As I write this, I see that UK secretary of state Damian Green is due to meet the SNP’s deputy first minister John Swinney and Brexit minister Michael Russell in Edinburgh to discuss ‘the possibility of releasing new powers to Holyrood after Brexit’ (BBC). Who knows, maybe even as I write they’re sharing pre-lunch nibbles at St Andrew’s House before a cosy chin-wag.
Somehow though I doubt it, since the SNP, as ever in grievance mode, have flagged up their belief, tactical or genuine, of a UK ‘power grab’ in the areas of fishing, farming and the environment, with Russell claiming this would be ‘a fundamental attack on the principles of devolution.’
Now hold on a minute Mike. Here’s my simple-minded idea of a power grab – I’ve got some and you come and take it away (a bit like the SNP’s centralisation of various public services like police and fire, but we’ll pass over that for the while).
But this is not what’s happening with Brexit.
Powers that currently reside with the EU are being brought back to the UK. Whether you like it or not, both levels of government are in a hierarchical sense above the remit of a devolved administration. Why should any powers that reside two levels above be passed straight down to the Scottish parliament, bypassing the UK parliament? Scotland is losing nothing. Indeed, if those powers reside in London it could be argued that they will now be closer to Scotland and more capable of being influenced in the parliament of a single state of which Scotland is part than in an amorphous grouping of 27 states in which Scotland is not directly represented (her MEPs being UK MEPs).
Anyhow, where is the clamour across the nation for more powers over fishing, farming and the environment? The fishing communities seem universally hostile to the SNP’s pro-EU policies and seem to trust the Tories to protect their interests more (check this year’s general election results). The farmers seem to have lost faith in the Scottish Government with the continued farce of the farm payments IT system. And as for the environment, the SNP have got a heck of a way to go to sort out the ‘pure Green hogwash fantasy’ of their own renewable energy targets (see the excellent Energy Matters blog, referred to in No Thanks! before).
From the other side of the fence – the UK government’s – I find it difficult to see what they have to gain by an act of appeasement, especially to an SNP government and party that have waned in popularity since their 2015 peak . The party has only one aim, and everyone knows it’s nothing to do with devolution at any level.
Oh well, I don’t expect Damian to read this and who knows what will be said after today’s meeting. Perhaps a bland joint press release will emerge although if it does I’d expect the SNP to keep sniping away at the ludicrous charge of a ‘power grab.’
Just don’t get your photo taken in front of two saltires, Damien. It solves nothing.