It has become clear now that this concept of reserved matters, that is matters that can only be discussed by the House of Commons and not the devolved executives, has been revealed by the real-life experience of the last twenty years of legislative devolution to be nothing more than a constitutional fiction.
Take the constitution of the U.K., for instance. That's a reserved matter, but the SNP (and Plaid Cymru and the Irish nationalists as well) simply ignore this and keep pushing for independence referenda, despite the supposed constitutional bar on them getting involved in such matters.
It is also clear that it is time to stop pretending it is the U.K. Government that has the final say on whether a referendum is held. It is patently obvious that, despite constitutional law stating that the U.K. Government has sole control over the constitution, if the SNP do formally ask for another independence referendum, it is one hundred per cent certain that Theresa May will just cave in and grant one, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the matter (indeed, this author can remember being told repeatedly by pro- legislative devolutionists twenty years ago to relax about devolution as the U.K. Government would retain control over the constitution and so there was 'no chance' of it being used to break up the U.K.-such irony.)
Legislative devolution is an out of control, careering Frankenstein's monster that has failed to be contained by the constitutional rules and the only way to destroy the monster of modern aggressive nationalism is to abolish it.
The U.K. Government's indulgence of the SNP's pretensions to being a national government is killing the Union. The U.K. Government needs to stop imperilling the existence of the U.K. by indulging and not challenging the SNP's (and other nationalist parties like Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and Sinn Fein/IRA) blatant ignoring of their devolved remit by pretending to be a national government.
Devolution was just supposed to be a junior tier of local government, but in reality, the SNP, since coming to power in 2007, have pursued a programme of turning the Holyrood executive into a kind of national government. They immediately re-named it 'The Scottish Government'. They act like they are a sovereign national government and interfere in reserved matters, especially the constitution and international relations/trade (IE Brexit). They have a national government 'cabinet', with 'ministers' that ape the jobs of the real one at No.10. All the while, the U.K. Government does nothing to stop this and consequently it gets worse, year in, year out.
What's needed is for Westminster to stand up to the SNP's abuse of devolution before it's too late and abolish Holyrood. Sturgeon has been running around various places abroad, acting like she's a real Prime Minister of a sovereign country, trying to do trade deals, trying to negotiate deals with Eurocrats over trade arrangements (both of which she knows she shouldn't as these areas are outside her devolved remit), going to America to drum up support for independence, not just the relatively unimportant First Minister of a regional assembly. Her behaviour continues to prove that she won't respect her devolved remit and that the only way to solve this problem is to completely abolish Holyrood.
A Tory MSP was criticised a while ago and urged to apologise for asserting that the Scottish parliament isn't sovereign. She had nothing to apologise for. Holyrood is simply a provincial assembly with limited authority over certain devolved matters. That was the purpose of devolution from the beginning twenty years ago. The provincial executives were simply supposed to deal with local matters (that is Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland matters) only and national issues were strictly reserved for the U.K. Parliament at Westminster. These executives were given the ability to initiate primary legislation, but were meant to be within the U.K.-’autonomy within the U.K. In no way were they supposed to be the equivalent of the Commons, the national parliament of the U.K. They were simply supposed to be a junior tier of local government, under the U.K. Parliament.
The U.K. is a unitary state in which, whilst certain powers can be devolved to other bodies in its regions, the country remains a singular political entity-the United Kingdom. The Commons and Lords remain completely sovereign, but authority over certain matters, to a certain degree, in certain parts of the country are given to bodies in those areas to oversee. However, it must be stressed that the Parliament of the U.K. still retains full sovereignty, even over issues it has devolved to these provincial bodies and can take them away at any time.
Nationalists, especially, but not exclusively, the SNP, don't appear to understand this principle of constitutional law and have abused their devolved remit by ignoring its boundaries and acting like they are a sovereign parliament, getting involved in matters that they shouldn't-like the constitution. Consequently, legislative devolution hasn't worked and won't work in the presence of such an aggressive separatist nationalist movement. The only realistic solution to this is to completely abolish Blair's disastrous legislative devolutionary constitutional 'settlement' and replace it with its administrative equivalent.
For the last twenty years now, the citizens of the U.K. have had this constitutional fiction fed to them by politicians and various media sources. It’s been claimed over and over again that legislative devolution is just ‘autonomy within the U.K.’, has limits placed on its powers, like the constitution which it is supposedly not supposed to become involved in as such matters are reserved for the House of Commons (it’s devolved remit) and so can’t possibly threaten the unitary integrity of the U.K. This has been the grand theory, anyway. Reality, however, has been markedly different. Modern aggressive nationalism, as personified by the SNP in Scotland especially, but also by other such parties in Wales and Northern Ireland, has simply ignored the constitutional restraints placed on the devolved legislatures and utilised legislative devolution as a tool to pursue independence. This situation is totally untenable and the only solution is to repeal legislative devolution and localise power in the constituent parts of the U.K., whilst one hundred per cent guaranteeing the Union by replacing it with the administrative variant. This way, the parts of the U.K. maintain one hundred per cent control of their own local affairs, matters that affect the whole U.K. are dealt with by the House of Commons and the Union is completely safe from nationalism.
© Stephen Bailey 2018.
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