On the one-sidedness of relations between the UK and Scottish governments

Is my memory at fault? In fifteen years of Scottish government in a Scottish parliament, I can’t remember one significant occasion on which the UK government has chided or sought to take action against Scotland’s government or parliament for what they might have done, failed to do, or said.

There’s been plenty of rough and tumble by individual politicians on both sides outwith the more formal communication by government or resolution by parliament. But with the obvious and very different exception of the referendum, have there been occasions when the UK institutions reprimanded or challenged Holyrood or the Scottish government on the exercise of their devolved powers?  I really can’t remember one although I’m happy to be corrected by readers with better memories than me.

Since the SNP came to power in Holyrood in 2007 the same cannot be said for traffic in the other direction.

There has been a constant stream of criticism of matters that are reserved to the UK and entirely beyond the Scottish government’s competence.

The Nation said No Thanks! has touched on some of these subjects. They include the EU, foreign affairs, defence matters and social security.

If you thought the referendum might have slowed down the rate of complaint, you’d be wrong.

The alleged inadequacies of the Smith Commission’s proposals (SNP members John Swinney and Linda Fabiani) have given a boost to complaints about matters that are nothing to do with the Scottish government. And even these last few days have seen their interference in a number of reserved matters:

  • the future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent
  • the threat to vote on matters to do with the English NHS at Westminster
  • the Chilcot (Iraq war) enquiry
  • the UK government’s nomination for a United Nations post.

And so it goes on.

Of course, they’re the party of separation and part of me knows they’ll keep on hammering whoever’s in power at Westminster on everything and anything that they believe helps their cause.

Where the one-sidedness comes in is my certain knowledge of how they’d behave if the UK government or parliament deigned to criticise actions they take on devolved matters.

Say, for example, David Cameron had torn into the decision to invest a major part of the Scottish government’s capital programme in the new road crossing of the Forth that may or may not be needed yet. Or the late lamented secretary of state for education, Aberdeen-educated Michael Gove, had had the temerity to point out that the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence was taking forever and standards in Scottish education may be slipping (ITV’s Peter Macmahon has an excellent blog post on this subject).

Synthetic outrage would have been the order of the day, just as it was pre-referendum whenever the prime minister looked as if he might be heading north to Scotland (‘Keep out of our patch!’) or during the referendum  when he wasn’t (‘Where’s the feartie now, eh?’).

All of course is grist to the nationalist mill.

I just wish that they wouldn’t waste energy and ill-will on matters that have nothing to do with them when there is so much that could be done, and needs to be done, with the powers they already have and the new powers they are likely to acquire soon.

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