By Bill Heaney
We are all familiar with the SNP shooting themselves in the foot and – almost always – getting away with it.
However, someone should tell these woke-daubed keyboard warriors that shooting themselves in the head will almost certainly turn out to be fatal.
And that this could lead to an SNP no more situation which, many now believe, would be one of the best – if not actually the best – things to happen in 21st century Scottish politics in the wake of Nicola Sturgeon’s messy departure.
We have not long since seen the Conservatives take us down Cemetery Road by appointing Liz Truss as Prime Minister. She is a disgrace, still unashamedly hanging around the Commons like a bad smell, promoting her cronies for a seat in the House of Lords.
The Sword of Damocles has also been suspended menacingly over the Tories since Boris Johnston was pushed aboard the creaking wagon and wheeled through the streets of London to be hoisted with his own petard at the historic Tyburn Tree.
These events will lead to certain defeat for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his pin-stripe suited and skirted colleagues at the next General Election when, here in West Dunbartonshire, the SNP will be brutally finished off too.
Humza Yousaf, Nicola Sturgeon, Martin Docherty-Hughes and Shirley-Anne Somerville.
Pocket rocket politician Martin Docherty Hughes, our Clydebank-based MP is for the boot and his holier than thou Helensburgh-based colleague, Brendan O’Hara, will be part of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that will accompany their ignominious defeat.
Hopefully, the results being read out by the Election Returning Officer, Peter Hessett, will receive a ceud mile failte across the communities of West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.
The blunderbuss being utilised by First Minister Humza Yousaf and the Scottish SNP Government to to launch a legal challenge to the Tory administration’s veto of the gender reform legislation passed by Holyrood is bound to backfire on them.
One legal figure told The Scotsman a bill of £500,000 is possible if the court battle goes all the way to the UK’s highest court, as is widely expected.
In addition, Professor Adam Tomkins, former Conservative MSP and current chair of public law at the University of Glasgow, said: “I think you’re on safe ground in assuming that it will run to at least hundreds of thousands of pounds, but I couldn’t possibly be more specific than that.”
Social Justice Cabinet Secretary, the increasingly torn-faced and croaking Shirley-Anne Somerville, confirmed this high-stakes move after Yousaf made the court battle a key plank of his SNP leadership campaign.
The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, approved by MSPs in December, simplifies the process for trans people to change their gender.
But critics, including their own FM candidate Ash Regan, believe the “self-ID” plans pose a threat to the rights of women and girls and the UK Government used Section 35 of the original devolution legislation to block the law.
Somerville said the Section 35 Order was an “unprecedented challenge” to the Scottish Parliament’s ability to legislate.
Joanna Cherry, Ash Regan and Alister Jack – all three against gender reform bill.
She said: “We have offered to discuss specific changes to the Bill with the Secretary of State [Alister Jack] , but given that this offer has not been taken up, it is impossible to know what changes would satisfy the reasons the UK Government has given, particularly as he has highlighted that the existence of two different schemes within the UK is in itself problematic.
“To uphold the democratic decision of the Parliament, and ensure proper protection of devolution, Scottish Ministers will now lodge a petition for judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision. The Scottish Government does not consider the reasons set out by him provide sufficient justification for his decision to make an order under section 35 of the Scotland Act.
“The Scottish Government also believes that the UK Government has not used the power in line with the Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Devolved Governments (agreed in 1999 and updated in 2013), or as envisaged when the Scotland Act was passed.
“While the Scotland Act conferred the power in Section 35 on the Secretary of State, its use is unprecedented, so it is important to have clarity on the interpretation and scope of the power, and its impact on devolution. Those matters and the use of the power on this occasion should be legally tested in the courts.”
Jack said: “The UK Government will robustly defend the decision to prevent the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill from becoming law.
“I made the order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 after thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications.
“I was very clear in the accompanying Statement of Reasons how the Bill would have an adverse effect on reserved matters, including on the operation of the law as it applies to Great Britain-wide equalities protections.
“The use of the power is entirely within the devolution settlement as set out from its inception, with cross party support.”
The Scottish Greens, who share power with the SNP in the Scottish Government, welcomed the move.
Maggie Chapman MSP said: “Trans rights are human rights and it is absolutely right for the Scottish Government to challenge this shameful decision. It is a vital step for trans rights and equality, and also for our democracy.
“Our Parliament voted overwhelmingly for Gender Recognition Reform last year. This vote followed years of consultation and the Bill was backed by MSPs from all Parties. It had a huge level of cross-party support and was backed by almost every reputable equalities organisation, including women’s organisations across Scotland, many of whom have been trans-inclusive for over a decade.
“Westminster is waging a sustained campaign of disinformation as part of a wider attack on our trans communities. The UK Government is threatening to roll back on basic rights that have existed for many years.
“It is shocking that we have been put in this position, but we cannot allow the rights and lives of trans people to be used as a political pawn in Westminster’s reactionary culture war.”
However, divisions exist in all the major parties on gender recognition reform.
Former SNP MSP and Labour MP Alex Neil said: “My own view is in terms of the challenge to the UK Government it would be far better just to reintroduce a Bill and this time in the Bill deal with concerns of women about places of safety for women and also deal with the UK Equality Act.
“We know that going to the Supreme Court, and every lawyer I have spoken to has told me, we don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of winning at the British Supreme Court.”
SNP MP Joanna Cherry, a vociferous critic of the Bill, said: “I cannot understand why @scotgov is taking legal action it’s unlikely to win rather than sorting out the problems with the #GRRbill at home. Reform could be effected in Scotland without breaching #equality or #HumanRights law if there was the will so to do.”
Scottish Labour Equalities spokesperson Paul O’Kane said: “The election of a new First Minister should have provided a reset moment on this debate. Instead, everyone is being failed by the constitutional row that has engulfed this bill.
“Trans people and women are still being failed and the SNP and Tory governments doing nothing to find consensus. This issue is too important to be reduced to political point scoring or culture wars.
“A fraught and expensive legal battle could have been avoided if both of our governments had been more willing to work in good faith to deliver a bill that works for everyone.
“The real questions here won’t be answered in the courts – we need to focus on building consensus and public support for a way forward on reform.”
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher MSP said: “This is a painfully transparent attempt by Humza Yousaf to divert attention from the civil war engulfing the SNP and the huge question marks over the party’s finances.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the beleaguered First Minister has reached for the Nationalists’ playbook, and is manufacturing grievance with the UK Government.
“The vast majority of Scots oppose Nicola Sturgeon’s reckless GRR Bill because it compromises the safety of women and allows 16-year-olds to legally change gender.
“Polls also show the public oppose this legal challenge to the Section 35 Order, which the UK Government was forced to issue because the Bill impacts on equalities legislation across the UK.
“Yet Humza Yousaf has chosen to ignore public opinion – not to mention the views of his two SNP leadership rivals – to pursue confrontation with Westminster and appease the extremist Greens in his administration.
“A strong leader, acting in the national interest, would revisit and amend a profoundly flawed Bill. It’s a measure of Humza Yousaf’s weakness that he has chosen the opposite course.
“The First Minister should be focused on the real priorities of the Scottish people rather than a costly, self-serving legal battle.”
Yet, who one cares (or even understands) the Scotland Act states no legislation can be passed that is not human rights compatible yet the mental health act flouts them all.
Couldn’t agree more with the sentiments in this piece that Brendan O’Hara and Martin Docherty Hughes are for the chop come the next Westminster election.
Settled in rather than settling up they’ve had a good feed these last years but they’ve been found out, found wanting, and next time round the gravy train stops.