I asked the AWOL UKIP Scottish leader David Coburn a few basic questions about the party’s newly hatched policy on abolishing the Scottish Parliament. That’s the same policy he vigorously opposed in the past but now loves like a first born child.
I had no reply but Calum Walker, chairman of UKIP Scotland, told me he would answer “to the best of my ability”. Sorry, Calum, but the best of your ability would get you laughed out of a high school Modern Studies class.
I’m going to go through this pretty much line by line.
I asked “Would devolution be scrapped? “
Calum told me: “The Scotland Act would be repealed disbanding the Scottish Parliament and Government, and returning us to where we were in 1997. This would mean that some of the powers devolved in the most recent Scotland Acts would return to the UK Parliament, such as tax and welfare.”
No, Calum, not “some of the powers” that’s ALL of the powers. There was no devolution in 1997. The Scotland Act is dated 1998 and devolution did not take effect until 1999.
Calum says: “There has, of course, always been a certain degree of autonomy with some institutions like the legal system in Scots Law.”
Did you get that? “A certain degree of autonomy” The total independence of Scots Law is in the Act of Union, Calum, the actual Act of actual Union, the founding document of the United Kingdom we are supposed to care so much about.
Calum also lists education and NHS Scotland as branches of administration with “a certain degree of autonomy.”
And he adds: “These secondary legislative powers would return to the Grand Scottish Committee, the Scotland Office and other departments.”
Poor Calum. Clearly nobody ever told him that it’s better to stay silent and let people think you’re an idiot rather than open your mouth to confirm it.
Just throwing fancy technical terms up in the air and seeing where they land does not make a policy and the poor lad clearly has not a clue what “secondary legislation” means.
If he had spent as much as 30 seconds looking at the House of Commons website he could have found out so, in the spirit of friendship, I’ve Googled that for him.
“Secondary, or delegated, legislation is used to add information or make changes to an existing Act of Parliament (primary legislation). Normally, this can only happen if the Act itself states that changes can be made to it in this way.
Secondary legislation allows the Government to make a small change to the law without having to introduce an entirely new Bill to Parliament. This might be done for a variety of reasons: from adjusting a figure to take account of inflation to updating the law in light of events.
For example, in response to new information about the dangers of using ‘legal highs’, the Coalition Government used delegated legislation to add new substances to the list of those banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.”
Now, if you know how that applies to framing new Scots Law or changing Scottish Education, you’re a better lawyer than I am.
To move on, I asked how many representatives would replace the current crop of MSPs.
Calum said: “Where the Scottish Office and Grand Committee was replaced by the MSPs, the MSPs will be replaced by the Grand Committee of MPs.”
First of all, the Scottish Office has never been replaced. It still exists. The Scottish Grand Committee has never been abolished. It’s functions were never taken over by MSPs or anybody else – because it has none. It never produced a single piece of legislation, never has, never will.
Calum says: “The Scottish Grand Committe is comprised of all Scottish MPs (hurrah! He got that right! ) and would be responsible for debating Bills that only imply (sic) to Scotland and scrutiny of the Scottish civil service/bureaucracy.
“Rather than having the Scottish Office act as the executive as it has previously, I think it would be more appropriate to have a cross bench executive committee styled on the ‘lords of articles’ of the old Parliament of Scotland.”
Are you following this? The Scottish Office is a department of government, staffed by government Ministers. That means we have a Conservative Secretary of State because we have a Conservative Government although he is one of only 13 Scottish Conservative MPs.
Under Calum’s plan, the Government won’t govern Scotland, it will be “a cross bench executive”.
More big words. A “cross bencher” is a neutral, non-party member of the House of Lords. There are no neutral, non-party MPs. Let’s assume he means “all party”.
So we would have an all party group running things. Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and SNP. They’ll get on like a house on fire. But what are they running since devolution has been abolished? Could they, for example, make prescriptions free in Scotland when they are charged for in England? Since health is no longer devolved, presumably we would have the same system across the UK. Could they vary taxation in Scotland now that nothing is devolved? Obviously not, so what are they doing?
Calum adds that the activities of the Grand Committee “could be debated and voted on by the House of Commons and House of Lords.”
Whoa! Hold on! We’ve got a cuddly, fluffy, all party group of Scottish MPs deciding who knows what for Scotland but their decisions could then be voted on by the Commons and the Lords.
Let’s imagine the Tories were outvoted by everybody else on the Scottish Grand Committee. What do you think would happen when that decision came back to the whole of the Commons? Is it just possible the Government might kick it out?
Now we already know that all Scottish MPs are on the Grand Committee But Calum says “Sub-committee selection would be a matter of Parliamentary procedure.”
Presumably that means the “cross bench executive” would be selected under Parliamentary procedure too.
Well, let’s take a look at the current Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster. There the SNP, who have more than half of all Scottish MPs, get three seats. The Tories, who have roughly a quarter of Scottish MPs, get four seats, because they are the government . Labour, who won seven seats, half as many as the Tories, get three places on the committee. Add in the Lib Dems and that means the SNP – the Scottish majority- are easily outvoted by everybody else.
Not that it matters because, remember, whatever the “cross bench executive” decides, it’s going to be voted on by the Commons anyway and the Government will get its way.
This is embarrassingly bad. It’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along mince. Put that in a manifesto and it would be torn up for confetti in the first Press conference. God help Calum or anybody else who had to go on TV to defend this ill-informed, juvenile, contradictory rubbish.
You want to know why UKIP isn’t taken seriously as a political force? This is why. We cannot expect to present this dog’s breakfast as a policy without being laughed at. We have to show the voters some respect.
Have another go, Calum. At least you still have the other side of the fag packet to write on.