PM Boris Johnston and SNP leader Ian Blackford clashed in the Commons.
By Bill Heaney
Prime Minister Boris Johnston thinks the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament is “meaningless” and he has no respect for Holyrood, Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford told the Westminster parliament on Wednesday.
He told the House: “Within the last hour, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales joined forces to oppose this Tory Government’s damaging Brexit Bill—a Bill that risks jobs, opportunities and our entire economic future.
“Scotland did not vote for this toxic Tory Brexit or any Brexit. It voted overwhelmingly to remain. Will the Prime Minister stop ignoring Scotland and confirm today that he will not allow this Bill to pass unless consent is given by the Scottish Parliament—yes or no?”
The Prime Minister replied that Mr Blackford knows well that “the Scottish Parliament has no role in approving this deal. On the contrary, it is up to the Members of this Parliament to approve the deal. I am delighted to say that they did, although it did not proceed with the support of many Scottish nationalist MPs.
“Or any of them. But if he really still disagrees with this deal and with the way forward, may I propose to him that he has a word with the other Opposition parties and joins our support for a general election to settle the matter?
Ian Blackford, who is widely recognised these days as a voice to be reckoned with in the chamber, said: “There we have it. The legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament is meaningless in the Prime Minister’s eyes. So much for the respect agenda, and so much for the message in 2014 that we were to lead the United Kingdom and that this was a Union of equals—torn asunder by the disrespect of this Prime Minister.
“Well, Conservative Members do not like the truth, but the people of Scotland have heard it from the Prime Minister today: our Parliament does not matter. That is what this Prime Minister thinks of our Government in Scotland.
“Last night, the Prime Minister was yet again defeated by this House. He said that he would pull his Bill, but he has not. He wants Scotland to trust him, but how can we?
“Fired twice for lying, found unlawful by the courts, the Prime Minister has sold Scotland out time and again. Parliament and Scotland cannot trust this Prime Minister.
“If he so desperately wants an election, Europe is willing and waiting, so what is stopping him? He must now secure a meaningful extension and bring on a general election. Let the Scottish people decide our future in Scotland.”
The Prime Minister hit back: “Well, what an exciting development! Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might pass some of his courage down the line.”
And he denied that Scotland was not committed to the Union – “The point he raises about our commitment to the Union, he should know that, thanks to Scotland’s membership of the Union, Scotland this year received the biggest ever block grant—£1.2 billion—with £200 million more secured for Scottish farming thanks to the hard work of Scottish Conservative MPs. Who is letting down Scotland? It is the Scottish National party, with its lackadaisical Government: the highest taxes anywhere in the UK; declining educational standards; inadequate healthcare; and a European policy that would take Scotland back into the EU and hand back control of Scotland’s fish to Brussels. If that is their manifesto, I look forward to contesting it with them at the polls.”
Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP) challenged the PM on the Brexit deal.
He said: “In a dispute, diametrically opposed outcomes cannot be equally beneficial for both sides. If the Prime Minister’s great deal is so good for Northern Ireland’s seafood producers because it allows them access to the single market and customs union, how would he describe his deal for the shellfish producers of my Argyll and Bute constituency, who fish in the same waters for exactly the same catch but will not have access to the single market and customs union? One has a great deal; what does the other one have?”
The Prime Minister said: “The fishing communities of Scotland will have a fantastic opportunity, by the end of next year, to take back control of their entire coastal waters—all 200 miles of them—and to manage their fisheries in the interests of Scotland and thereby drive an even better deal for even better access to European markets. That opportunity would be wantonly thrown away by the abject, servile policy of the SNP, which would hand back control of Scottish fishing to Brussels.”
Father of the House, Kenneth Clarke, who has lost the Tory whip over Brexit, told the PM he had now achieved the first landmark of his premiership by getting the House to vote, by a comfortable majority, in favour of Brexit.”
He added: “If he now proceeds in the reasonable and statesmanlike way I would hope for, he can go on to deliver Brexit in a month or two’s time, before having a general election on the sensible basis of a mandate for a Government on the fuller negotiations that will follow. Will he get over his disappointment and accept that 31 October is now just Halloween, devoid of any symbolic or political content, and will rapidly fade away into historical memory?
“Having reflected, will he let us know that he is about to table a reasonable timetable motion, so that the House can complete the task of finalising the details of the withdrawal Bill? We can then move on, on a basis that might begin to reunite the nation once again for the future.”