Tele column – 3rd August 2018

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee of which I am a member published a report last Tuesday. Like all of our reports it is based on evidence given to the committee from experts. In this instance it was from politicians and academics. The committee consists of five Conservative MPs, two of which have been the Secretary of State for Wales, five Labour MPs and me. I am the only member of the committee that represents a Scottish seat. The latest report is titled ‘Devolution and Exiting the EU: reconciling differences and building strong relationships’.

What this report does is highlight the lack of trust, confidence and understanding within the UK government. When the Scottish Parliament was established the UK was already part of the European Union. Had it not been, then powers that now sit at Brussels would have been in the devolved settlement. However now that we are leaving the European Union, Westminster wants to hold those powers for up to seven years. Westminster is effectively intercepting them in transit and holding them back from reaching their intended destination, Holyrood.

The report highlights the fact that the discussions between the UK government and the devolved administrations regarding Brexit have not gone well because of a lack of consultation from the UK Government. It is my opinion that had they sat down with the devolved parliaments immediately after the vote to leave the European Union and had a grown up conversation that allowed for input and constructive criticism then we could be in a very different place. Instead the UK government internalised all the discussions and conflated their dual role as a government for the U.K. and for England. When they did finally involve the devolved powers they did not engage in a constructive dialogue, they attempted to lecture as if they were living back in the days of colonial rule. Westminster is used to ruling the roost. It moves slowly and takes comfort in its antiquated ways. Having to work alongside the devolved powers has shown up its inadequacies. When confronted with valid concerns the UK government retreated back to their silo and started fighting amongst themselves. The overriding of the Scottish Parliament and the supposition of Westminster’s sovereignty over Scotland is now being questioned in the Supreme Court. If this is the approach that has been adopted while engaging with the EU27 then it is no wonder that side of the Brexit negotiations are also in a shambolic state.

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