Devolution is dead

However normal it may be for “sub-state governments” elsewhere to engage in foreign policy, under the Union the concept of devolved foreign policy is oxymoronic. There are certain competences which, once they become vested in a devolved parliament, necessarily mark a transition to independence. Under the Union, there are competences which cannot be devolved without fatally undermining the principle of parliamentary sovereignty which underpins the Union. The constitution would be the most obvious example. Any parliament which has full powers over the constitution can only be the parliament of an independent nation. Such powers cannot simultaneously be vested in two parliaments. By default, they reside with the parliament having the greatest democratic legitimacy. If that parliament can be overruled by a parliament with lesser democratic legitimacy then democracy is denied.

Foreign policy may be another area which can only be the province of the parliament of an independent nation. We can see this by taking what may be the most extreme yet still credible scenario which might arise in practice. War! Can the “sub-state government” declare war? If war is declared by the ‘parent’ state, can the “sub-state government” opt out? If the answer to either or both of these questions is in the negative then the “sub-state government” does not have power over foreign policy. It is not devolved. It is reserved. If the answer to either or both of these questions is in the affirmative then the “sub-state government” has competence which the principle of parliamentary sovereignty dictates can only be vested in the parliament of an independent nation.

Devolution must not be thought of as a form of limited independence. Independence cannot be limited. If it is limited, it is not independence. If a nation is independent then that nation’s people alone are the ultimate source of legitimate political authority. Only the parliament elected by the people can act with the authority of the people. Devolution is a constitutional device by which to prevent a nation being independent. It is not enabling. It is constraining.

As Enoch Powell observed, power devolved is power retained. It must be so. Because real power is never given. Real power is only taken. The notion of devolving (giving) power is therefore nonsensical. By devolving (granting) power the ‘superior’ state acknowledges the sub-state’s right to that power. Then withholds the power. It’s not what is given which defines devolution but what is taken away. Devolution takes away independence.

There is only one way by which the Scottish Parliament might have power over either the constitution or foreign policy and that is by taking that power. As soon as the Scottish Parliament asserts its supremacy in relation to the constitution then the Union ends. Asserting ultimate authority in the area of foreign policy might not be quite such a clear-cut declaration of independence – but it’s not far from it.

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8 thoughts on “Devolution is dead

  1. Your article Peter is very well argued and completely rational.

    Not adjectives that could in any way be assigned to the postulation of The Constitution Society as described Reuben Duffy in The National.

    A ‘sub-state foreign policy’? As you say that’s a contradiction in terms if ever there was one.

    Even the examples given such as Bavaria, Wallonia, Flanders, Catalonia, and the Faroes Islands are inappropriate:

    Bavaria is a state in the properly federated union of Germany. Likewise Wallonia and Flanders which, together with the city of Brussels comprises federal Belgium. Catalonia is a region of Spain which has a binding non-secessionist constitution. The Faroe Islands do have an independent trade policy from its parent kingdom of Denmark but this in the main relates to opting out of the EU (rather than in) – Scotland, if anything, would want to opt in the Single Market and Customs Union (but not being Independent the EU rules would likely preclude this … and the Brits wouldn’t permit it in any case under the various Scotland Acts).

    None of these entities have ‘devolved’ administrations and none of these are anything like the scenario that Scotland finds itself in.

    If this ‘idea’ is the best the Constitution Society can do I’d suggest that body reconstitutes itself.

    Liked by 11 people

  2. No parliament has full powers over the constitution in a semi-constitutional monarchy. Every MSP, and MP has sworn their allegiance to the monarch,and that’s also the plan for an independant Scotland. That hasn’t changed one bit since Alex Salmond, and he wanted independence mostly for the likes of Donald Trump, Shell, Serco, and RBS.

    Devolution in Scotland, contrary to expectations, has led to centralisation, emasculation of local democracy, wealth redistribution to the comfortably well-off, toxic, petty politics, and a remarkable collection of potholes outside. It’s a reflecion of Scotland, and it has worked very well for the unelected ruling class.

    Scotland is run by quangoes that no-one has even heard of, and there must be hundereds of them, all working to their own ends, with no general plan. There isn’t even an independent overall monitor for the SNHS health boards and they are by far the largest employers in Scotland.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The process of centralisation stretches back to the 1973 Local Government (Scotland) Act with the replacement of burgh and county administrations with regional ones. The dismantling of democracy has continued with the quangos which were originally set up as a way of prodding government into action but were easily co-opted by politicians by money and now act as unofficial arms of the state. The crisis in newspapers with the rise of the internet has increased the reach of the tentacles of government to such an extent is might even be questionable whether we live in a democracy at all.

      The likes of the Constitution Society is just another set of smoke a mirrors to beguile the population that Scotland has some form of free agency (that trip to Ukraine by Alyn Smith, Stewart McDonald and Dave Doogan didn’t happen without blessings at the highest levels in Westminster) when in reality the exact opposite is true.

      So yes, Devolution is dead and is being replaced with eternal bondage to England. I do wonder whether Boris et al endlessly prattling on about sovereignty and being controlled by a foreign country might actually back-fire.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Power is taken and it can also be expressed.

    If we had it in us, we could every last one of us who is able, march on parliament and express the will for that parliament to represent us, for it to stop kowtowing to its masters.

    But we won’t because it has been hammered into Scottish consciousness for centuries that we can only act if we have permission to act, that when we do act we should do so in the interests of our betters because they are cleverer than we are, they always looking after us and would punish us if they ever found out we acted other than in their interests. We are, and continue to be, as Renton observed, the most servile pathetic trash ever to be shat into creation.

    The Scottish Parliament is the instantiation of this condition. Institutionalised cowardice. It’s an embarrassment and a disgrace.

    But I guess as soon as local governments throughout this one nation of Great Britain are funded entirely from Westminster, the Scottish parliament might as well be closed down anywat, turned into a museum and added to the list of attractions available as the city is populated entirely by short stay visitors paying good money for Scatlan’s most beautiful city.

    Devolution may be dead but I an holding on by the skin of my teeth 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Republic of Scotland, with Monarchy in our respectful memory, sounds right… After all, agreements made in 1707, cannot be recognised by Scotlands people in this day and age! A sovereign state or country is independent and not under the authority of any other country! Scotland, in 2022, is ready to regain its independence!

    Alba gu brĂ th! = Scotland forever!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An article by Salmond in the National ripping the clown Duffy a good ‘un. If I was able to post there I’d give it an upvote. They only allow people with online subscriptions to post, or people who get paper copies delivered by subscription, so I no longer even buy a paper copy in town occasionally to read on the throne.

    Duffy is no friend of Scotland, whether Independence supporter or unionist. What on earth the National was playing at I have no idea, nor do they very clearly. They might as well have had Foulkes writing an article about how great Independence would be – or Bobbin’ Jack.

    What next in the National – a regular column by Gove? Dance lessons perhaps …

    Liked by 2 people

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