My article for the Edinburgh Evening News on Brexit, devolution and the broken promises of the Scottish Tories.
You can also read the article on the Evening News website.
A Happy New Year to everyone. So, how many of us have broken our New Year’s resolutions already? I have. I promised I would have a dry January, but the lure of finishing some of the festive wine was just too much. Resistance is futile.
Despite many of us breaking our resolutions we all look forward to a new year with the hope of fresh beginnings.
I suppose it is almost acceptable to break promises that we make to ourselves but it is unforgivable when it is politicians, and the promises they make to their constituents.
Well, that is exactly what the 13 Scottish Conservative MPs have just done. They went to Westminster under the much-trumpeted rhetoric of “standing up for Scotland”. They were not tagged as Scottish Conservative MPs, during last June’s General Election, but “Ruth Davidson’s Conservative MPs”. In reality, they have spent the last seven months making up the numbers in the Conservative voting lobbies. This was highlighted again during the passage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill – the legislation that transposes EU law into UK law post-Brexit. During the course of a debate on my amendments, Scottish Conservative MPs lined up to say that the devolution provisions in this legislation (Clause 11) were “deficient” and should be amended to better reflect the spirit and practice of the devolved settlement. However, they voted against my amendments to correct the deficiencies.
The Secretary of State himself said the law was deficient but gave a solemn promise, on a number of occasions, to bring amendments at the next stage in Parliament to reflect the view of all sides of the House of Commons. This promise was accepted by Scottish Conservative MPs and they did as they were told by the Prime Minister and voted against my amendments to the Bill.
Fast forward to the New Year and the Secretary of State breaks his promise. This is completely unacceptable. We now have deficient legislation that undermines the Scottish Parliament with no Government amendments to correct it. Many amendments were dropped on promises given by the UK Government in Parliament. The solution? Scottish Conservative MPs should back my amendments to correct the deficiencies in the Bill and make sure the devolved settlement, which set up and expanded the powers of the Scottish Parliament, is respected. This is a moment of truth for the Scottish Tories. They failed to back amendments in December to avoid inflicting a defeat on their beleaguered Prime Minister because they and the entire House were promised action by the Scottish Secretary.
Allowing the EU Withdrawal Bill to pass to the House of Lords without necessary amendment would be an affront to voters. How can they vote for something that they know is “deficient”. They have been outmaneuvered, over-ruled and now bypassed. However naive they have been up to now and however embarrassed they must feel, the Scottish Tory MPs now have one last chance to do the right thing. They must put party politics aside and make a very bad piece of legislation just that little bit better. Otherwise, they will be righty accused of just doing as they are told by the PM, against the promises they made to the public.
I have written many times before about Brexit being an act of national self-harm that will have a significant negative impact on jobs and prosperity here in Edinburgh. It’s time for politicians of all colours to stand up and be counted. For 2018 will be a pivotal political year that will shape the country for generations to come. Let’s make sure it is a positive year.