DAMIAN Green and David Mundell came to Edinburgh this week to meet with the Scottish Government to discuss the devolved powers that Westminster is determined to cling on to. The meeting wasn’t being held with any great willingness on the part of Westminster to negotiate in good faith. It was all just a window-dressing exercise so that Westminster can claim that it has been consulting with the Scottish Government even though it’s going to press ahead and do exactly what suited it in the first place. Damian was just playing the part of an omen, like in the film about his namesake, the spawn of Beelzebub.

In this Damian’s case, the son of Satan is wearing an anorak and is standing at the end of platform 9 in Paddington station writing down the numbers of deisel electric units and bemoaning the confusion and poor service on the trains these days.

READ MORE: Mhairi Black: Has anybody worked out what Labour's position on leaving the EU actually is?

Loading article content

The typical Tory reaction is to demand that someone else sort it all out and find solutions to the issues, even though it was his own party that caused all the problems in the first place. That applies as much to the railways as it does to devolution or anything else. The Tories caused this Brexit mess, but it’s everyone else who has to suffer the consequences.

His partner in the crime against Scotland, David Mundell, didn’t manage to do a very good impression of a minor demon either. Omens and portents are usually associated with dreamlike images of a corpse in a desert being picked clean by vultures. David doesn’t make a very good vulture. In the case of David Mundell’s interventions into the devolution debate it’s more like the devolution settlement is being shredded for bedding by Theresa May’s pet hamster. Which is somehow much, much worse. Most of the newspapers in Scotland do a pretty good job of shredding the devolution settlement all by themselves.

Actually it’s an unfair analogy to liken our esteemed Secretary of State for Telling Scotland What the Tories Order to a small rodent, as Theresa May’s pet hamster has considerably more freedom of movement and authority than David Mundell does. David has so little authority in the UK Cabinet that he’s outranked by an opposition MSP. However he still had to be brought along to the meeting for the sake of what politics geeks call the optics. In this case it’s to distract attention from the fact that yet again it’s a government we didn’t vote for telling us what to do.

Both Damian and David were very keen to insist that Scotland’s going to get more powers as a result of Brexit. That’s not actually true, and that’s what’s causing the outrage from the Scottish Government and the Labour First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones. Although Kezia Dugdale, not so much. Kezia doesn’t do outrage against the Tories if it means backing the SNP on a constitutional issue.

Another analogy is in order here. Imagine that the devolved powers are like a big wad of cash. Back in the 1990s when the Labour Party was divvying up the powers of the Westminster Parliament and deciding what to give to Scotland, it put banknotes on the pile of cash. Then it thought for a wee minute and took some back again, like powers over broadcasting. However eventually a sum was agreed upon, and there it was, a big pile of juicy devolved money for Scotland. Some of that money was given to Scotland’s shiny new parliament directly to spend as it pleased. The rest of it was put into a trust fund to be managed by those nice people in Brussels on Scotland’s behalf. It was however, still Scotland’s money.

Then Westminster decided that it didn’t want to be a part of Europe any more, so it told Scotland that the money that was in the trust fund being managed by Brussels, Scotland’s money, would go directly to Westminster and wouldn’t be returned directly to Scotland. Then Westminster would decide all by itself how much, if any, of that Scottish money would be allowed to go to Scotland.

“What are you complaining about Scotland?” said the Tories, “You’re getting extra money. We’re going to give you a few pennies of your own money for a Curly Wurly and a bag of crisps.” The point is of course that the entire amount of the trust fund was Scotland’s to begin with. Scotland was happy to leave it where it was, it was the Westminster Tories who decided to change the arrangements, and having decided to change the arrangements they then decided that Scotland’s money was their money to divvy up as they pleased. That’s legalised theft.

That’s what the Tories are doing with the devolution settlement. They’re stealing Scotland’s devolved powers and keeping them for themselves.