EU powers post-Brexit – a case for more devolution to Scotland?

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.

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One Response to EU powers post-Brexit – a case for more devolution to Scotland?

  1. Scotched earth says:

    As Stephen Daisley put it:

    What powers were at risk of being repatriated to London? Apparently, and bear with me here, when we leave the EU and control of fishing and agriculture returns to Britain, some powers will go to Westminster rather than Holyrood. The SNP wants all these powers handed to Edinburgh. That is, until they get independence, when they’ll hand back them to the EU. Nicola Sturgeon wants Scotland to keep powers it doesn’t currently have so it can return them one day to the body that actually has them. If the political thrillers don’t sell, she should try her hand at science fiction.

    Daisley, Stephen. “If they want to stop indyref2, the silent majority cannot be silent.” stephendaisley.com. 6 Mar. 2017. Web.

    The best people to have charge of fishing are the communities themselves—let Orkneys, the Shetlands, Fraserburgh, etc. run their own affairs as far as practicable; matters outwith their competence (negotiating treaties defining fishing grounds, despatching RN vessels to protect our fishing grounds, etc.), they can bring to the attention of Westminster, whose proper preserve those powers are. Holyrood is too remote, both geographically and metaphorically, from the fishing industry to run it competently, and it does not have the powers to protect or negotiate fishing grounds.

    As I’ve written repeatedly: Holyrood was the wrong devolution model (and I soon regretted voting for it in ’97). We once enjoyed a marvellously devolved system of local government that had evolved over centuries, with even police and hospitals in the charge of our Royal Burghs/Boroughs—much resembling the oft-touted Swiss-model of democracy, but not even the Swiss allow their cantons to run their own police forces. (For further reading, see Lord Stoddart, HL Deb (2002–03) 20 Feb 2003 cc1309–1310.)

    Effie Deans wrote in the wake of the 2017 electoral result that, in Scotland, we are ‘reintroducing two party politics’ (‘The SNP goal is receding into the distance.’ 1 Jul. 2017). I hope it’s true and that Scots realise that, to have a greater say in Westminster, they should vote for parties that form either the government or the opposition. However, that calculation only applies to GEs—there is no particular advantage to having Labour or Tory in HR, vis-à-vis HMG. Combined with the usual low turnout for devolved elections, the SNP can reasonably expect to continue being either the ‘government’ in HR or the primary opposition, even as voters consign them to the dustbin of history with respect to Westminster. Which means that the SNP will be able to leverage the platform provided by HR to foment trouble, even though representing a fraction of the Scottish electorate (25.85% as of 2016).

    To protect the Union, we have to lance the Devolution boil.

    Liked by 3 people

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