04 May 2008

Labour's supposed boycott of Reserved Issues

The UK budget is a reserved matter and we do not intend to vote on it, just as we did not vote on identity cards, defence or a European referendum.

- Iain Gray, in the Official Report, 1 May 2008, c. 8209.

Sounds fair. Except:

On a European referendum, Labour put forward an amendment which read:

"membership of the European Union has been hugely positive for Scotland and Britain, delivering more jobs, a single market, freedom to work and live abroad, environmental protection, security and an enhanced place for Scotland and Britain in the world; believes that the European Union needs to become more efficient, more effective and more accountable and welcomes the signing of the European Reform Treaty as a significant step towards tackling these concerns, and believes that the treaty will allow the European Union to move on from debates about institutions to concentrating on the fundamental challenges of climate change, globalisation, terrorism and international development."

So they took part, lodging an amendment which clearly took a broader view than is permitted in Schedule V of the Scotland Act. The only played the boycott card after the amendment fell.

On Firearms - again involving UK-level powers - Labour tabled the following amendment:

"the unacceptable incidence of gun crime and in particular the illegal misuse of air weapons across Scotland; welcomes the actions of the previous Scottish Executive, working with the UK Home Office, to restrict the sale of airguns and increase the age at which an airgun can be obtained; notes that there is a case for reviewing the effect of these provisions with a view to implementing further restrictions on the ownership of airguns other than for recognised and legitimate occupational and sporting interests; but further believes that improved firearm legislation would be best obtained by retaining consistency across all parts of the United Kingdom, and therefore calls on Scottish ministers to engage constructively with the UK Government to better control and reduce serious and violent crime in Scotland."

This amendment actually brought a call for UK-wide legislation to be brought forward into the debate, during which they did not abstain.

On Trident, Labour did put forward an amendment to a motion last June, huffily eliminating everything but a grumble that defence is reserved. A number of MSPs broke ranks and took a position other than abstention. But that's not the whole story: in 2006, the SNP put forward a motion on Trident - and Labour responded with this amendment:

"that the UK Government has initiated a debate on the future of the independent nuclear deterrent force and urges everyone in Scotland to take part in it; recognises that the decisions on national defence are rightly reserved to Westminster; considers that any government has a primary duty to protect the security of its people and that this includes a credible policy on national defence and international security; believes in a shared objective of a world without nuclear weapons and supports further reductions in the global nuclear arsenal; further believes that, in seeking a world free from nuclear weapons, we should utilise and develop our international engagement at every level including at the EU, the United Nations including the UK's seat on the Security Council, NATO and the G8; notes with concern the plans of the SNP to take Scotland out of the collective security arrangements of the UK and NATO and to establish separate armed forces for Scotland with greatly diminished capabilities either to contribute to international peacekeeping operations or even to defend Scottish interests, and rejects those policies on the grounds that they would threaten the security of Scotland, diminish our armed forces and destroy jobs."

Youll notice that while it mentions that defence is reserved, it waxes lyrical about nuclear policy, the UN, NATO and the G8. So much for that!

Oh, and isn't the constitution reserved? So why did Labour get this passed at Holyrood?

That the Parliament, recognising mainstream public opinion in Scotland, supports the establishment of an independently chaired commission to review devolution in Scotland; encourages UK Parliamentarians and parties to support this commission also and proposes that the remit of this commission should be:

"To review the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 in the light of experience and to recommend any changes to the present constitutional arrangements that would enable the Scottish Parliament to better serve the people of Scotland, that would improve the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and that would continue to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom",

and further instructs the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body to allocate appropriate resources and funding for this review.

So they actually wanted to allocated Parliamentary time and funding to a commission reviewing something that Holyrood can't legislate on.

In short, this boycott of reserved matters is a sham. The next time Labour MSPs hide behind it, mention their positions on Trident in 2006, the EU treaty in 2007, firearms legislation in 2008 and their initial support for a Constitutional Commission based at Holyrood.

Remember: I only ever call politicians two-faced bastards when they're being two-faced bastards. Iain Gray gets that label for this.

1 comment:

Lil Jimmy said...

Esp on that opening corollary on Lisbon - they really are so underhand and dishonest and they're doing it with impunity.