Devolution Principle: What is not reserved is devolved

Maree ToddThe Scottish Conservatives found themselves utterly isolated this week in Holyrood. Many will recall that they were the only party who campaigned against devolution back in 1997. Here they are, more than 20 years on, still refusing to stand up for the Scottish Parliament. At least they are consistent!

In an unusual display of unity, the SNP, Labour, Greens, and Lib Dems all stood together, to defend devolution – which of course has majority support in Scotland.

It was a momentous day, not least because it was a constitutional first. It is the first time Holyrood has refused to consent to a piece of legislation from Westminster that encroaches on devolved issues.

Why? Well this is fundamentally an issue of principle. And the principle of devolution is simple – what is not reserved is devolved – and legislation should not be imposed on Scotland by Westminster after it has been specifically rejected by our parliament.

After the vote, the Scottish Secretary David Mundell, was quick to say that the Tory government would overrule our wishes.This will be a blatant disregard of the will of the Scottish parliament and will further erode trust.

Meanwhile, a new report that confirms Brexit is the biggest challenge the Highlands and Islands has faced for generations – which will come as no surprise to Orkney residents.

The study (from the Highlands and Islands Agriculture support group) highlights significant challenges that could be faced by farming and crofting communities post Brexit and calls for targeted help to deal with them. It looks at the likely impacts of different Brexit scenarios on the economy and communities and their related effects on wildlife, the environment and key sectors such as tourism.

It is clear that existing trends such as declining agricultural activity, land abandonment and a shrinking agricultural workforce, could be accelerated by Brexit. These trends have already had a negative effect on environmental land management and the food and drink and tourism sectors.

My Government colleague Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing said that the report highlighted the distinctive challenges of farming in the Highlands and Islands, both in terms of the land and those available to work it.

I can only agree with his assertion that it’s vital that the special circumstances of the Highlands and Islands are not ignored, and that their unique social, economic and environmental conditions remain supported.

That’s why we need our devolved parliament to be able to choose to do things differently in Scotland.

On the issue of agricultural support for example, the UK Government regularly takes a position in relation to EU regulations that there must not be direct support for Scottish farmers. We continue to have direct support for farmers in Scotland only because the UK was out voted by the rest of the EU member states. We should all ask ourselves—what will the position be post-Brexit, when we are not protected by the EU?

Can we trust the Tories in Westminster to act in our best interests? I don’t think so!

This is a regular column from local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. The Orkney News has offered the same column space to the Conservatives, Labour and Scottish Green local MSPs.

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