Devolution in Reverse

Devolution is not just going in reverse. The Devolution settlement is a dead duck, swept aside by the Brexit counter-revolutionary steamroller. In a moment of crisis it turns out the Scottish parliament has no power and Scotland can look forward to a decade of Tory rule as a prisoner of the greatest neo-liberal trader and tax haven on the planet.

There is no democratic mandate for the Crown to take Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the Europen Union. In 2014 Scotland voted to remain in the UK and in 2016 voted to remain in the EU. This is a contradiction which overturns assurances given to Scottish voters in 2014 that remaining in the UK was the way to stay in the EU. It may be possible to patch it up with a dirty deal between Sturgeon and May. But the democratic solution is for the Scottish people, not politicians and bureaucrats, to vote and decide in a referendum.

There must be a second referendum in Scotland. This must ask the Scottish people if, in the light of England’s decision to leave the EU, they want to remain in the UK or in the European Union. This is too important to leave it up to Sturgeon and the SNP. This is not a repeat of the 2016 Tory referendum but is consequential to it. Ireland faces the same problem.

The situation in Ireland has its own logic. In the North fifty three per cent voted to remain in the EU and there is even larger support in the Republic. Yet once again, as it has been for centuries, the position of Ireland will be decided by the British Crown. The ending of the Stormont government by Sinn Fein because of the “cash for ash” corruption scandal reflects the worsening relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein. Bring into this explosive mix the border question, and the carefully constructed ‘Power Sharing’ house of cards may be in serious trouble.

The constitutional problems continue to mount. Devolution is not federalism but a barrier to it. It is not self determination but a road block against it. In devolving some powers, the Crown retains what it needs whenever it needs it. It must seize all the power it can get right now, taking back power from the Westminster parliament and from the devolved assemblies. It is a power grab brought on by the crisis of Brexit.

The Supreme Court has partly derailed that. The judges ruled that the powers of the Crown, so-called prerogative powers, cannot be used to bypass parliament on Article 50. They decided by eight to three it requires parliamentary approval. However the Devolved assemblies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have no powers or rights in this matter. Her Majesty’s judges were unanimous on this.

The Court pronounced that “on the devolution issues, the court unanimously concludes that neither section 1 nor section 75 of the NIA is of assistance in this case, and that the Sewel Convention does not give rise to a legally enforceable obligation.” Lord Neuberger said that “relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions.” Assurances given were not worth the paper they were written on.

Lord Neuberger recognised that “withdrawal from the EU will alter the competence of the devolved institutions, and remove the responsibilities to comply with EU law.” Blair’s Devolution settlement has been exposed as a hollow shell. The Scottish people and Scottish Parliament have to wait to be told their fate as the biggest constitutional and economic change is forced on them against their will.

Christian Allard, a French Scot, who served as an MSP for the SNP between 2013 and 2016, said: “Devolution is an illusion, devolution is no more. And the ruling is proving that devolution is just an illusion. Devolution died today. No surprise, just a proof that power devolved is power retained.”

England’s crisis is Ireland’s opportunity. If Ireland is ready to fight to remain in the EU then the battle over the Irish border is set to commence. Together Scotland and Ireland can finally end three hundred years of British Unionism, which is no more than an excuse for English chauvinism and bossy Thatcher type bullying.

Brexit is the greatest crisis that England has faced since the Second World War. Devolution saved the Union and Brexit has wreaked it. We are in a period of the phoney war like early 1940. No bombs have started to fall. The war of words is brewing up. Various war plans were being put in place. Corbo is leading his troops into the Tory-Unionist trenches. Very soon, in the next year, all hell is going to break loose.

Steve Freeman
Left Unity and Rise

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