill, there will be nothing we can do about any of it – which is precisely the idea. What we can and must do right now is defend the Devolution settlement itself…and hold accountable the Labour and Liberal MSPs whose predecessors designed it. Are they really happy to give it away for the slim chance of a Brexit supporting Corbyn government?

No wonder Carwyn Jones resigned as Welsh Labour Leader rather than countenance cancelling Devolution till we “sort” Brexit? A time frame of seven years “while they sort Brexit out” is a political eternity. Brexit is a car crash that can’t be sorted. Do we really just amble on with our heads in a light proof rubber sack till the Tories win a General Election in 2022?

Comments (29)

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  1. Astragael says:

    Desolating. Effectively, Mrs May is declaring war on Scotland.

  2. w.b.robertson says:

    “You can have a unitary Brexit or you can have effective devolved Government. You cannot have both”. What a sweeping statement. Of course you can. That is what the Yes/Leave brigade want.

    1. MBC says:

      They may want it but they won’t get it. Wanting and getting are two different things.

  3. bringiton says:

    I hope that the fishermen and farmers of Scotland now realise what voting for unionist politicians really means.
    The fact that Westminster deems it necessary to have control over these affairs should have them asking themselves,why and for what purpose.
    The Tories want a trade deal with Trumpland which will undermine present standards in food production in the UK so farmers will have to reduce theirs in order to compete.
    How would that work with Scottish farmers continuing to adhere to European standards and England not?
    Would a Scottish government allow sub standard English produce to be sold in Scotland.
    As far as the fishermen go,the only possibility of their utopia emerging is if the UK exits the EU with no deal,anything else will be some sort of agreement on common fisheries policies as well as access to the market for their produce.
    Taking back control is not for the benefit of either producers or consumers in Scotland,so who is it for?

  4. Willie says:

    Scotland did not vote for a Tory Government in Westminster.

    Scotland did not vote for a Tory Government in Hollyrood.

    Scotland did not elect Tory councils across Scotland.

    Scotland voted two to one to stay in the EU.

    What part of democracy do we not understand. But at least we can talk about it endlessly till the cows come home. That is the true test of a democracy. Like the windrush underclass, we should enjoy, and enjoy we will.

    And I wonder how the cancer sufferer denied treatment under the Windrush pogrom is getting on. Royal wedding coming off. That’s the ticket to keep him upbeat. Keep us all upbeat.

    An electorate with no friggin brains if I may inelegantly opine.

    1. Derek c says:

      Scotland did vote to stay in the uk fact ..Scotland did not vote 2-1 to remain in Europe another fact ..the Scots that voted to remain in the uk were well aware of the upcoming eu referendum more facts..so let’s not deal in fake news in unintelligent opines …what part of democracy do you not understand??you can break it down ohh the people of Manchester have never voted Tory or the scousers ..another stale fact we’ve got em..the gerrymandering of the voting system will keep that going..another fact you will be competing against a Tory government in an independent Scotland for a long time ..let the race to the bottom begin!..there is no such thing as a true democracy..fact

      1. Robert Louis says:

        Your list of ‘facts’ is wrong. At the time of the referendum on Scottish independence, the EU referendum had not been announced, confirmed or even debated in the HoC. To state that voters knew their was an EU referendum at the time of the Scot indy vote, is a complete lie.

        I know their are many in the media and Tory party who regularly say it, but it just is not true. Indeed, the Better together anti independence campaign fought on the point that “only by staying as part of the UK, can Scotland stay in the EU”.

        Incidentally Scotland is a country, and equal signatory partner to the bilateral treaty of union with England, as enacted by the Scottish Parliament in 1707. Manchester on the other hand is a city in England.

    2. Jamsie says:

      Scotland voted to remain part of the UK.
      The UK voted to leave the EU.
      Maybe that’s the kind of democracy people understand.
      Well unless your name is wee Nicola or you are an indy supporter.

      1. Mark Potter-Irwin says:

        Well Jamsie, I assume you have never allowed yourself to change your mind on anything? Because that is what Scotland is about to do, change it’s mind. So suck it up.

        1. Jamsie says:

          Not according to the polls it’s not.
          And I doubt very much whether she will call a referendum in any event.
          She will not take the chance of being the one who blew the candle out forever.
          No I suspect the Supreme Court will find her continuity bill is beyond the power of the Parliament and her government which will shop her dead in her tracks and give her an excuse to draw back and try to save face.
          And Brexit will happen without her input which she hopes will outrage people in Scotland to back her but she will have damaged her credibility beyond repair by that time.
          When the big questions arise again as they surely will she will need to find £14bn to cover the shortfall between spend and revenue, solve the currency issue and accept that not only are we outside the UK but also the EU.

          1. Jamsie says:

            When I say outside the UK I mean that the SNP if they remain the largest party at Hokyrood will never be taken seriously again by Westminster.
            She will become even more of a wee voice shouting from the sidelines until people eventually realise the futility of voting for her party and move back to where they voted traditionally.

    3. Isabel Cooney says:

      A media brainwashed electorate Willie. We need to get meetings arranged with good speakers and question sessions across the length and breadth of Scotland. We must get the message out that YES to an independent Scotland is the only way we can survive.

  5. W.T.Low says:

    Aye Willie,

    You might well inelegantly opine – sadly it is a truth. Beggars belief that people will put up with this crap. Children in Scotland being born into poverty, thanks to the Tory austerity, and we have the press and the nation lauding the birth of another bloody royal. We have people denigrating those who have chosen to learn Gaelic, is there a revolution there? In a company of mainly elderly, but younger than me, I had the temerity to express a republican viewpoint and was immediately challenged with ‘would you prefer Trump?’ How sad that Trump is what we are going to get post the Brexit car crash.

    Aneurin Bevan got it almost right when he suggested that the Tories were ‘lower than vermin’, I do not think they were ever that good and as for the present lot!!

    Bill

    1. Jamsie says:

      I know what to do!
      Because of tory austerity people are starving and foodbanks are overwhelmed.
      Lets change all the signs in the country and on police cars to have Gaelic as well as English!
      Oh!
      What do you mean that won’t help the people living in poverty?
      But, but, wee Nicola commands it……..she is progressive….she is different….she said so!!
      How stupid of us to question her!

      1. Kenny Smith says:

        Fud

        1. Jamsie says:

          Yes you are!

          1. Kenny Smith says:

            Topper ya fud.

            Tell me one thing a Tory government has done for you or Scotland in general but particularly the east end and I might engage but it’s a futile no matter what you will still bow your head and pretend Westminster cares. You come on here regurgitating daily mail bullshit so your a fud so will be spoken to like a fud. Jamsie GWC’s alter ego. Get off your knees, wipe your mouth and grow a spine. I could sit and retort like many do but I’m beyond it now. I’m not a member of the SNP and there is cases criticism is more than justified but they have done more for people here than labour ever would. Labour are the real reason the union is splitting. The Tories are the Tories at least they don’t hide what they are labour will hide behind socialism then take a peerage. It never fails to amaze me why fuds like you are on these sites then I remember that the yes vote gained traction especially amongst the young so you and GWC and the like think it’s big to come on here and give the argument of vile aggressive cybernats. Trust me fud you do more for arguing for indy than against it. So I will apologise to others for my crude manner but not to you fud

          2. Jamsie says:

            Wee man just because you are in a minority and are a bit of a loser don’t be stressing yersel and getting all angry.
            You live in the United Kingdom.
            It’s great isn’t it?
            Now I suggest you go away and fly your wee flag in your mindless devotion to the cause.
            It is as near to independence you will ever get.
            Why?
            Because the people of Scotland don’t want it.
            Now run along sonny.
            And don’t be picking any fights you cannot win.
            That was fun.

      2. Graeme Purves says:

        There is no additional cost involved in the Gaelic-English logo on police cars, as an identifying livery has to be applied whatever languages are employed. There is therefore no impact whatsoever on the implementation of progressive social and welfare policies. Your point is a spurious Aunt Sally born of ignorance and prejudice.

  6. Crubag says:

    Isn’t the block grant (the “Barnett formula”) already under Westminster control? Devolution wasn’t designed to handle issues like trade or product regulation, which had already been largely outsourced to Brussels.

    Now they are coming back to the UK, there’s an argument for something like Belgium’s federal system, but not much time or space to pursue it. It does seem to put the SNP in a tight spot – do they abandon pursuit of independence for the time being and unite with Labour’s (apparent) push for federalism? Or keep a watching brief to see what turns up, and be blamed for inaction?

    But as ever with UK-level politics, it’s hard to see a party that has one under the current system doing much to change it once it is in office.

  7. JackM says:

    Ireland is the major worry for May and the SNP look rudderless at the moment.

    1. mince'n'tatties says:

      Gerry Adams stated categorically on Al Jazeera that an unresolved border issue would under no
      circumstances result in a resumption of violence.
      Al Jazeera? Seems not to have piqued the interest of tv outlets nearer home. Wonder why?

  8. Jamsie says:

    So the question has been asked “what have labour or the tories fine for the east end of Glasgow?”
    It is true neither have been particularly effective in recent years.
    Possibly because the area has been represented by the SNP no?
    So perhaps the question should be what has the SNP done?
    Well Miss McGarry was too busy helping herself…….to other people’s money.
    John Mason has probably been to busy catching up in his geography.
    Skye!
    Maybe ha has been busy learning Gaelic.
    At the last Scottish Parliament elections for the first time in living memory a Tory was elected albeit only on the list!
    What does that tell you about how people feel.
    The electorate are not thick they know when a single obsession is affecting the delivery of good governance.
    Hence the recent results at elections and in polls.
    The trend in support for the SNP is on the way down.
    Wee Nicola is trapped in a calamity of her own making and she knows the dream has eluded her.
    It is time to get on with government for all or to get out.
    Will she have the moral backbone to do this who knows.

    1. Kenny Smith says:

      Fud

      1. Jamsie says:

        And of course who can forget the nationalist supporters who have nothing to offer but abuse.
        Thank goodness they are a minority and totally irrelevant.

        1. Kenny Smith says:

          Dub it ya fud

          1. Jamsie says:

            Yes those.
            Does it not make you realise how much of a lucky escape we had in 2014.
            Can you imagine the state of the nation?
            What amazes me is that they think there is still a chance people will change their minds a jump to support Indy.
            How am they be so thick?

  9. Kenny Smith says:

    Jamsie, you are not on here to debate or offer an alternative point of view. You are on here purely to antagonise and troll. You complain about abuse when you actively seek it. Independence is not the cure for all ills in this land but it’s a start or could be a start. Scotland is having its neck squeezed while her pockets are emptied. Please don’t give me the whole we need England to support us. I would be happy in a union is nothing like a union certainly no family of equals. I can’t even begin how someone squares the argument that ” your such a terrible drain but we won’t let you leave ” I will never understand people who rejoice in how shit we are. I’m genuinely amazed by that thinking. I can’t understand the whole denial of Scotland being a country, you might be happy living in the land north of the north but some can’t sit by and watch a joint signatory to a supposed union being slapped aside. Vote Tory, read the daily mail but give up your false concern for this nation for you and your like keep it in chains. One day there might be something that finally hits home that a sweaty sock is all you are to Westminster, good for cannon fodder and not much else. Hope to hear from you soon fud

  10. Graeme Purves says:

    Spot on, Peter. What we are seeing from the Tories is the practical application of the Plantagenet view of Scotland and Wales as Possessions of the English Crown, to the gibbering applause of the likes of Jamsie.

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