This picture of someone we've never heard of appeared in our Twitter feed last night.
Apparently he's a "Minister" for these areas – all of which are reserved to Westminster.
It got us thinking. The Scottish Executive's (misnamed "Government") habit of appointing people as "Ministers" for matters which are reserved, should always have been against the law.
This sort of make-believe – by the SNP in particular – should have been foreseen and explicitly prevented in the Scotland Acts (of which we now have 3, none of which make mention of this farce).
Indeed, the people who created the Scotland Acts were far too naive to realise that they were dealing with people who would constantly push their chances.
They didn't realise that the Nationalists would push into areas which they have no right to be in.
They would do so in full knowledge that it is not specifically against any law that has been written down (even though it is against the spirit of the law).
This is what happens if you do not expressly forbid something in law.
If there is no law "against it" then people will do it. Of course, in many aspects of life, that doesn't matter.
However, in constitutional matters it can be fatal. Constitutional matters have to be clear, in "black and white".
That the SNP is still getting away with this pretence and waste of money is because the British Government does not have the nerve to pass a law forbidding this behaviour!
Ideally, two things need to be done by a British Government that is serious about keeping Britain together.
1. Change the Devolution Presumption
The presumption in the (stupidly-termed) 'devolution settlement' is that "everything is devolved unless it is specifically written down as reserved". This is entirely backwards. It is a catastrophic error.
It is the reason why it can never be (and never has been) 'settled'. The presumption is inherently an unsettled and unstable one.
The proper way to organise devolution – if you wish to maintain the Unitary State – is to ensure a presumption that everything is reserved unless it is specifically written down as devolved.
That is a settled and stable presumption!
It is the only way for the centre to keep control of things.
It is the only way in which the centre can decide the rate at which the devolved areas acquire power.
Otherwise you are handing the power to the devolved areas to continuously expand – like a gas – into new areas.
These are areas which nobody has thought about, or which are new to the world or which are contested (like the returning EU powers).
The Scottish Executive can argue that the EU powers belong to Holyrood because the presumption is that "everything is devolved unless it is specifically written down as reserved".
If the presumption had always been everything is reserved unless it is specifically written down as devolved then there would have been no argument about where the returning EU powers belonged!
Everyone would have understood that they were already reserved to the centre, as clear as crystal.
We explain this in full in our article "Time to Change the 'Devolution Settlement'" here which is part of our "12 Ways to Strengthen the Union" series.
2. Forbid Ministerial Masquerade by Law
At the very least, a law should state clearly that no offices of the devolved assemblies should address reserved matters. Anyone who masquerades in a devolved assembly as a "Minister" of a reserved power would be arrested, tried and jailed.
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