Paul McLennan MSP column: An ‘attack on our democracy’
THE recent low-key visit of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to Inverness was a reminder that, either as an independent country or within the UK, Scotland needs a constructive relationship with our nearest neighbours, with collaborative undertakings benefitting both economies.
Former Prime Minister Liz Truss branded Nicola Sturgeon “an attention seeker who should be ignored”; yet in her eight years as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has worked with five Tory Prime Ministers; none had a majority in Scotland, but that hasn’t prevented Holyrood co-operating with Westminster on reserved matters.
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New Scottish legislation (the Gender Recognition Reform Bill) was passed to protect the human rights of Scotland’s transgender minority. The Bill was supported by MSPs from all parties in the Parliament. Westminster is now invoking section 35 of the 1998 Scotland Act, which would block the bill by barring it from royal assent.
This is a step which is Westminster’s direct challenge to Holyrood’s democratic autonomy, placing squarely in public view the central proposition that Westminster desperately wants to avoid: Scotland’s democratic decisions should be in Scotland’s hands.
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Former Scottish Tory adviser Andy Maciver said this on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill: “What we are seeing is the very worst of Westminster. What we are seeing is Westminster’s superiority complex in overdrive, keeping a watchful eye over the Scots and correcting us when we get it wrong.”
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He went on to say: “The truth is that the reasons being highlighted by Downing Street – that the legislation could contravene the Equality Act – are phoney. They are reverse-engineered justifications for a desire to involve themselves in an issue which they think could create a wedge.”
This is a full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish Parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters. The Scottish Government will defend the legislation and stand up for Scotland’s Parliament. If this Westminster veto succeeds, it will be the first of many.