9 June 2015

Davie, get your veto

In the House of Commons yesterday, the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, slapped down Pete Wishart. There were, he insisted, no vetos in the Scotland Bill:
"The Bill contains no vetoes, as he will be well aware if he has read it in detail. What it contains is mechanisms to allow two Governments to work together on matters of shared interest and application. To me, the meaning of a veto is that when someone says they want to do something, someone else has the capacity to say, “No, you can’t.” Not a single provision of the Bill relates to such a proposal."

On any fair minded, careful reading of the Scotland Bill, Mundell is being economical with the actualité here. His legislation contains several provisions which, to use his definition, give UK ministers the capacity to say, “no, you can’t” to the Scottish government.

For example, section 50 of the Bill will amend section 9 of the Energy Act to allow Scottish ministers to devise schemes for reducing fuel poverty. Hitherto, this has been a function reserved to UK ministers. But what’s this? The Scotland Bill reads as follows: "the Scottish Ministers may not make regulations unless" they have "consulted the Secretary of State about the proposed regulations," and "the Secretary of State has agreed to the regulations being made." Consultation and information sharing between governments is eminently sensible. But the Secretary of State clearly has the capacity to say, “No, you can’t” to devolved fuel poverty schemes under the Scotland Bill.
Nor is this an isolated example. Section 51 amends the Gas Act 1986 to give Scottish Ministers the power to set targets for the promotion of reduction in carbon emissions in Scotland. And yes you’ve guessed it: they must secure the Secretary of State’s agreement to bring the regulations into force too. And the same goes for the new devolved powers allowing Scottish Ministers to encourage reductions in home heating costs and carbon emissions. “No, you can’t”. “No, you can’t”. “No, you can’t”.  

Even if you believe, as Mundell presumably believes, that these are sensible, defensible strictures allowing the UK and Scottish governments to work harmoniously together in areas of shared concern, they clearly give the London government the whip hand. 
Responding to Martin Docherty yesterday, Mundell boldly concluded that "there are no vetoes in the Bill. The honourable gentleman and others will see that clearly when we scrutinise it line by line." It might have been an idea if the Secretary of State had taken the care to read his proposals, line by line, before coming to parliament to spout transparent guff about their contents.


  1. "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck - then it is probably a veto"

  2. It is insulting. It is a stripped back watered down version of the bare minimum. I have mixed feelings about this bill. On one hand I feel anger at this bill confirms the disregard we are held in and anger at the unionist Scots who support this nonsense. On the other I know Scotland's population is paying attention and seeing no voters being left sick furthers our cause for indepence and encourage them to vote SNP. This on top of the Carmichael affair has really shown the union for what it is.