Under what circumstances would the SNP-Green government trigger a Holyrood Special Election in defence of devolution?

The next in Gordon Guthrie’s mini-series exploring the routes and tactics towards independence ahead of the SNP conference.

Question 3: Under what circumstances would the SNP-Green government trigger a Holyrood Special Election in defence of devolution?

The Scottish Parliament is impregnable – can’t be attacked or defanged.

First Past The Post produces wipeout elections which smash the constitutional order: the 1918 general election in Ireland, the February 1974 Westminster election where 11 out of 12 seats went to anti-powersharing ultras with 51% of the vote: constitutional collapse, continued violence, death and misery for 25 years.

We have had three of these: in 2017, 2017 and 2019. We want Holyrood, with First Past The Post at Westminster our opponents need it, well our opponents in Scotland need it.

There is a tension that is tearing particularly the Scottish Tories apart – a tension between MSPs who are existentially committed to Holyrood and MPs who are meh.

Without a Scottish Parliament, the SNP becomes again the trinity of the only scottish party, the only national party, the Scottish National Party – the Scottish opposition just dusty wikipedia pages.

In this context Section 3 (1) (b) of the Scotland Act 1998 becomes critical. If a majority government resigns, doesn’t put up an FM candidate and votes down the opposition then there will be an extraordinary General Election.

Be under no illusion, this is not a quick route to referendum. 3 (1) (b) would be a bloody and prolonged process and leave Scotland effectively government less for an extended period. Embarking on it for party advantage during a poly-crisis would be disastrous and would be punished by the voters. As a step to get a referendum it would be suicidal, as a defensive mechanism it still might be.

Attempts by Westminster to chip away at Holyrood need to be resisted. If the Supreme Court decides our way and Westminster brings in a blocking bill – Section 3 (1) (b). It remains unlikely they would. Liz Truss’s comments this week about no referendum under any circumstances sounded more like a robotic repetition of a line than a firm statement of legislative intent.

But that is not the only circumstance where is raises its ugly head.

When Stormont was abolished in 1972 the worry was 2 legislative programmes would swamp Westminster. The Secretary of State got decree powers, Orders in Council, to legislate for NI. This was temporary for a year, but soon permanent.

Decree powers in NI went to a single minister with a dedicated territorial department, which contained in its multitudes the whole of the old NI civil service. Delicate and substantial things were done: abolishing the right to silence, privatising Harland and Wolff. There was civil service continuity.

Leaving the EU brought the same dilemma – how to handle the workload of the European Parliament – and the same temporary decree powers.

The Westminster cabinet is a hodgepodge of UK, GB, E&W and English territorial departments. And so these new decree powers have been handed out like sweeties across them all.

Kwarteng yoloed off a cliff, image a bus load of Kwartengs primed and ready to go-lo.

A random Westminster department, operating in ignorance but good faith, could yolo an explosive political decree at any time. That is what lack of scrutiny does. A Section 3 (1) (b), an extraordinary General Election, could come from nowhere. We maun be ready.

Comments (5)

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  1. henry says:

    “committed to Holyrood and MPs who are meh”

    “yoloed”

    “yolo ”

    above is tip of the iceberg ….can somebody proof read before posting, i won’t get that 10 mins of my time back

    1. It’s slang, It’s the writers style.

      1. Dennis Smith says:

        I am all in favour of diversity. But if Bella plans to publish articles that are not written in English, Scots or Gaelic it would be considerate to readers to indicate this at the start.

      2. Daniel Lamont says:

        It may be the writer’s style but surely he wants to communicate his ideas? I find his posts less than coherent and almost impossible to follow .

  2. Mr E says:

    A busload of jo-lo’s yo-lowing to maun is intriguing. Is it the new hard-hitting political commentary on some irrelevant bullshit question? I’m not reading any more of this author’s stuff.

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