THE fundamental plank of the devolution settlement is the Sewel Convention, which states that the Westminster government will not interfere with the powers of the Scottish Parliament or intrude upon devolved competencies without the consent of Holyrood.

This convention is vital if devolution is to work in a British constitutional system which fetishises the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament and whose unwritten constitution provides for no clear separation of powers and places no restrictions on the power of the leader of the party which enjoys a majority in the House of Commons.

Devolution can only work if the governing party in Westminster agrees to abide by the self-denying ordinances of the Sewel Convention. Without it, devolution is a dead letter.

The importance of the Sewel Convention to the operation of the devolution settlement is such that during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign the Better Together parties pledged to elevate the status of the Sewel provisions from a 'convention' reliant upon the willingness of the Westminster government to abide by it to statute and to enshrine it in law, giving Scotland a legal guarantee that the devolution settlement was sacrosanct and it would be placed beyond the ability of any Westminster government to meddle with or undermine it.

READ MORE: Tories flouted key devolution rules 11 times, Scotland's top civil servant warns

This promise was one of the most important made by the Better Together Campaign, allowing them to assert to Scots that after a No vote, the future of devolution would be assured and legally protected, as such it was instrumental in swinging a No vote in the independence referendum.

As we all know now, there are lies, damned lies, and Westminster promises to Scotland.

The provisions of the Sewel Convention were indeed written into the revised Scotland Act passed in the wake of the referendum.

But within a couple of years the Conservative government of Theresa May sought and obtained a ruling from the UK Supreme Court stating that the relevant provision of the Scotland Act had no force in law as it went against the very English constitutional doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament.

A Westminster government can be urged to respect the Sewel Convention but it cannot be legally compelled to do so and it will suffer no legal consequences if it chooses to ignore it.

Since then, the Conservative government in Westminster, which has always been hostile to the devolution settlement, has breached the Sewel Convention on not one or two occasions, but on eleven.

The National: Humza Yousaf and John-Paul Marks

Speaking to Westminster’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Permanent Secretary John-Paul Marks (above), the head of the civil service in Scotland, told MPs that the UK Government has repeatedly broken the Sewel Convention.

Marks said that while there were instances of Scotland’s two governments working well together, this came amid a "disrupted and quite regularly contested environment.

He said the Internal Market Act – which effectively gives the UK Government a veto over some Scottish laws – had created a "different operating environment to devolution compared to what went before".

He explained: "You see that evidence in the Sewel convention and legislative consent.

“So up to 2018, the Sewel convention – whereby the UK Government would not legislate without consent from devolved governments in devolved areas – was always observed and there were no circumstances where that consent was not granted, where the UK Government would legislate without consent.

READ MORE: Scottish Tory call to repeal Hate Crime Act defeated at Holyrood

“But since 2018 there has been 11 occasions where that convention has not been followed. And so to an extent that reflects the changing nature of the political contexts post-Brexit."

The Conservatives are using something that a majority of Scots do not support, Brexit, to undermine and hollow out something that a majority of Scots do support, a Scottish Parliament that is able to exercise its powers without Westminster interference.

The Rubicon has been crossed. Not only does the Westminster government now feel that it can trash the Sewel Convention with impunity, the Scotland Secretary has also used the powers of the hitherto unused Section 35 order giving Westminster's Scottish viceroy the power to unilaterally veto legislation passed by Holyrood that relates to a devolved matter.

The devolution settlement now stands naked and unprotected, with no defence against a power hungry British Government determined to brook no opposition from Scotland.

This dire situation will only worsen if Scots allow the Labour Party to win the largest number of seats in Scotland at the Westminster General Election expected later this year.

That will only embolden the British nationalist parties who will crow that the 'threat' from Scottish independence is over.

Scottish Tory MP embarrassed after spreading misinformation

Spare a thought for perma-smug Scottish Tory MP Andrew Bowie, who today must be nostalgic for the days when his biggest problem was being slagged off on social media for his posh 'fish supper' with its artfully arranged six chips.

Bowie has been called out for spreading "misinformation" about a medical practice in his constituency, which was forced to issue a statement debunking his inaccurate claims.

In an election leaflet Bowie asserts that he has asked for a meeting with the Aberdeen Health and Social Care Partnership in order to discuss the Aboyne Medical Practice.

Bowie claimed in his leaflet: "I have continually campaigned against a potential closure which has so far been avoided.

After being contacted by concerned patients afraid that a vital local medical service was at risk of closure, the practice was forced to publish a statement on Facebook denying that it was threatened with closure and demanding a retraction from Bowie (below).

The National: Andrew Bowie

The statement read: "Many of you have been in touch with us over the last day or so regarding a campaign leaflet which you have received from Andrew Bowie MP and we just wanted to reassure you all that there is absolutely NO suggestion that our practice is at risk of closure.

“We have been in touch with Mr Bowie and have asked him to correct the assertion in the leaflet about our practice and we hope to hear from him soon."

If you have no real political achievements what better than to boast that your efforts kept open a vital local service that was never at risk of closure in the first place. How very six chips.

Bowie later issued a lengthy statement claiming that the misunderstanding arose due to "unclear wording".

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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