Sometimes, things happen and you think to yourself how obvious it was that this would happen. There was never any doubt that the British establishment would respond to the Referendums Bill. The ‘review’ of devolution ordered by Theresa May is just the kind of response we might have expected and is, without doubt, partly prompted by what is regarded in London as a rather impertinent piece of legislation.
This is dominance behaviour. It is political scent-marking. It is a blunt and imperious message from the British state reminding us that they own devolution. They own the Scottish Parliament. They own Scotland. Devolution and all that has flowed from it – largely unanticipated by its architects – was a gift to her northern subjects from beneficent Britannia. And what is given can be taken away.
Scotland is being told to behave. Or else!
Look at who May has appointed to conduct this ‘review’! Andrew Dunlop! Who, unless I am very much mistaken is the individual who, together with Alistair Darling, cooked up all the inane scaremongering about currency in the final stages of the 2014 referendum campaign. If the appointment of a British lord isn’t a contemptuously calculated slap in the face to Scotland, then the choice of this particular example of that species surely is.
I say this ‘review’ of devolution is only partly a characteriscally high-handed and overbearing response to the Referendums Bil because this, or something similar, was inevitable anyway. As the British state prepares to exploit the constitutional implications of Brexit in order to restore and reinforce its grip on Scotland, there had to be an initiating act. It was never likely that the British political elite would simply close down the Scottish Parliament and declare the devolution experiment a failure. Although, as recent history teaches us, it would be unwise to discount anything as being beyond their capacity for arrogant idiocy, the British pride themselves on being devious and, from their own rather biased perspective at least, subtle.
A ‘review’ is as good a way as any to start the process of dismantling devolution. It is something that can later be referred to as if it justified the process. It helps to make suspending or closing the Scottish Parliament look like the outcome of a process that is rational and dispassionate. Or, at least, that is how it will be spun by the media arm of the British establishment.
Please don’t say you weren’t warned. Some of us have been warning about this since before the 2014 referendum. We recognised that the fate of Scotland’s Parliament was sealed in 2007 when, despite all the precautions to ensure that it would never happen, the British parties lost control of Holyrood. When, in 2011, the Scottish electorate broke the system that was supposed to keep the Scottish Parliament on a tight British leash, its fate was confirmed beyond any hope of reprieve.
The No vote in the 2014 referendum gave British politicians licence to do as they pleased with Scotland. The Leave vote in the 2016 EU referendum created a need to redefine the constitutional status of UK; and an opportunity to unilaterally redefine Scotland’s status within the UK. The nature of the Union ensures that neither the people of Scotland nor their elected representatives need be consulted.
Some may insist that saying the British state’s moves against the Scottish Parliament were foreseeable is just a case of being clever with hindsight. They will point to particulars that were were not predicted – such as ‘Dunlop’s review’ – and claim that this ‘proves’ the actions of the British state are such that nobody could have foreseen. But, quite apart from the fact that articles written as long ago as 2012 warning of the British state’s intentions, are still available online, any appreciation of the imperatives driving the British political elite and the options available made it obvious what was coming.
I say all this, not by way of a big “Ah telt ye!” – although I do reserve gloating rights – but in the hope that, realising we were right before, people may heed the warnings being issued now. It is to be hoped that people will at least attend to the voices saying how urgent it is that Scotland get out of the Union and warning of the consequences of failure to do so.
There may well be another purpose to the ‘Dunlop review’ of devolution. We are assured that “the review will look at areas within the UK Government set-up and not at devolved areas”. That, surprisingly, may actually be almost entirely true. It is difficult to see how any meaningful ‘review’ of devolution might exclude devolved areas. But the project makes perfect sense if the purpose of the ‘review’ is actually to gauge the preparedness of the ‘UK Government in Scotland’ to take over the powers and functions of the Scottish Parliament. It is unlikely that such a ‘review’ could be conducted in secrecy. So the sensible course of action is to announce it, but disguise its purpose.
And, of course, announcing the ‘Dunlop review’ means that it also serves the ‘scent-marking’ purpose referred to at the start of this article.
Be warned! The British government is gearing up to bypass and then eliminate the Scottish Parliament. It is preparing for an ‘end game’ in which Scotland’s distinctive political culture is eradicated. This is the ultimate playing-out of the Greater England project which aimed to obliterate Scotland’s national identity. All of this will come to pass because the imperatives of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism demand that it must be so.
Be warned! Unless the Scottish Government, the Scottish National Party and the Yes movement act promptly and in solidarity to prevent it, the juggernaut of British Nationalism will roll over our land and crush Scotland’s democracy.
Be warned! The consequences of acting and failing are now no different from the consequences of failing to act. And those consequences are catastrophic for Scotland. We must act now! We must #DissolveTheUnion!
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