Talk of a review of devolution has inevitably raised fears about a watering down of powers

Written by Mandy Rhodes on 8 July 2019 in Comment

If it sounds like a review, and looks like a review, then it is a review and what it is usually meant by a review is change

Mandy Rhodes - Image credit: Holyrood

In a parallel universe where sense and evidence matter, there is an acknowledgement that it isn’t a devolved Scotland that is out of step in this Brexit Britain, it is the rest of the UK, or at the least that part that devolution has managed to body swerve, namely, England.

With a Westminster parliament paralysed by its own indecision and a government rendered impotent, politicians suddenly realise in the face of mounting civic insurrection, that this isn’t about us, it is about them, and they rally round to create a more equal Britain.

A country where the four nations are treated with respect, where there is a sharing out of the spoils and the responsibilities and where the people that live in one part of the country feel every bit a part of it as the rest.

A real united kingdom where we are all in it together. A more balanced Britain.

But for now, we have an outgoing, enfeebled prime minister who, as a last two fingered salute to the country she had helped snap, travels to Scotland, where nationalist emotions are already running high, to announce a review of devolution to be led by an unelected lord who was the architect of the hated poll tax, which, if you have forgotten, was given its controversial dry run in Scotland, where it was met with a spectacular revolt.

And that pain is not forgotten.

But then, in the face of a predictable backlash, this prime minister does what she has always done; rolls-back, feigns ignorance, and says nothing has changed.

This isn’t a review, she says, it is an independent exploration of how the union can be strengthened post Brexit.

It’s not about Scotland, it’s about the rest of the UK.  

It just happens to be announced in Scotland, where the majority voted so overwhelmingly to remain, is led by the junior minister at the Scotland Office who was David Cameron’s adviser for the independence referendum in 2014, is set within the context of devolution and is in the Scottish Parliament’s 20th year.

Happy Anniversary.

If it sounds like a review, and looks like a review, then it is a review and what it is usually meant by a review is change.

And that has inevitably raised fears about a watering down of devolution and its powers, and not just in Scotland, where this prime minister says the SNP government stoke grievance at every opportunity, but across the other nations that together make up Theresa May’s so-called, “precious union”.

And so, regardless of the spin of denial that quickly followed the outrage, Wales’ first minister, Mark Drakeford, warned “the last thing we need is an outbreak of colonialism”.

Former Welsh FM Carwyn Jones said that “devolution works pretty well thanks.”

And Scotland’s first minister tweeted: “A desperate act by a prime minister who has shown zero respect for the Scottish Parliament during her time in office.”

May talks wistfully of her commitment to her “precious union” but she has hugely damaged it.

Scotland has been used as a pawn throughout her time as prime minister, she says one thing and then does another, and so it is perhaps fitting that it is here that May commits her last clumsy, constitutional volte face.

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