Thursday, 28 May 2015

They can what?

Today the Scotland Act was introduced to Parliament, ready to wend its way through debates in the Commons and the Lords before passing into law.  And some in Whitehall have just noticed a provision tucked away in the labyrinthine document that has caused them some alarm.

Currently the devolved parliament in Scotland and Westminster follow something called the Sewell Convention.  This means that, when seeking to introduce legislation on reserved matters that would affect Scotland, Westminster seeks the consent of the Scottish government in Holyrood.  The Scotland Act proposes that this convention should be given the force of law.  If this is passed, this could well mean that the Scottish government will have an effective veto over legislation such as the abolition of the Human Rights Act.  It would also mean that the House of Lords could no longer remove powers from Holyrood without so much as a by-your-leave.

Naturally this has caused consternation amongst some of the Tories, who don't like the idea of Scotland having any power at all over Westminster, let alone the power of veto.  I'd guess that David Cameron will be less worried about this, since it gives him an excuse for not meeting this manifesto pledge - 'sorry, chaps, damned Scotch won't let me'.  However, this could be a very powerful weapon in the arsenal of the Scottish government.

For that reason, I suspect that this particular proposal will be amended, possibly out of existence, during its passage through the two chambers at Westminster.  The SNP will, of course, fight against it, but it may well be that the Unionist parties will force it through.  And won't that do wonders for the relationship between the Scots and the English.

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