THE SNP's attempt to amend the Scotland Act to allow Holyrood to hold indyref2 has been blocked by MPs.

Stephen Flynn’s Westminster group had been aiming to use a debate on Wednesday afternoon to take control of the House of Commons order paper on January 10, 2023. They would then have used the time to present a Scotland Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill, seeking to alter what is reserved to Westminster.

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The fiery debate was marked by obfuscation and evasion on the Unionist side, which focused on devolved issues such as the NHS instead of the topic of indyref2 without intervention from the speaker’s chair.

When it came to the ballot, MPs voted by 42 to 265 to stop the SNP’s bid to alter the Scotland Act in its tracks. 

Here are some of the key take-aways from the Westminster debate on "Scotland's Future" ...

SNP MPs versus Douglas Ross

A particularly heated series of exchanges took place after Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross began speaking. His contributions focused on maternity services in Moray, leading the SNP MPs to heckle the Tory MP for straying from the topic at hand.

When Ross complained about not being heard, SNP MP Brendan O'Hara said “aw, diddums”. This sparked a fiery response from Ross, who suggested the comment had been aimed at  “Moray mums”.

“I say shame on you, shame on you,” the Tory MP raged.

The National:

In response, O’Hara said Ross had “forgotten what parliament he’s in”, reminding the Scots Tory leader that the topic at hand was a democratic route to indyref2, not the state of the NHS in Moray.

SNP MPs Hannah Bardell and Carol Monaghan would also intervene on Ross’s speech before it ended, as the Tory continued to focus on the NHS. 

“All of the issues he raises are very serious, but the reality is we have limited powers in Scotland and we spend those limited powers and our limited budget cleaning up the mess that his government makes,” Bardell said.

Ross again focused on the NHS, insisting it was fully devolved, which lead Monaghan to highlight how issues in the health service had been impacted by Brexit and other Tory immigration policies.

Alister Jack’s ‘Duck Test’

Late in November, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack spelled out what he called the “duck test” when asked to explain the democratic route to a second independence vote. 

The top Tory told MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster: “It’s the duck test. If it looks like a duck and it sounds like a duck and it waddles like a duck then it’s probably a duck. People know when they’ve reached that point.

“They knew back then [in 2014] that they’d reached it. We don’t believe we’ve reached it now.”

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Bringing up Jack’s (below) comments at the debate on Wednesday evening, SNP MP Kirsty Blackman said the Tories don’t have a “very good track record on determining whether or not it’s a duck”. 

“If it looks like a party, and it sounds like a party, it’s in fact a work event,” she quipped referencing Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s criminal behaviour during Covid lockdowns. 

The National: Scottish Secretary Alister Jack will be quizzed by MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee

Blackman went on: “If it looks like a drive to Barnard Castle, and it sounds like a drive breaking Covid rules, it’s in fact completely legitimate and perfectly normal … an eyesight test indeed.”

The SNP MP moved on to challenge Jack’s claims that for indyref2 to happen there would need to be “a clear consensus between the [UK and Scottish] governments, between the political parties, across civic society”.

She said there had not been a consensus across the political divide to hold the Brexit referendum, and said it was “incredibly odd” for a Tory minister to suggest that every party needed to support something in order for it to take place.

“Does every party across the UK need to have in their manifesto that we can have a referendum on Scottish independence?”

Douglas Ross and devolved parliaments

Peter Grant, the SNP MP for Glenrothes, used his time in the debate to bring up previous Tory claims that the Scottish parliament is “one of and perhaps the most powerful devolved parliament in the world”.

Grant invited an intervention from any Unionist MP, challenging them to name “just one devolved parliament anywhere in the world that is less powerful than the parliament of Scotland, apart from Wales obviously”.

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Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross took on the challenge, but failed to even try to give an answer.

Instead, the Moray MP said that devolved powers over “health, education, transport, local government, the economy … make the [Scottish parliament] the most powerful devolved administration anywhere in the world”.

Grant said Ross’s answer proved he couldn’t think of a less powerful devolved parliament, and added: “And I doubt anyone in here can either.”

The ‘voluntary’ Union

Opening the debate, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said that the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that Holyrood did not have the power to hold an independence referendum without Westminster consent had ended the idea of the Union being voluntary.

He said: “The polity that we live in in the United Kingdom is a multi-national state, made up and based upon serial acts of Union that have given it quite a unique character and it is something which up until very recently we had assumed required on the consent of the people in the component nations of the United Kingdom.

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“We now have a situation following the Supreme Court judgment where it seems that that is not the case, that it is not possible for one group of people in one nation of the United Kingdom to consider reviewing the relationship with the others without their consent.

“That means that the idea of it being voluntary Union of nations in dead in the water until such times as the law is clarified or fixed.”

The National: Borders MP John Lamont while asking his question in the House of Commons last week

Responding, Scotland Office minister John Lamont (above) ignored the issue of consent. Instead, he repeated the line about the UK being “the most successful political and economic union the world has ever seen”.

He went on: “In challenging times, we are stronger together, we are better prepared to deal with any crises, particularly an issue on the scale of the energy crisis, or the very thing that created the energy crisis: Vladimir Putin’s awful war in Ukraine.

“In these volatile times, I continue to believe that the last thing people need is greater uncertainty. This is a time for unity behind a common purpose, not division that would split us apart.”