Brexit has formally begun. Theresa May has submitted the Article 50 notice to Brussels thus beginning a two-year countdown to an EU departure.
In this Scotland, is the barometer of what the public will stomach. This sounds arrogant. But how often to you get a living conscience about what you’re doing?
Well, it used to be weekly. Unfortunately, Jeremy Corbyn has proven to be an ineffectual and weak Labour leader. This goes beyond politics. His full title is ‘Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition’ and Corbyn’s duty is to manage or ‘whip’ his representatives into forming a policy platform which is critical of the UK Government.
In this, Corbyn has proven a lethargic failure, allowing the Conservatives to run roughshod over Parliament with little accountability. The SNP, it’s 54 representatives in Westminster and the Scottish Government are now, with some irony, the de facto Opposition of the UK precisely because they have held the government to task at every turn.
They are not wrong to do so. Under the Scotland Act 1998, ‘reserved’ issues such as defence and foreign affairs are left to Westminster and ‘devolved’ policy areas such as health and education are under the purview of the Scottish Government.
And Brexit will touch on every facet of Scottish public life. Over the last 19 years of devolution, if a Westminster policy infringed on devolved areas of Scottish Parliament jurisdiction, such as with the HS2 railway link and welfare reform, it required a Legislative Consent Motion from the Parliament to grant permission.
The issue is a matter of perspective. In 2014, the Scottish independence referendum was won by 55 to 45 percent of the vote and thus the reserved- devolved arrangement remained.
At the 2015 UK General Election, the SNP received 49.97 percent of the vote but a Conservative Government formed anyway with 14.9 percent. At the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, the SNP won a majority of 48.8 percent of the vote in Scotland with a clear promise to hold a second referendum “if there is a significant and material change…such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”
Nearly two months later and 62 percent of Scots voted to Remain in the European Union and it’s now being removed from it nine months later.
Even if one acknowledges that Scotland voted ‘No’ to independence in 2014, and even if it’s conceded therefore that Scotland is a collection of constituencies and not an individual nation in UK general elections, it is impossible to deny that the reality of Brexit will affect every devolved sphere of Scottish society.
Whatever your views on Scottish independence, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government are maxing their constitutional leverage and doing a service to Scotland and the rest of the UK in the process.