REGARDING your story Sturgeon says she cannot support EU withdrawal bill until devolution protected” (The National, March 5).

Of course she can’t, but rather like the Irish border question, this is another of the Tories’ unforeseen consequences from their mad Brexit experiment. It is no less serious, although perhaps more easily managed by Westminster.

The consequences of this current tussle are such that neither party, like with the Irish question, can really give way, as they are severe and monumental for both sides. Unlike the Irish, after rejecting independence Scots do not “have the EU at our back”. Europe will not step in to protect the devolution settlement.

If Nicola “caves” and allows the legal competencies returning from the EU to be either vested at Westminster, or only to “start” in Scotland, then in many ways she will be allowing Westminster to take us back to before 1980. The devolution settlement forced upon us stated that unless specifically reserved, all competencies would rest with the individual assemblies/governments.

If Theresa May “caves”, she will, in multiple ways, be agreeing to federalising the UK – perhaps that’s a situation which could be regarded as rather unlikely.

The impasse therefore seems unbreakable.

This unforeseen but entirely predictable outcome of Brexit, federalisation, must come about under current UK law, unless Westminster unilaterally invokes its “sovereignty”, creates a situation whereby the devolution settlement is set aside at its whim and thereby provokes a constitutional crisis. From the historically cavalier way that Edinburgh and Cardiff have been treated to date, this should be anticipated.

London will be forced to do this by a fundamental driver of the “Brexiteers”, that the UK be free to pursue its own trade agreements. Agreements with the EU will undoubtedly cover fisheries and farming, and for Westminster to engage in such negotiations there can’t be a regulatory divergence within the UK’s constituent nations. When dealing with the USA, the cherries this time are the financial and healthcare sectors. At the briefest of glances we can therefore see that London must either first broker deals with Cardiff and Edinburgh in these areas, or enter into agreements which it will suspect at the outset will never be approved by the devolved administrations. Privatising the Scottish NHS would likely see any administration north of the Border getting quickly kicked into the long grass.

It is very possible that such a power grab by Westminster, even the attempt of it, when fully understood by the man or woman in the street, would lead directly to a second referendum, one which would pass by a landslide, for this time the question would be very different to last time. Fundamentally it will be: “Should Scotland continue to exist?”. This is likely why powers might “start” in Edinburgh, simply to divert or delay such a crisis.

We Scots currently have, to a reasonable extent, our laws and systems protected. If Westminster is successful in this power grab we can guarantee that over time these will be subsumed by England, as “regulatory alignment” in almost every aspect of life is what will be demanded in order to make the new internal market of the UK function as it seems London intends, while the crescendo from the mainstream media will be that it will protect jobs and open foreign markets to new trade deals.

It won’t matter to the extremely wealthy amongst us that it will very probably precipitate a race to the bottom of the economic ladder for the majority.

Scots will simply exchange being 1918’s cannon fodder for the privilege of becoming 2018’s economic fodder.

A MacGregor
East Kilbride