Friday, 17 March 2017

Perfect, Prime Minister

Scotland has the perfect Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister who has briefed her Ministers not to respond to the Scottish Government's detailed alternative proposals to keep Scotland's place in Europe. She and her government treat the Sewell Convention with the utter contempt it deserves.

The Prime Minister who, yesterday, said 'yes' to a referendum for Scotland, but managed to make it sound like a 'no.' What she actually said - as GA Ponsonby shows in this blog - was "now is not the time." She repeated the phrase five times in the interview with Robert Preston.

Theresa May was definitely not chanelling Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady would have said "No. Not Ever." By saying "now is not the time", Theresa has done two things. She has incensed half of Scotland - because how dare an unelected Westminster leader dictate how and when Scotland can have its moment of democracy? And she has left us all beleiving that, OK, not now, but definitely later; she has given us a yes to #ScotRef.

She has simultaneously achieved the seemingly impossible: to sound like an Imperial Master, and yet to accept Nicola Sturgeon's timetable. As David Allen Green, head of media law at Preiskel & Co LLP, pointed out in Tuesday's Financial Times,

"Nicola Sturgeon, and her Scottish National Party government seem to have done something quite remarkable. She has somehow created a check and balance from constitutional thin air....Scotland’s First Minister appears now to have real political power, and she is seeking to exercise it. She has done this by setting different parts of the current constitutional arrangements against each other." 

Theresa May has also, possibly, saved the Scottish fishing industry. Think about this from the Brussels standpoint. David Davis is about to enter negotiations with the EU. Various EU states would love to get their hands on Scottish fishing waters - the Netherlands and Spain amongst others. So it was, until this week, an ace that Davis could play in the negotiations. For example: 'give us passporting rights for the City of London, and we will stop claiming the entire North Sea as an Exclusive Economic Zone.' In other words, Davis would sell the fish to keep the City.

But now the sensible, tough Brussels negotiators can say to Davis; "it looks more and more likely that Scotland will become independent. Your Prime Minister has said that Scotland can have a referendum...even if 'now is not the time'. We expect to welcome Scotland back into the EU. So you, Monsieur Davis, cannot use Scotland's fish as a bargaining chip."

The movement toward independence for Scotland has a contrary ally in Theresa May. But this is where the irony ends. Because this is also Theresa May, leader of the Conservative Party. Leader of the party that has left one million people in poverty in Scotland - poverty created by the Tories' focus on the rich, on the City and on the low-wage, low-tax, low-welfare Northern Singapore that they dream of, post-Brexit.

Now is not the time for the referendum that will free Scotland from the neoliberals at Westminster. But that time is nearly with us, and soon we will stand free.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Confidence Trick

Theresa May is a skilled politician. She knows how to win power, and to yield power.

She is confident that the Tories will win the next election, and the one after that. In those elections, Scotland is meaningless - its single Tory MP a toothless man in a beard. Labour too is meaningless, lost in its self-flagellation.

She enjoys power, so it is no surprise that, as she announced yesterday, she will be grabbing it back from the Scottish people and our Parliament. When power returns from Brussels it will stop in Westminster, where she can control it. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can go hang.

(In the process, she has also hung out Mr Mundell. He had clearly not been briefed about Theresa's speech to the Scottish Tories when, this week, he said that Scotland would have a more powerful parliament after Brexit).

Theresa knows that a week is a long time in politics. The two years since the Vow is an eternity, and anyway that was a Vow made by three men who are now, politically, dead. She is not, you may be sure, waking up at night to worry about devolution of power to Scotland.

Brexit has shone a laser light on the democratic deficit in Scotland. The Sewell convention is meaningless. The Vow was just a newspaper gimmick. And now, like it or not, Holyrood will be reduced to setting the price of parking tickets, and little else; less power than a Parish Council.

Time for Scotland to wake from the Tory nightmare, and win back its independence. Time for a new Referendum.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A House of Cardboard

Holyrood is a cardboard parliament. A single puff of wind from Westminster is enough to blow it over. Three stories evince its weakness:

Yesterday, Angus Robertson MP asked a key question: would decision making powers on agriculture and fisheries be returned to Scotland after Brexit? He said: "with Brexit ending the role of Brussels in these areas will all decisions about agriculture and fisheres be made at Holyrood, yes or no?"

Theresa May gave a humbug reply about discussions going on with the devolved administrations; not a yes and not a no.

Why is the SNP harrying poor Theresa about this? Because the Tories have stolen an EU phrase - the 'unified market' and stuck it onto the UK. Theresa tells us that Scotland will do much better if it is within the unified market of the UK than in the (much larger) EU. It's an odd way of twisting the facts, and as an argument was neatly dissected by Alastair MacIver in an article last November in the Herald

Dr MacIver argued that in order to create a 'unified' UK market there would have to be one unified authority that decided how our potatoes should be packaged or when our fish should be caught; it is exceedingly unlikely that the unified authority would be Holyrood. Westminster would of course retain these powers over agriculture, fisheries...and the regulation of everything else in the new low-tax-no-welfare Britain.

In January of this year, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the Sewell convention "does not give rise to a legally enforceable obligation". In other words, the entire basis on which power is handed to Holyrood is not legally enforceable. Holyrood has no power; it is a house of cardboard. If Westminster were to decide to pursue another of its wars in the Middle East, or to plant weapons of mass destruction in Scotland, or to hammer the poor, then Holyrood is powerless to stop it. Forget the Vow, folks, you now live in a world in which your parliament might as well pack its bags and go home.

Time, past time, for Scotland to step away from its destructive neighbour, and build a parliament of rocks and steel, not cardboard.