The Sewel Convention Debate took place in the House of Commons, London on the 18th of June. Ian Blackford, SNP leader had been granted the debate by the Speaker as no Scottish MP had been able to speak during the 15 minutes devoted to Devolution in the EU Withdrawal Bill debate.
The SNP is the third largest party in the House of Commons.
Ian Blackford led the debate which lasted 3 hours. It was difficult to watch – as they all are in Westminster – due to the constant noise of other MPs when one of them is speaking.
You can watch it here starting at 18:32:12 – Sewel Convention Debate
He accused the Tory Government of an attack on devolution.
“The Scottish Parliament that many fought so long and hard to establish is being emasculated by an anti-Scottish Tory Government here in London.“
He said the Secretary of State had downgraded Scotland from a nation to a region when he had said that Scotland was not a partner in the UK but a part of the UK.
He reminded the House that the Scottish People had voted overwhelmingly for the Scottish Parliament.
” Our Parliament in Scotland, which is supposed to be permanent, can see its powers being changed on a whim by Westminster” he said.
“Today, we see the Scottish Conservatives behaving exactly as they did in the past, and I make this prediction: they will pay the price again, because they have stabbed the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland in the back by taking these powers back.”
Having been goaded by Ian Blackford, David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland made his one and only contribution to the debate accusing the SNP leader of personal attacks and that his [Blackford’s] performance would not impress Scotland.
And that was the last we heard from David Mundell who left it up to David Liddington, MP for Aylesbury and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to speak for his Office.
The Scottish Tory MPs were completely isolated in the debate, as they are in the Scottish Parliament, with Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and SNP MPs all ranged against them.
The Tories reiterated their claim that Scotland’s devolved administration would be more powerful than ever before with Brexit and that what was being retained was only for a temporary period. This was a view only held by themselves.
MPs are elected to represent all their constituents and it is to be wondered what the electorate in remain voting areas think of their recently elected representatives being such enthusiastic Brexiteers. It is even more astounding that many of the Tories represent farming and fishing communities where control over those industries will now revert to the UK Government, over which they will have no say.
There were a lot of attacks on the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon. The Tories failed to accept that it was the Scottish Parliament which refused to grant consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill by overwhelmingly voting for the Continuity Bill and stated time and again that it was the Scottish Government doing this for their own political gain.
There was also a complete lack of accuracy about UK wide Frameworks.
What are UK wide Frameworks?
UK wide Frameworks will be shared standards which will be needed once we leave the EU in a few months time. Currently the UK shares standards with the 27 countries of the EU. High food standards and environmental protections which mean our food products are safe – we know what is in them.
These standards will be gone when we leave the EU. The Continuity Bill passed by the Scottish Parliament would retain these high standards until there is an equivalent replacement. There is no disagreement that shared UK Frameworks will be needed, however, the UK Government intends to have the deciding say on what they should be.
This means that if the UK Government wants to have GM crops and a lowering of food standards, they can over rule any decision made in any of the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Currently in Scotland there is a ban on GM crops for sale. That ban will go.
Alistair Jack, Tory MP for Dumfries and Galloway, a part of Scotland famed for its excellence in farming said:
” As we leave the EU and become a global free-trading nation again, common frameworks will ensure that the whole UK is able to benefit from the trade deals that will be signed with countries around the globe.
“Without those frameworks, we could end up with different regulatory systems throughout the UK, which could potentially make it harder for us to sign comprehensive free trade deals.”
And that is basically what it is all about, this power grab. Signing trade deals with Donald Trump’s America where chlorinated chicken and beef pumped with chemicals will flood into our market.
The farmers in Dumfries and Galloway would do well to remember Alistair Jacks words when that happens.
Many MPs called for the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, to resign who had made only that one brief inconsequential utterance in response to Ian Blackford.
Lesley Laird, Labour, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland did speak .
“Let us be in no doubt that we are in this mess because of the UK Government.” she said
And she too asked for David Mundell to resign.
At the conclusion of the debate there was a vote. This was when a bundle of Tory MPs who represent constituencies in England and who had spent their time drinking in the bar watching a football match trooped in.
The question was put (as they say ) “That this House has considered the Sewel Convention.” Ayes 88 Noes 51
And there you have it. No matter what the people of Scotland want, no matter who they elect to represent them in Westminster, it is of no importance for they will always be an irrelevance. When SNP leader Ian Blackford pointed this out the Speaker responded saying
“Nothing disorderly has happened this evening.”
Which of course is quite correct.
At the conclusion of his speech at the start of this debate Ian Blackford quoted the Irish Nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell:
“No man has a right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation; no man has a right to say to his country, ‘Thus far shalt thou go and no further.’”
[The UK Government was again defeated in the House of Lords on the EU Withdrawal Bill on 18th of June]
Reporter: Fiona Grahame