Timeline: Westminster’s power grab on Scotland

During the 2014 independence referendum, Westminster politicians were desperate to claim that Scotland is in a “union of equals”.

They claimed that Scotland could “lead, not leave” the UK and promised a whole suite of new devolved powers.

Now, the reality couldn’t be more different. Scotland’s Parliament is being increasingly undermined by Westminster – in a blatant power grab pursued by a government that Scotland hasn’t voted for.

Here’s what you need to know.


June 2023: Scottish Government paper reveals a long litany of attacks on devolution

One of the most important safeguards of devolution is the Sewel Convention – a 1999 agreement that Westminster will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

However, since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the UK Government has ploughed ahead with legislation nine times, despite it being refused consent by the Scottish Parliament.

The effective powers of the Scottish Parliament have been reduced without its agreement – that is a blatant power grab by Westminster.

Click here to read the Scottish Government paper in full.


May 2023: The UK government obstructs Scottish legislation designed to help with climate targets

Despite over two years of preparations and investment by the Scottish Government to launch a deposit return scheme, the UK government has sabotaged Scotland’s scheme at the eleventh hour.

Using provisions in the ‘power grab’ Internal Market Act, Westminster effectively chose to rewrite devolved laws passed by the Scottish Parliament and included in the manifestos of the government parties.

Once upon a time, in their 2019 manifesto, the Tories also supported a deposit return scheme that included glass – but now, for the sake of undermining devolution, they have turned their backs on it.


April 2023: Unelected Tory peer and former government minister calls on Westminster to “reverse devolution”

Unelected Tory peer and former senior minister, Lord David Frost, let the genie out of the bottle.

In a Telegraph column, he called for the powers of the Scottish Parliament to be stripped away by UK government ministers, in a blatant assault on Scottish democracy.

He also added that he believes Labour leader Keir Starmer basically agrees with him, and will likely ignore Gordon Brown’s suggestions for greater devolution for Scotland.

This is far from the first time the Tories have undermined the Scottish Parliament – in 1997 they campaigned against the creation of the Scottish Parliament, out of sync with the 75% of Scots who voted for it.


January 2023: The UK government vetoes democratically passed law in the Scottish Parliament

Despite the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly voting to pass the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, with MSPs from every political party voting for it, the UK government is shamelessly overturning the Scottish Parliament’s will.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has enacted the Section 35, a mechanic never used before in the history of devolution, which has been described by many commentators as ‘the nuclear option’.

Despite having years to make amendments and consult with the Scottish Government over its concerns, the UK government has simply chosen to strike it down instead of engaging.

Put simply, Westminster is blocking this bill because they don’t like it, setting a dangerous anti-democratic precedent. First Minister Humza Yousaf has since announced that the Scottish Government is challenging the Westminster veto in court.


April 2022: The UK’s Elections Act imposes Voter ID on Scotland against its will

The Scottish Parliament has refused to consent to the UK Elections Act, which introduces Voter ID in general elections – creating an additional barrier to voting and risking the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people.

The UK government’s own research suggests that 9% of voters do not have eligible identification, and it disproportionately affects those on low incomes.

Against the Scottish Parliament’s clearly expressed will, the UK government imposed it anyway.


April 2022: The UK government short-changes Scotland with its EU funding replacement

Scotland’s economy, communities and young people are paying a heavy price for a Brexit we never voted for, but on top of all this damage, Scottish taxpayers had to pay for a £3 billion “Brexit divorce bill”.

During the 2016 Leave campaign, Brexiteers have promised £1.5 billion a year for Scottish devolved services when the UK left the EU.

Fact is, all that was announced for Scotland is £172 million. For every £1 the UK government promised, they’ve given Scotland 11p – meaning Scotland has been short-changed by 89%.

What’s more, the UK Government has defined a series of “levelling up missions” covering devolved matters – such as education, health and justice – without the agreement of the Scottish Parliament, and without even consulting it over their plans.

While Labour and Tories team up to back the hard Brexit, only independence is our way to rejoin the EU.


March 2021: Westminster sacrifices children’s rights to attack the Scottish Parliament

After the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law, the UK government has taken the Scottish Government to court to put a stop to it.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack’s reasoning was that the UNCRC Bill would restrict Westminster’s powers to make laws for Scotland – something which is more important to the UK government than strengthening children’s rights.

It served as another stark reminder that only Scottish independence can guarantee that Scotland’s powers cannot be taken away at a whim of a government in Westminster.


December 2020: The power grab is enshrined into law as the Internal Market Act passes

Under the guise of Brexit, which Scotland overwhelmingly rejected, the UK’s Internal Market Act seized control of money once distributed to Scotland’s communities by the EU.

It allowed Westminster to spend that money on projects in devolved areas, which should be controlled by the Scottish Parliament – without even consulting with Holyrood on where the cash should go.

The Act also shifted the power to Westminster to set standards on crucial environmental issues, such as single-use plastics. For example, due to this legislation, the Scottish Parliament can’t ban single-use wet wipes despite the clear environmental harm.


September 2020: The Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly votes to refuse consent to the Bill – but the UK government ploughs on anyway

The Scottish Parliament has overwhelmingly voted to refuse its consent for the Internal Market Bill, on the grounds that it undermines the democratically-elected Parliament’s ability to legislate in devolved areas.

However, the UK government has blatantly ignored the Scottish Parliament’s will – just like they have done previously on Brexit – and voted to pass the power grab bill.

Instead of defending Scotland’s democracy, Douglas Ross and every single Scottish Tory MP has lined up to impose the power grab on Scotland.


September 2020: The UK government publishes the Internal Market Bill, paving the way for a power grab on Holyrood

The Tories’ UK Internal Market Bill breaks international law, by the UK government’s own admission, “in a limited and specific way” – and according to the Institute for Government, paves the way for more law-breaking.

The Bill is a shameless Westminster power grab and an assault on Scotland’s democratic powers, putting in place an unelected and unaccountable Westminster body with the ability to overrule the Scottish Parliament’s decisions.

Even members of the House of Lords have called out this power grab.

The only way to protect Scotland’s democracy is with independence

It’s clear that devolution, and Scotland’s democracy, are not safe under Westminster control.

Scotland can choose a better future than being undermined and overruled by unelected peers in the House of Lords, and Tory governments we haven’t voted for since the 1950s.

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