Amendments to the Scotland bill

A swathe of amendments have been introduced to the Scotland bill, which gets its third reading next week.  They can all be found here.

The SNP’s MPs have introduced ones to devolve broadcasting (outright), create a legal right for Scottish Ministers to take part in EU Council of Ministers meetings, extend borrowing powers and create a framework for devolving corporation tax.  (This would be accomplished by order, which in legal terms isn’t very satisfactory, though as I pointed out HERE the Scotland bill isn’t a very suitable vehicle for devolving that in any case.)  It’s hard to see that these have any chance of being adopted, though they raise issues for debate.  Equally unlikely to succeed is Labour MP Brian Donohoe’s amendment to reduce the size of the Scottish Parliament to 99 MSPs, using the current Parliamentary boundaries (and so restore contiguity of Westminster and Holyrood boundaries, which was broken by the Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Act 2004.

The amendments proposed by Labour more officially may stand a better chance, given the de facto unionist coalition in favour of the bill.  Three MPs (including Ann McKechin, shadow Secretary of State, and Ed Miliband) have introduced an amendment that would add the Equality Act 2010 to the list of statutes which are reserved matters.  That official imprimatur may give these greater authority, though as the Conservatives nurse a dislike of the 2010 Act there’s a bit of needle there.

The Secretary of State has yet to produce most of his proposed amendments on borrowing powers and related matters, but has introduced ones on the now-controversial question of criminal appeals to the UK Supreme Court on human rights grounds, and to devolve control of disqualifications for being an MSP (an issue that has caused many problems recently in Wales, of course).

The most startling one is that proposed by the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg (and available here). This calls for a referendum to be held within four months of the Scotland bill receiving Royal assent on whether Scotland should have ‘full independence’.  If there were a Yes vote, the bill would not be brought into effect, though it’s not clear what else would happen.  A No vote would bring the Act into effect.  That amendment is of course intended to flush out the positions of all parties on a referendum, both as regards the proposition in a referendum (clearly Calman v. independence, rather than some other form of ‘Devolution Plus’ or Devolution Max’), and its timing.  It’s a fair assumption that the Government will not support it, and it will therefore fall – but whether that is actually so will be interesting to see.  In any event, the proposing of such an amendment suggests a degree of disquiet among Conservative MPs about the UK Government’s present strategy.

Most of these amendments – including those proposed by the Secretary of State and the SNP – would require the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament under the Sewel convention, so they might be called ‘re-Sewelising’ amendments.  Ironically, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s wouldn’t – while it may affect the place of Scotland in the Union, if approved, it wouldn’t affect the current powers of the Scottish Parliament or Government in ways that the Sewel convention contemplates.



Filed under Calman Commission/Scotland bill, Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Scotland, SNP, Westminster

3 responses to “Amendments to the Scotland bill

  1. Alex Buchan

    “That amendment is of course intended to flush out the positions of all parties on a referendum, both as regards the proposition in a referendum (clearly Calman v. independence, rather than some other form of ‘Devolution Plus’ or Devolution Max’), and its timing.”

    Are you suggesting that part of what he hopes to flush out is whether any of the parties intends to fight the referendum campaign on a ‘Devolution Plus’ or ‘Devo Max’ platform? The impression I had was that there was going to be a widely based cross-party ‘No campaign’, so I am unsure how any Devo-Max position by any of the parties would dovetail with this cross-party campaign. Is his intention to see whether Alex Salmond would have any basis for including a third option, as he has hinted he would if there was a political party which wanted to campaign for this position.

  2. Pingback: The Scotland bill passes the Commons, and moves to the Lords « Devolution Matters

  3. Pingback: Holyrood and the Scotland bill: the crunch looms « Devolution Matters

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