By Stephen Bailey.
It has now become clear that the concept of reserved matters, that is areas of policy that can only be discussed by the House of Commons and not the devolved executives, has been revealed by the real-world experience of the last twenty plus years of legislative devolution to be nothing more than a constitutional fiction.
Take the Constitution of the U.K., for example. It’s a reserved matter, but the S.N.P. (as well as Plaid Cymru and the Irish nationalists) simply ignore this and keep pushing for independence / re-unification referenda, despite the supposed constitutional bar on them getting involved in such matters.
It’s also clear that it’s time to stop pretending it’s the U.K. Government that has the final say on whether a referendum is held.
It’s patently obvious that, despite Constitutional Law stating that the U.K. Government has sole control over the constitution, based on the contradictory statements issued by different members of the U.K. Government, if the S.N.P. (or Plaid or the Irish nationalists for that matter) do formally ask for another independence referendum, there’s a danger that the Government will just cave in and grant one. This is irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the matter (indeed, this author can remember being told repeatedly by pro-legislative devolutionists over twenty years ago to relax about devolution as the U.K. Government would retain control over the constitution and so there was ‘zero chance’ of it being used to break up the U.K. – such irony).
David Cameron’s surrender to the S.N.P.’s pressure in 2012 to hold a referendum, despite the fact that only 28% of Scots supported it at that time is ample proof of this.
Boris Johnson has stood firm so far and refused S.N.P. requests for a referendum and hopefully he will continue to do so.
Mr Johnson should be encouraged to ignore the flip flopping engaged in on this matter by fake Unionists in his government like Michael Gove who show no consistency on this matter or genuine desire to maintain the Union against the assault from anti-U.K. nationalism.
Legislative devolution is an out of control, careering Frankenstein’s monster that has failed to be contained by constitutional rules and the only way to destroy this monster of modern aggressive nationalism, as personified by the S.N.P. and the increasingly aggressive, bellicose Plaid Cymru and Irish nationalism, is to abolish it.
The U.K. Government’s indulgence of the S.N.P.’s pretensions to being a national government is killing the Union.
The U.K. Government needs to stop imperilling the existence of the U.K. by indulging and not challenging the S.N.P.’s (and the other devolved administrations’) blatant disregard for their devolved remit by pretending to be a national government.
Devolution was just supposed to be a junior tier of local government, but in reality, the S.N.P., since coming to power in 2007, have pursued a programme of turning the Holyrood Executive into a kind of national government.
They re-named it ‘The Scottish Government’. They act like they are a sovereign national government and interfere in reserved matters, especially the Constitution (under which heading independence falls) and international trade / relations (i.e. Brexit). They have a national government ‘cabinet’, with ‘ministers’ that ape the jobs of the real ones at No.10. All the while, the U.K. Government does nothing to stop this and consequently it gets worse, year in, year out, which has caused and is worsening the constitutional crisis that the U.K. currently finds itself in.
The picture is the same in Wales with the Welsh Assembly being re-designated as a ‘parliament’ and the Labour led devolved administration increasingly acting like Wales is independent and they are its government.
In Northern Ireland too, the devolved executive at Stormont has adopted the manner of a national government, ignoring its devolved remit and getting involved in reserved matters. All over the devolved parts of the U.K., the remit system employed by legislative devolution has failed to contain the careering misuse of their powers by modern aggressive anti-U.K. nationalism.
What’s needed is for Westminster to stand up to the S.N.P.’s (and the other anti – U.K. nationalist parties’) abuse of devolution before it’s too late and abolish Holyrood (and the other devolved legislatures, the Welsh ‘parliament and Stormont).
Sturgeon has been running around various places abroad, acting like she’s the real Prime Minister of a sovereign country, opening ‘offices’ (an obvious attempt at projecting the impression to the World that the S.N.P. devolved executive at Holyrood is the national government of a sovereign country). She’s been trying to do trade deals on behalf of Scotland. She’s been trying to negotiate deals with Eurocrats over trade arrangements on Scotland’s behalf (all of which she knows she shouldn’t as these areas are outside her devolved remit). She’s been going to America to drum up support for independence, amongst other misdemeanours, not just the relatively unimportant First Minister of a sub-national devolved regional assembly. Her behaviour continues to prove that she won’t respect her devolved remit and that the only way to solve this problem is to completely abolish Holyrood. The same pattern of behaviour is evident in Wales’ and Northern Ireland’s nationalist parties.
A Tory M.S.P. was criticised a while ago and urged to apologise for asserting that the Scottish Parliament isn’t sovereign. She had nothing to apologise for.
Holyrood is simply a sub-national provincial assembly with limited authority over certain devolved matters (it’s devolved remit).
That was the purpose of devolution from the beginning over twenty years ago. The provincial executives were simply supposed to deal with local matters (that is Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland affairs) only and national issues were strictly reserved for the U.K. Parliament at Westminster. These executives were given the ability to initiate and pass primary legislation onto the statute book, but were meant to be within the U.K. – ‘autonomy within the U.K.’ In no way were they supposed to be the equivalent of the House of Commons, the national parliament of the U.K. They were simply supposed to be a junior tier of local government, under the U.K. Parliament.
The U.K. is a unitary country in which, whilst power over any matter can be devolved (or delegated) to other bodies within its regions, the country remains a singular political entity – the United Kingdom.
The House of Commons remains ultimately sovereign, but authority over certain matters, to a certain degree, in certain parts of the country are given to bodies in those areas to oversee (that is, they are devolved).
However, it must be stressed that the Parliament of the U.K. still retains full sovereignty, even over issues it has devolved to these provincial bodies and can take them away at any time.
Nationalists, especially, but not exclusively, the S.N.P. don’t appear to understand this principle of constitutional law and have abused their devolved remit by ignoring its boundaries and acting like they are a sovereign parliament, getting involved in matters that they shouldn’t – like the Constitution.
Consequently, legislative devolution hasn’t worked and won’t work in the presence of such aggressive separatist nationalist movements. The only realistic solution to this is to completely abolish Blair’s disastrous legislative devolutionary constitutional ‘settlement’ and replace it with its administrative equivalent.
For more than twenty years now, the citizens of the U.K. have had this constitutional fiction fed to them by pro-legislative devolution politicians and various media sources. It’s been claimed over and over again that legislative devolution is just ‘autonomy within the U.K.’, has limits placed on its powers, like with the Constitution, which it’s not supposed to become involved in as such matters are reserved for the House of Commons (it’s devolved remit) and so can’t possibly threaten the unitary integrity of the U.K.
This has been the grand theory, anyway.
Reality, however, has been markedly different. Modern aggressive nationalism, as personified by the S.N.P. in Scotland especially, but also by other nationalist parties in Wales and Northern Ireland, has simply ignored the constitutional restraints placed on the devolved legislatures and utilised legislative devolution as a tool to pursue independence.
This situation is totally untenable and the only solution is to repeal legislative devolution and localise power in the constituent parts of the U.K., whilst 100% guaranteeing the Union, by replacing it with the administrative variant.
This way, the parts of the U.K. maintain 100% control of their own local affairs, whilst matters that affect the whole U.K. are dealt with by the House of Commons and the Union is completely safe from nationalism.
For more from Stephen Bailey please visit: https://ukunionism.wordpress.com/blog-2/
© 2021 Stephen Bailey