KEEP your hands off our parliament, Nicola Sturgeon has warned the Prime Minister.
Loading article content
The First Minister told an audience at the David Hume Institute that Scotland was “facing a grave threat from the Conservatives at Westminster.”
“The democratic deficit which fuelled the demand for a Scottish Parliament in the 1980s and 1990s has opened up again,” she said. “The Brexit process has emboldened a now powerful Westminster faction, which never accepted devolution and which now sees it as an opportunity to rein in the Scottish Parliament.”
Sturgeon emphasised the fact that Scotland overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU, with all 32 local authorities backing a Remain vote. She added that despite what Theresa May and the Tory front bench might believe, this mattered.
“There are those who argue that, as the vote was a UK-wide one, the result in Scotland is essentially an irrelevance, of mere academic interest," she said.
“However, to do so is to deny a long-established constitutional and political tradition in Scotland, one that goes well beyond the confines of my own political party. Namely, that Scotland – as a nation – should always have the right to determine its own destiny, and that the people of this nation should be able to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.”
She went on to say there were Tory threats of a post-Brexit Westminster power grab where Westminster would “strip the Scottish Parliament, and the other devolved administrations, of some of their powers”.
“It is clear from their statements that even elements of farming and fishing policy – which have been wholly devolved competences from day one – now risk being taken back to Westminster. That would be utterly unacceptable.
“It would be a gross betrayal of the claims and promises made during the EU referendum campaign.
“And more profoundly it would fundamentally undermine the basis of the existing devolution settlement.”
This, she argued was “an attack on the very foundations of the devolved parliament we voted for 20 years ago”
She went on: “The UK Government still has an opportunity to change course before it triggers the Article 50 process. I very much hope it does.
“However if it doesn’t, it will show that the democratic deficit which people voted to end in 1997 doesn’t just endure – it continues to cause harm to Scotland’s interests, to our international relationships, to our very sense of our own identity.
“And so if those circumstances arise, proposing a further decision on independence wouldn’t simply be legitimate, it would almost be a necessary way of giving the people of Scotland a say in our own future direction.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “The UK Government’s white paper on Brexit makes it very clear that no decisions currently taken by devolved administrations will be removed and that when powers are returned from Brussels, more decisions will be devolved.
“This hyperbole from the First Minister takes synthetic grievance to a whole new level. Frankly, she sounds shrill. Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to use Brexit to manufacture the case for a second referendum has quite simply failed.
“She should now take it off the table so Scotland and the UK can work to get the best Brexit deal possible.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said Sturgeon was “scaremongering”.
“The Scottish Parliament has major new powers over tax and welfare, which the SNP simply refuses to use. Rather than claiming there is a ‘grave threat’ to devolution, Nicola Sturgeon could instead use the powers at her disposal to introduce a 50p top rate of income tax or increase Child Benefit, rather than picking yet another constitutional fight.
“It is an dereliction of duty for the First Minister to give up on devolution so easily. While the Tories’ reckless Brexit gamble will undoubtedly harm Scotland’s economy, there is an opportunity to repatriate powers here from Brussels – including fishing and agriculture.
“Donald Dewar’s vision for devolution was that whatever is not reserved is devolved and these policy areas should therefore return to Scotland.”
The Prime Minister will be in Scotland later this week to address the Scottish Tory party conference.