On the 12 June, the Tory government voted through its Clause 15 of the EU Withdrawal Bill. This clause gives Westminster the ability to effectively seize control of previously devolved powers. Even though no consent was given by the Scottish Parliament, it was still voted through. This now brings the UK into a constitutional crisis – a crisis that took just fifteen minutes to create.
Virtually all of the brief debating time was filibuster by UK Government minister David Lidington, resulting in no Scottish MPs being able to speak on this important issue which affects them. It’s amazing that the devolution settlement and massive constitutional change only took fifteen minutes to debate and vote on within the House of Commons. This disgusting, old-fashioned, undemocratic institution continues its reputation as such under the leadership of the Conservatives, a party which could be described in a similar manner.
On Wednesday, the SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP brought up this injustice during Prime Minister’s Questions and, after receiving an underwhelming response from the Theresa May, proceeded to use the procedure of the House of Commons to protest this by calling for the issue to be re-debated in an emergency vote.
Instead of being respected, Ian Blackford and the rest of the SNP MPs were jeered and laughed at by the rest of the childish Commons. The Speaker of the House John Bercow proceeded to talk down to Blackford and the rest of his MPs in an unparliamentary manner using terms such as “young man” and “Mr. Blackford”. After some resistance the SNP Westminster Leader was then asked to leave the grounds of the Palace of Westminster for the day.
In solidarity and in resistance to the unjust, undemocratic and outdated Westminster system, the whole SNP group walked out of the Commons en masse in protest. This courageous act should be celebrated! For too long, Scotland has not been respected within Westminster. Its Parliament, people and MPs are either ignored or have remained silent. For Scotland’s representatives representing their country has been a constant uphill battle.
Since the SNP MPs were elected they have tried within the best of their abilities to work within the system to benefit Scotland. Even John Bercow, whose reputation may have suffered after Wednesday, previously praised the SNP MPs for being good parliamentarians. But even then, time and time again Westminster has taken decisions not in the best interest for Scotland, be it English votes for English laws or the UK’s ridiculous immigration laws which are damaging to an open and welcoming Scotland in need of migration. Despite all their efforts, the Westminster system will never benefit Scotland.
There have been critics of the walkout (both Labour and Conservative) who have labelled it a “stunt”. This is hypocritical of both sides. Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, is an excellent example of this due to her countless media stunts, ranging from riding on a bull to riding on a tank. For Labour, this is something they’ve done before. Back in 1987, Donald Dewar led a walkout of Scottish Labour MPs on their belief that Scotland was not being taken seriously.
Even more importantly, their parties are part of the problem. Their attachment to the two-party system, the old Westminster ways, outdated voting systems and childlike attitudes are what make Westminster not fit for service. The most recent and most shocking examples of this comes from this week’s power-grab debate in which Ian Blackford’s point of order was met with Tory MPs shouting ‘suicide’.
This union of nations needs change. Change that will benefit all its nations and all its citizens. Change that will create better governing. If not, there will be consequences. And after Wednesday's actions, it looks as though the consequence of Scottish independence has drawn one step closer.