Talk about putting words in someone’s mouth, queenie had a whole speech put in hers this week as she opened the Westminster parliament. She gave us the tories’ to do list for the next parliamentary session. Top of the list was the Scotland Bill 2015-16 which is the unionist parties’ response to the infamous vow. As we all know this bill is based upon the Smith Commission which is the worst of compromises between the unionist parties, the lowest common denominator of powers that they were prepared to lend to the Scottish parliament. But this post is not about the bill itself, I’m more concerned about the timing of the bill. Here’s where we’re at:
The bill is sponsored by the only tory MP in Scotland, our old friend Fluffy. It will be passed through the house of lords by his new sidekick, the unelected Lord Dunlop of Poll Tax. The bill is expected to pass into law before the Scottish parliamentary elections on 5th May 2016. But why the haste?
It could be because the tories have a wafer thin majority in the Westminster parliament, the house of lords is stuffed with them so no worries there but the house of commons is the real issue. The tories could be concerned that their majority could be eroded quite quickly, what with defections to UKIP, the odd nonce being unmasked or the grim reaper doing his work. But I doubt that because all of the other unionist parties are on side. The SNP, with 56 MPs, has no chance of stopping the bill going through.
It could be because they want the bill in law before the Scottish parliamentary elections, so that they can hold it up and give us all the “vow delivered” manure. The bill as it stands is unlikely to come anywhere close to home rule, as promised during the final stages of the independence referendum, but this won’t stop the unionist propaganda machine from pushing it down our throats continuously during the election. Do they seriously believe that this will make us vote for the unionist parties? I doubt it, the new realpolitik suggests that pro independence parties will wipe the floor with what remains of unionism in the Scottish parliament. The negative aspects of this bill will completely overshadow any positives that may come from it.
So why the haste then? I believe that the tories want to get this bill out-of-the-way so that it does not interfere with the EU referendum in 2017. There may be elements of the above 2 scenarios in their thinking, but the EU referendum is all for them. They have kicked the abolition of the Human Rights Act into the long grass for now, largely due to the number of potential tory rebels and the meeting between Alex Salmond and Dominic Grieve. They say that they need to take their time and get it right, so why not do the same for the Scotland Bill?
So what’s to be done? Amendments, that’s what. Our new representatives should table amendments to the bill to make it reflect what the people of Scotland want. That’s why we elected them after all. The effect of these amendments will be to prolong the journey of the bill through parliament. The SNP have no lords so it will all have to be done in the commons. Will this be sufficient to upset the tory timetable? Probably not given their majority, but then a week is a long time in politics. The Scottish parliamentary elections are 11 months away. Who knows what could happen between now and then?