Stephen Bailey: There is nothing permanent about devolution

Bagpiper outside Scottish Parliament Building.

 By Stephen Bailey.

One of the major pieces of evidence the ‘mainstream Unionist’ parties (the ‘Conservatives,’ Labour and Liberal Democrats) have thoroughly embraced the devolution process and abandoned genuine Unionism (which sees the U.K. as a single unitary nation) is the 2016 Scotland Act of the David Cameron era’s so–called ‘Conservative and Unionist’ Party, which states that the devolution ‘settlement’ of Tony Blair is ‘permanent’ and so can never be abolished.

This is just NOT the case under U.K. Constitutional law.

No Parliament is bound by the laws and acts of any previous sitting of the House of Commons.

The great jurist and Constitutional expert A. V. Dicey definitively stated that:

‘No Parliament can be bound by any previous Parliament or pass an act that will bind a future Parliament. No other body has the power to override or set aside an Act of Parliament’

– A.V. Dicey’s definition of Parliamentary Supremacy.


‘The doctrine of implied repeal is a concept in constitutional theory which states that where an Act of Parliament or an Act of Congress (or of some other legislature in a common law system) conflicts with an earlier one, the later Act takes precedence and the conflicting parts of the earlier Act becomes legally inoperable’.

 – Both quotes from ‘Introduction to the study of the Law of the Constitution’ (1885).

In a nutshell, the 2016 Scotland Act DOESN’T make devolution permanent as any future Parliament can repeal it at any time.

Conditions and circumstances do evolve as history unfolds and so consequently the laws governing matters that have changed need to be amended to suit the current situation. Added to this, contrary to what David Cameron has asserted, putting the word ‘permanent’ in the 2016 Scottish Devolution Act DOESN’T mean it can’t be repealed. 

Once a Government won a majority in a general election on a manifesto commitment to repeal Tony Blair’s devolution ‘settlement’ (an ironic word to use as devolution has created much division and discord, especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland) it would have a cast–iron democratic mandate to do so and the path to abolition of devolution would be very clear under U.K. Constitutional Law.

A bill can be introduced into the House of Commons that repeals the acts of Parliament that set up devolution originally (i.e. the 1998 Scotland Act) and all the subsequent acts that supplemented it (like the 2016 Scotland Act et al.) and devolution would be abolished.

However, a devolved administration (i.e. that of the S.N.P.) CANNOT get a democratic mandate from an election at a devolved legislature as the Constitution is a reserved matter.

Contrary to the falsehoods propagated by David Cameron when he was leader of the supposedly Unionist ‘Conservative’ Party, who knew full well that it wasn’t the case but who deliberately deceived the public in an arrogant, elitist way, thinking that they didn’t understand the facts behind the issue, it is completely possible to abolish devolution by the Parliamentary repeal of the devolution acts that set it up originally.

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© 2021 Stephen Bailey


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