SNP leader Ian Blackford: Scottish Tories can help stop this constitutional outrage over Brexit
It’s unforgivable that Church of England bishops and unelected peers will have more of a say on vital Brexit legislation than elected Scottish MPs, writes Ian Blackford
This week Westminster witnessed the passage of the flawed EU Bill from the elected House of Commons to the unelected House of Lords. Let the irony sink in, as the very champions of the Brexiteer slogan ‘taking back control’ are now left sitting on the sidelines as unelected peers amend key legislation that will directly impact our everyday lives – without any accountability to people across the UK.
If the last 18 months of the UK government ducking and diving from parliamentary scrutiny was not enough, this week they opted to blatantly mislead the people of Scotland through Clause 11 of the EU Bill – the now famous power grab element of this legislation and the biggest threat to devolution.
Just last month, the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell promised that amendments would be tabled to Clause 11 to allow MPs to carry out their duty as parliamentarians and to debate, scrutinise and amend the legislation. A few weeks later, the UK government shamefully backtracked and admitted they would not table any amendments, and instead it would be left to the House of Lords.
Little did we know that ‘taking back control’ did not just mean from Brussels – but from Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast as well.
In the face of such a threat, and in the absence of any government amendments, SNP MPs worked with opposition parties seeking to secure the cross-party support for an amendment to prevent this Bill being railroaded through, and to ensure that devolved powers returning from Brussels, came to Holyrood – rather than stopping at Westminster.
However, when the time came to match rhetoric with action, the silence from Scottish Tory MPs was deafening.
Rather than standing up for Scotland, they instead fell in line behind their Westminster masters and voted down this crucial amendment, denying MPs any say on this aspect of the legislation – which even a Scottish Tory MP described as “not fit for purpose”.
It is now clear more than ever before, that Scottish Tory MPs are mere lobby fodder willing to let this failing and faltering UK government off the hook. What we witnessed was a shameful abdication of duty and a complete failure of the UK government and the Scottish Tory MPs to defend our national interest and those of their own constituents. They have promised Scots everything, and delivered nothing.
And we find ourselves in the bizarre and unforgivable position of Church of England bishops and peers such as Michelle Mone having more of a say over this legislation than elected Scottish MPs.
It is an absolute constitutional outrage.
The EU Withdrawal Bill is one of the most challenging and important pieces of legislation to pass through these parliaments.
We know extreme Tory plans to drag Scotland and the UK out of the Single Market and Customs Union would deal a catastrophic blow to the economy – leaving the whole country poorer and worse off.
In Scotland alone, 80,000 jobs are on the line, and the Scottish economy would be hit to the tune of £12.7bn a year – a loss equivalent to £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland.
That is why in the weeks and months ahead, the SNP will continue to challenge the UK government over its EU Bill in its current form, and make the case for protecting Scotland’s economic and social interests from the dangers of a hard Brexit, and our continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union, to protect jobs and prosperity.
Even at the eleventh hour, it is still not too late for Labour and Tory MPs to get up from the sidelines, and work together to protect Scotland and the UK from an act of economic self-sabotage.
Ian Blackford is leader of the SNP group at Westminster and MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber