So the Scotland Bill has passed through the house of commons, a bit like a turd is passed through the human body, and the Smith Agreement has been delivered in full. According to Fluffy, the Viceroy and Governor General of Scotland, “These improvements will strengthen the Scotland Bill and put beyond any reasonable doubt for any reasonable person that the Government is delivering the Smith Agreement exactly as we promised we would.”
Notice how he uses the word “reasonable” twice in that sentence. The first instance is “beyond reasonable doubt”, this term used as the standard of evidence required to validate a criminal conviction. We’ll take a look at that one in a moment. The second use is “for any reasonable person”, again this is a legal term applied in common law. By using it here Fluffy is suggesting that if you disagree with him then you are clearly unreasonable. I must be unreasonable then, for the evidence that I will present here clearly shows, beyond reasonable doubt, that the Smith Agreement is not delivered in full by the current Scotland Bill 2015-16. The Vow has not been delivered either, despite it’s promises being as woolly as Fluffy’s hair.
The only concrete promise in The Vow is, “The Scottish Parliament is permanent.” This was agreed by the Smith Commission, the agreement states, “UK legislation will state that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government are permanent institutions.”
So what does the Scotland Bill say about the permanence of the Scottish Parliament? “The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are a permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements.” So it would appear that the Scotland Bill does indeed make the Scottish Parliament permanent.
But what’s this? Two paragraphs down the bill states, “In view of that commitment it is declared that the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are not to be abolished except on the basis of a decision of the people of Scotland voting in a referendum.” In other words, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government CAN be abolished. That doesn’t sound very permanent to me. But then I must be unreasonable. Or maybe I am reasonable and Fluffy is lying.
Let’s take a look at some of the other parts of the Smith Agreement. There’s the part which deals with the Crown Estate which states, “Responsibility for the management of the Crown Estate’s economic assets in Scotland, and the revenue generated from these assets, will be transferred to the Scottish Parliament. This will include the Crown Estate’s seabed, urban assets, rural estates, mineral and fishing rights, and the Scottish foreshore for which
it is responsible.” The Scotland Bill states, “The Treasury may make a scheme transferring on the transfer date all the existing Scottish functions of the Crown Estate Commissioners
(“the Commissioners”) to the Scottish Ministers or a person nominated by the Scottish Ministers (“the transferee”).”
So the Treasury “may” make a scheme, although it doesn’t have to if Gideon doesn’t want to. What if he’s blown all the dough on hookers and coke and he’s feeling a bit skint. He may decide that he won’t make that scheme after all. But let’s assume that he’s feeling all warm and fuzzy and makes the scheme after all, what would it contain? Well it would contain all of the Crown Estate wouldn’t it?
Errr no, You see, two paragraphs down there’s this, “Where immediately before the transfer date part of the Crown Estate consists of property, rights or interests held by a limited partnership registered under the Limited Partnerships Act 1907, subsection (2)(a) excludes—
(a) the property, rights or interests, and
(b) any property, rights or interests in, or in a member of, a partner in the limited partnership.”
So the whole of the Crown Estate in Scotland is not being devolved, as was agreed by the Smith Commission. So it would be reasonable to say that the whole of the Smith Agreement is not being delivered by the shiny new Scotland Bill.
Here’s another part of the Smith Agreement, “The Scottish Parliament will have the power to prevent the proliferation of Payday Loan shops.” What do we find in the Scotland Bill? Well nothing as it happens. Now why could that be I wonder? It would be because the Tories are largely funded by people associated with legal loan shark companies would it? Surely that’s what any reasonable person would think, isn’t it? But it’s just another part of the Smith Agreement which is not featured in the Scotland Bill.
As for the rest of the Scotland Bill, it’s beyond me. The language is couched in the most tortuous legalese that lawyers will be cashing in for years. But It would be reasonable to say that the it’s beyond reasonable doubt that the entire Smith Agreement has not been delivered by the Scotland Bill 2015-16 as it currently stands. Does that sound reasonable to you?
What about the veto which wasn’t a veto? You know the one where the Scottish Government has to consult the Secretary of State and get his agreement before they can implement anything. Well there’s this in the Bill, “If—
(a) the Scottish Ministers make regulations to which this section applies,
(b) the Secretary of State considers that it is not practicable to implement a change made by the regulations by the time that change is to start to have effect, (our emphasis)
the Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument amend
the regulations so that the change is to start to have effect from a time later than
the time originally set.
So Fluffy could say, “Yer nae deing that until 2025!” That sounds like a veto to me, or am I just being unreasonable?