Pic: A Force For Good outside Holyrood on 23 Nov 2022 when the Supreme Court ruled that the SNPGreens could not hold a second referendum without Westminster's permission.
In this article, we explain that Holyrood is a British Institution. It was created by the British Parliament in order to help govern the British State. As a devolved Arm of the overall British Body, it cannot destroy Britain. It's not an independent creation of a separate Scottish State, no matter how much the SNPGreens and others might try to misrepresent it.
On 16th January 2023 the British Government made a Section 35 order to prohibit the SNPGreen's "Gender Recognition Reform" Bill going to Royal Assent. Many people were extremely grateful that the Government had stepped in to prevent such a dangerous idea being passed into law.
As we will explain, this intervention was entirely proper and consistent with the way devolution is meant to work in our constitutional democracy.
Understanding Holyrood as a British Institution is Key to Understanding what is Happening Here
We wrote our article "How Devolution is Meant to Work" in an attempt to help people understand how the devolved Parliaments are connected into the wider structure of the British State.
Holyrood is a devolved Arm of the overall British Parliamentary Body. In this sense, Holyrood is ideally meant to deliver policies at the Scottish level which don't conflict with the interests of the rest of the UK. We wrote:
Holyrood is a British Institution: Let's Start Making that Clear.
For devolution to work – rather than to be a slippery slope to separation – the devolved institutions need to be understood and described as British institutions; institutions which are part of a wider political unity, symbolised by the British Parliament.
Ideally, the devolved institutions should be working together with the British Parliament, for the greater good of the entire United Kingdom, rather than at each other's throats to the detriment of national stability.
There needs to be more effort to understand, describe and label the devolved institutions firmly within this wider British political context.
If you do not understand Holyrood as a British Institution connected intimately within the wider British Parliamentary Body – but instead you understand it as some kind of quasi-independent Parliament which is free to do its own thing regardless – then it is perfectly understandable that you will be confused when it gets over-ruled by the British Parliament!
If you wrongly imagine that the Scottish Parliament is an equal and opposite Parliament to Westminster, and if you wrongly imagine the administration at Holyrood to be an equal and opposite "Government" to the British Government, then of course, you are going to be upset when that British Parliament and Government over-rules a Holyrood vote.
If you do not understand the correct constitutional relationship between the British Parliamentary Body and its devolved Arms then it is perfectly understandable that you might be angry. You might well call it "democracy being denied".
And we're not going to blame you for that misunderstanding.
Ever since Holyrood was established in 1999, the various British Governments have not properly clarified the relationship. They even go as far as to deliberately confuse the relationship by using constitutionally-muddled terms such as "our two Governments"!
Why Holyrood Cannot Deliver a Separation Mandate
A serious consequence of this constitutionally-muddled rhetoric is that it has now encouraged people to believe that a Holyrood election is capable of delivering "a mandate" for separation.
After all, if you understand Holyrood as an quasi-independent Parliament which is somehow equal and apart from the British State which created it, then of course you will imagine that a mandate to break up the British State can be obtained at a Holyrood election.
However, if you understand it correctly as a British Institution within the British State – if you understand that its purpose is, ideally, to ensure the Unitary British State can be governed in a more effective manner – then you will understand that it cannot possibly deliver a mandate to break-up that Unitary British State.
You will understand that a creation of the British State is not competent to destroy the British State.
Of course, when Holyrood was set up, there was no thought given to the possibility that the institution would be captured by people who wanted to destroy the British State.
There was no thought given to the possibility that such people would reject the constitutional function of Holyrood as an integrated Arm of the wider British Body; which was intended to improve governance in Scotland; while respecting the wider UK political context.
There was no thought given to the possibility that such people would instead misrepresent it as a quasi-independent Parliament, equal and in perpetual opposition to the British centre; and that they would use it primarily to try to destroy the wider UK.
Explaining Section 35
So what can we do? Well, at least we can explain how things are meant to operate!
The Scotland Act 1998 set up Holyrood. Section 35 states:
35. Power to intervene in certain cases
(1) If a Bill contains provisions -
(a) which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would be incompatible with any international obligations or the interests of defence or national security, or
(b) which make modifications of the law as it applies to reserved matters and which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters,
he may make an order prohibiting the Presiding Officer from submitting the Bill for Royal Assent.
That's perfectly understandable.
It makes clear that we don't live in a society where the devolved Arms can do what they want.
We live in a constitutional democracy, which means we have laws which stop devolved Arms passing bills which negatively affect the rest of the UK Body.
This is not "undermining devolution". This is how devolution is meant to work!
Devolution cannot possibly work if policies in devolved areas are negatively impacting the rest of the UK.
Of course, the SNPGreens understand all of this.
They are happy for their policies to negatively impact the rest of the UK. That's because they purposely do not want devolution to work. They want to make it unworkable within the UK in order to more easily promote their separatist agenda.
Let's remind them, and the MSPs from other parties who have used this issue to take cheap shots at the present UK Government:
1. Not a blank policy slate for the devolved areas.
2. Not meant to allow devolved policies at the expense of the entire UK.
3. Not to be used as a Trojan Horse against the integrity of the Union, or a Battering Ram against the UK Government.
The UK is a democracy, but we are more than that! We are a constitutional democracy – our political system runs via laws which aim to protect everyone in the UK – such as Section 35 of the Scotland Act.
The British Government is always justified in stepping-in when a devolved Bill will harm the overall integrity of the United Kingdom.
We touched on this matter in our weekly show "Good Evening Britain", 18-1-23:
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