Crisis? What crisis?

Ian Blackford proclaims that UK faces a “constitutional crisis” over Brexit Bill votes in the three devolved parliaments. The National notes that,

While none of the devolved institutions have [sic] granted permission for Westminster to go ahead with the legislation, the Withdrawal Bill is still likely to pass through Westminster.

Ian Blackford: UK faces constitutional crisis over Brexit Bill votes

What The National doesn’t say is that Westminster does what it pleases with no apparent discomfort or unease. The British parliament completely ignores the devolved parliaments, each of which has greater democratic legitimacy than Westminster, and does so effortlessly. If there is a “constitutional crisis” then the British establishment is, to all appearances, unaware of it. There is certainly no sign that it is at all troubled by this “constitutional crisis”.

Can it qualify as a crisis if one of the parties to events and developments is unaware of it? Or, to put it another way, if the party at the centre of the affair perceives no crisis, are we justified in calling it such?

Or could it be that Mr Blackford has misidentified the parties to the purported crisis? Perhaps he is simply mistaken in thinking that the crisis affects the British political elite. Perhaps, if crisis there be, it is only a crisis for the devolved administrations; particularly the one in Edinburgh. Maybe the explanation for the British political elite’s equanimity in the face of this crisis is simply that it doesn’t really involve them.

If, indeed, we have reached a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined, then perhaps the British political elite doesn’t regard this as a crisis because, to whatever extent the trend of all future events is being determined, they are fully confident that this implies no changes that might be to their detriment.

If there is a condition of instability or danger in the affairs of the UK such as might occasion decisive change, maybe they know with a high degree of certainty that this decisive change will not be to the disbenefit or disadvantage of the established order.

Or maybe the British political elite is exhibiting the smug self-assurance that accompanies overweening power. Maybe they consider the established order invulnerable. Maybe they feel safe in the knowledge that, having the power to make, amend or exempt themselves from the rules of the game, they cannot possibly lose.

Why should this be a crisis for the British state? Nothing can oblige their parliament or government to heed the decisions of the devolved parliaments. The British state suffers no penalty for treating the devolved parliaments with supercilious disdain. Quite the contrary, in fact. Particularly in relation to Holyrood, Brexit has provided the British state with just the opportunity it needed to roll back devolution, slapdown the presumptuous SNP and put those uppity Jocks firmly back in the box labelled ‘Property of England-as-Britain’.

From the outset, discourse around the whole Brexit farce has focused almost exclusively on the economic impact. Little or no attention was paid to the constitutional implications. This despite the fact that the constitutional implications were always huge – as Ian Blackford and the rest now acknowledge. The constitutional implications were also obvious. When I argued for a Remain vote in the 2016 EU referendum the main reason I gave was the fact that leaving the EU would provide the British political elite with an opportunity to unilaterally redefine the UK and the constitutional status of the troublesome peripheral nations. At the extreme, which wise counsel would have us anticipate, this might involve the British constitutionally redefining the UK as an indivisible and indissoluble unitary state – putting Scotland in relation to the UK much as Catalunya is in relation to Spain.

The question was never whether the British would do this. The question was always whether there was any reason that they might not. Any just cause, that is, which they would see as such. Bearing in mind the nature of the British state and its ruling elites, considerations of ethics, morality or democratic principle were never going to enter into the calculation. The British political elite would do whatever was required to preserve and reinforce the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. The Union at any cost! To anyone but them!

There is no crisis for the British state. Ian Blackford has misread the situation. The British can, in this matter as in all matters relating to Scotland, act with total impunity. The crisis falls entirely on the devolved administrations and parliaments. Arguably, it falls most heavily on the Scottish Parliament and the SNP administration in Edinburgh. They will be judged on how they respond to this crisis. And it doesn’t look promising. Ian Blackford says, “really it is about this issue of respect”. Well, if it is, then it’s about how well he and his colleagues earn the respect of the people of Scotland. Because it’s as certain as anything might be that they will never get respect from the British political elite.

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14 thoughts on “Crisis? What crisis?

  1. It’s a crisis for us it’s just business as usual for them.

    Media is not even reporting that all three devolved governments have rejected Withdrawal bill.


    1. It’s there if you dig deep to BBC Wales Politics and scroll down past the important stuff about the Tories having problems with one of the cretins they select as candidates.


    2. Scottish media, are reporting on it The (Glasgow) Herald, The National, being the main ones.
      As for crisis, it is certainly a major crisis for Scotland.
      I have said often enough, and stand by it, SNP MPs should walk out of Westminster.
      For so long as they keep going there, they acknowledge London rule over Scotland.
      It is now quite clearly pointless for them going to the House of Commons.

      It remains to be seen what the first Minister says in a few days time, but it had better be something os real worth.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadly I am no longer holding my breath in anticipation. I envisage more meaningless sound bites attempting to persuade the Yes movement that things WILL happen,( if only the indy supporters will campaign more to ‘gently’ win over No voters). I hope I am wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The Scottish Government has no power to inflict damage on Westminster. It only controls the police (just about). If it does something extreme or outlandish it could be closed down. Devolution was always just window dressing and a trap. It really distresses me too Peter, that so many of the sheople, the 55%, are happy with the way things are, too comfortable to rebel. There is no sense of crisis when you get up in the morning. Everything works just like the day before. Everything is normal. You have to be a thinker to see it. But otherwise you would not feel it. That’s the key problem I think. Robert Mugabe said it true when he said we Scots had never suffered enough. Only when there is real suffering by the majority of the sheople at the hands of the UK will they get up any spirit to rebel but until they do all the Scottish Government can do is manage things as best they can. There is however ‘skillful means’. But we’ve seen no sign of that.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Why so then?

        My heart broke on 15 September 2014. I never thought a chance so easy would ever come again. For a few crazy hours I actually lost my mind. I could see all this ahead, from the moment Cameron crowed EVEL on the morn. It felt worse than when my mother died. I felt like I had lost 1000 mothers, my mother, her mother, her mother’s mother, all the mothers in my line way back in time to far before even the Gaels and the Picts were recognisable peoples. Obliterated. To think that 80% of 75% of 775,000 incomers both EU and UK were allowed to vote and stymied the result sticks in my craw. I try not to be bitter, it eats the soul. Upwards and onwards. I won’t give up.

        Thanks for all you write here. I don’t see our determination slacking. But the SNP are not warriors, that’s for sure. They’re managers. Aside from the constitution, they could do far more with the powers they have with devolution to act far more decisively to end the misery of the people by going after the perpetrators, dismantling Thatcher’s legacy. What’s to lose now? Nicey nicey got nowhere.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “they could do far more with the powers they have with devolution”

          That’s a favourite line of British Nationalists. Like you, they never get specific. They don’t have to. Nobody asks them to. They just say the line over and over knowing that, if they say it often enough, the weak-minded and gullible will start repeating it like automatons.


  3. The snp have gone to westminster to beat the establishment at their own game. Unfortunately they may have misjudged the traps on the playing field, which is anything but level. They have wrongly assumed the green benches were a gentlemen’s club – for gentlemen who play by Marquess of Queensberry rules. They assumed that traditional British notions of decency and respect would prevail. They assumed the establishment would behave like royalty and do anything in their power to be seen to the wider world as having a profound sense of dignity and honour.

    The snp have now settled in and they were actually earning respect from a few surprising quarters which were initially hostile. John Bercow and Dennis Skinner come to mind. But that was more a case of being united behind a common enemy. The enemy in question has been emboldened by a majority and has changed out the referee. The glorious team of Scottish MPs have since been reduced to a half-time side show.

    This is no gentlemen’s club. It is an extension of the elite’s boarding school run by bullies and rich kids with a sense of entitlement. It’s no place for an outsider and there is no chance of outsiders gaining acceptance or acquiescence.

    There is only one way to deal with a bully. Soft words don’t work. Playing by his rules don’t work. You have to kick him squarely in the balls and make sure he never wants to tackle you again.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well I’ll be specific. They could pass laws to create fair rents in the private rented sector to bring them down to an affordable level. They could forbid the sale of homes to anyone not resident in Scotland. They could pass laws forcing second homes in the Highlands to either face huge council tax hikes or be occupied more than six months of the year. Rents affect the budget balance as the largest government expense is welfare and the largest element of that is housing benefit. Why on earth any government thinks it is sane for the public purse to be subsiding private landlords beats me. They could raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour. Child poverty, mental health and a whole host of associated problems would be eradicated at one fell swoop if rents were lower and people had higher earnings and the balance between revenue and expenditure would be better. The FM goes on about wellbeing. The substantial element of wellbeing starts with not feeling overwhelmed by just making ends meet and the anxiety caused by living on or below the edge. Worrying about money year after year after year has a huge impact on health, mental and physical. They could do much to end this human misery. In Norway it is a declared policy commitment of all governments that ‘everyone has the right to a safe and secure home’. They SG resists doing such measures I think because they fear that powerful private interests might fight them in the courts. That’s the only suggestion I can come up with other than the thought that perhaps they actually support the status quo.


  5. Wage levels, etc, are still Reserved.
    The Scottish Govt, can only encourage employers to raise their Min Wage levels but can’t force them.
    It can see to it, that Scottish organisations, like Police/Fire/NHS etc, pay the (actual) Living Wage and that it does do.
    As for other things like rent controls, again, some of this isn’t as easy as it might sound.
    For example, how can the Scottish Govt prevent a person from one bit of UK buying property in another bit of UK?
    And other things around wellbeing etc, are also bound up with Reserved matters, too.
    Without Independence, the Edinburgh administration is limited.
    It is this line put out by the likes of Labour’s R.Leonard, and others, who try to pin blame for UK wide policy, and various restrictions imposed upon us, that creates a degree confusion with a lot of folks, who don’t know the reality.
    The tories for example love to claim Scotland has full control of Social Security,but refuse to use those powers, and need London support to do anything, etc. That is quite false. They know it s false, but they know many voters won’t know that. Thus, they set out to blame Edinburgh for the faults in tory policy! Almost clever tactics,, but dangerous, and downright malicious!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well. It’s not a constitutional crisis because the position of the devolved nations as regards Brexit was ruled on by the Supreme Court with reference to the Sewell Convention that Westminster would not ‘normally’ etc… So, they ruled that Brexit was not ‘normal’, hence why the uk government is supremely confident that it can ride roughshod over anything the devolved governments/assemblies do or say in this matter.

    We actually KNOW this one – now, it was worthwhile the devolved nations expressing their disgust, but it is a purely political move, because the legal standing – constitutionally – had already been established. Politically the uk gov’t should have been shamed into finding a middle ground etc, but that’s not how the current uk gov’t operates – it knows no shame.

    The constitutional crisis came when Boris refused the s.30 order – it demonstrates the incompatibility of our two kingdoms constitutions, and much more.

    Liked by 1 person

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