Earlier this evening I spoke in the House of Commons on the third reading of the Scotland Bill. Complex bills can be given several days of debate in the chamber but today, the highly technical and complex Scotland Bill was allowed a total of around six hours. When you take out the time for voting, realistically that only left about four hours to discuss and debate over 200 motions and amendments.
I recognised that many who voted no last year, did so because they are happy with the status quo and wanted to remain in the United Kingdom as it stands. However, there is another group of people who voted no because they believed what they were told by the leaders of the unionist parties, that a no vote on the 18th September was not a vote for the status quo but was a vote for a new relationship within the union where additional powers would be transferred. Undoubtedly this group were decisive in swinging the No vote.
When the SNP signed the Smith Agreement, we were clear that this was the start of a process. That the agreement would be the floor and not the ceiling of our country’s aspirations for self-governance. In our view the first draft of the bill clearly did not deliver the Smith Commission - and a large number of organisations such as trades unions and charities agreed with us. We argued during the election in May that the government's proposals were inadequate - putting an increase in powers for Scotland front and foremost of our manifesto. We sought a mandate and we got it.
Over the last four months we have been trying to strengthen the bill - aiming to bring it more in line with the views of the people who are to be governed by it. It would be fair to say that most of our efforts have failed as the Tories have a majority and, despite the best arguments, they always drag out the numbers to vote us down. We have won a few things though, like an agreement that the Scottish Parliament cannot be abolished without a referendum.
Tonight, despite the Tories accepting some changes, it is clear that the Bill does not satisfy the aspirations of the Scottish people for greater control over their own affairs. It is a response to the Smith Commission. We are still waiting to see what the Government’s response to the General Election was when the people of Scotland made their view quite clear. Whatever happens this evening, this isn’t over.
Never has a Bill been so amended by its proposers and still managed to fall so far short of its declared objectives. None the less I did welcome that second thoughts are being had and some improvements being made.
But there is much more that could and should be done - even before this bill becomes law.
Accepting that the Scottish Parliament cannot be abolished unless the majority of people agree in a referendum recognises that sovereignty lies with the people of Scotland. I therefore invited the Secretary of State to go one step further, and support the SNP’s proposal to recognise that sovereignty in future decisions about how Scotland is governed.
There may or may not be a second referendum - but the decision on whether there is or not should be one for the parliament of Scotland. The Smith Commission actually said that none of its report prevented the people of Scotland having a further choice in years to come. But without the parliament being able to organise a referendum there is a worry that Westminster will simply refuse the people any future say. Sadly Labour abstained on this and so it was us against the Tories - they won!
Secondly, the Smith Commission was clear that the Sewel Convention should be enshrined in law. Yet still, after all this time, this has not happened. The Sewel convention says that the UK parliament should not interfere in devolved decisions made by the Scottish parliament, or any other devolved assemblies. It clearly should form part of the Bill. Our amendment on this was supported by the Labour Party and others but the government still won by 32.
I also argued that full economic powers should come to Scotland so that the Scottish government can take action to grow our economy and make sure it works for everyone. This was resisted by Labour and the Tories but without any principled argument being put against. You can be sure this will definitely be part of the election campaign in 2016.
Finally, the Smith commission was very clear, it said that whatever powers are devolved to Scotland in this or any other settlement, it should be at no detriment. In other words, at the point of transfer of power the Scottish budget should not suffer as a consequence.
At the moment UK and Scottish ministers are discussing the so-called Fiscal Framework which will describe the financing of implementing the bill. Tonight we gave notice to the government that we will not accept a situation where Westminster uses the transfer of (limited) powers as a means of back doors cuts to the Scotland budget. In the event, the bill passed its reading and it's now off the Lords for the un-elected to comment.
Thanks for the update Tommy; frustrating as it is, it's good to know you've got our interests at heart. For me the biggest question lies in the ability for Scotland to decide its own future in years to come and the fact that Labour abstained is astonishing.
A very sad but unexpected result, the electorate must be fully informed of the Scotland bill and the areas where the powers have been watered down or denied. Proud of all our MP's
Tommy, you and the rest of the SNP, must tell the public the real truth about how the Scotland bill affects them. You must also tell them that even if Nicola raised the taxes for the higher bands to fund tax credits, the UK government will take the top up back through either tax or by cutting the Scottish tax credits that are left after Osborne's cuts will be cut again by the same amount the Scottish government give them. So basically more money from the poor of Scotland to the evil Osborne treasury. And if kezia Drysdale tries to go ahead and shout Nicola down for saying no, by telling her that labour were traitors to the Scottish people by voting with the Tories not to fully devolve tax credits to the Scottish parliament. My above point about the tax credits was realized when mhari black asked Blundell if the money that the Scottish government gave to top up tax credits would be taken back by Westminster, he refused to answer.
I say do not fall into the Tory trap that is the Scotland bill, and do not pass it in holyrood. If Scottish government pass this bill in holyrood, the SNP would lose the trust of the yes side and they would think you are just taking what Westminster throw at you on the chin. We need to fight this every step of the way, the amount of pure hatred from both labour and Tories when the Scotland bill was being debated was so evident, to all of Scotland who watched it. They clearly think they own us and can do anything they please, we need to stop playing by their rules and start fighting on our own rules. We are not an English colony, we are a nation, and we are entitled to walk out right now because the acts of union is dissolved with EVEL. We must print everything that is so wrong with the Scotland bill and get it to every household in Scotland.
I was so proud of you all by keeping your cool, because every SNP member, yes supporter I have spoken to have said what I think. We think you should just walk out and get Nicola to recall the third estate and put a motion for independence in the Scottish parliament when all msps, mps and the third estate are in holyrood. The third estate cannot refuse because they would lose their titles. This must come to an end, before the Scottish people start dying in their droves, because it's coming Tommy. SNP must not let it happen.
I forgot to add, to do it after we get a bigger majority in May in the Scottish parliament. There is no way SNP will lose. If Nicola doesn't take the above option then you need to go to the UN and EU and tell them exactly what is going on. Everyone knows the referendum was rigged, and the Westminster establishment will move the goalposts every time. Time to start playing by our own rules and put an end to what is definitely NOT a union of equals, and if Westminster want EVEL, then we shall have Scottish Votes for Scottish Laws, so only Scottish mps can pass laws that affect Scotland. It's time to get out of this evil as soon as possible.
Thanks for this, Tommy. We're clearly not in a union of equals and we're expected to shut up and do as we're told. Well we won't. Already the corporate media are spinning this to make it look as though Scotland has been given sweeping new powers that meet our demands and very few in the media are actually doing their jobs and giving an objective view.
Labour's decision to back the Tories to keep tax credits under Westminster's control, and yet to quack loudly about mitigating the effect of these cuts in Scotland is nonsense. Surrealist nonsense. And we hear that Mundell will not rule out Westminster's clawing back any mitigation that the Scottish Government puts in place to top up the cuts in tax credits.
This Bill is a nonsense, too, as is our relationship with the union. I don't know how you all keep your sanity, dealing with the mess of the House of Commons.
The sooner we're out of this not-fit-for-purpose union, the better for all of us up here. It's so distressing to see so many people being hammered by the Tory cuts, and seeing our public services get driven into the ground, and Holyrood having to spend precious money trying to protect Scotland.
If not now, then when.
The part that I fret over is the working tax credits,and the Scottish government not being able to mitigate the cuts.As it is completely left in the hands of Westminster,any monies paid to people the inland revenue will deduct that amount from what they were going to get,so creating a downward spiral and Holyrood would have to pay the complete sum,just another way of cutting the Scottish budget.I have always advocated the process of convincing the people that we need independence,but these past few weeks I have started to fall in line with those that wish to declare UDI,now I am 63,been an SNP supporter all of my voting life aye even when we had only one MP,and been a member off and on for many years,never fell out just moved with the work,so missed the times to pay subs;. Now its on direct debit so not missed a year for a few years now.I'm not working I became disabled 5 years ago,and cant work they just gave me the pension,and parked me at they way-side,not a moan just glad to be alive.Aye all dirty deeds are there to be seen and some may not be seen just yet not until they bite and its too late.
I watched the debate. How can you and the other SNP MPs keep so cool? I was beyond fury! This debate should be compulsory viewing for everyone in Scotland, but sadly the majority will only get their information from the MSM.
Not long to go before the May elections. We need to use as many ways as possible to get the message out. Social Media has its limitations. As said there will be many who will not get the message and who will conclude that all must be OK. Quite coniving and obviously shocking how much influence "the powers that be" have over broadcasting and the press. It would be great to see yourself and a few others, use TV shows, to get the message out. There's an SNP meeting at mine on 28th November, but with the Festive Season, there's very little time! Let's get cracking and get those who "Shivered" @ The Referendum to come under the safety of Our Umbrella.
Four weeks ago I was worried about writing this column on the eve of the last major parliamentary debate on Brexit. Anything could have happened, rendering my speculation obsolete by the time you read it. I shouldn’t have fretted. Anything could have happened but nothing did.
Here I am again. Groundhog day. It’s Tuesday. There’s a big debate tomorrow.
Tuesday. Another day spent discussing Brexit. Another day of my life I’m not getting back.
We are no further forward. As the clock ticks down to exit it’s only fair to ask: What the hell is Theresa May playing at?
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Labour Party