SNP senior figures contradict each other on Brexit and devolution

John Swinney and Alex Salmond at odds ahead of Nicola Sturgeon's visit to London


Amid the broken promises of the Leave campaign, Nicola Sturgeon will have been red-faced after two senior SNP members contradicted each other about potential future powers for Holyrood once the UK leaves the European Union.

During the EU referendum, Vote Leave promised extra powers for the Scottish government and parliament if the UK voted to leave. Speaking in April, the director of Vote Leave in Scotland, Tom Harris, himself a former Labour MP and minister, declared that:

“Major new powers – particularly in fishing and agriculture – would automatically be devolved to Holyrood, not Westminster, in the event of the UK voting to leave the EU.

Any repatriated power that isn’t already explicitly denoted as ‘reserved’ in the Scotland Act 1998 is assumed to be the remit of the Scottish Parliament.”

His comments were slapped down by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, who argued that

“leaving the EU does not mean extra powers would be transferred to the Scottish Parliament – the powers would go straight back from Brussels to Westminster, who would have absolutely no obligation to devolve anything.”

The former First Minister, Alex Salmond, has now contradicted Swinney.

According to the Herald newspaper, Salmond used an event at Westminster to state that “everything is devolved to Scotland unless it is reserved”.

He added:

“Agriculture and fisheries are not reserved; therefore, they are devolved. Unless the government intend to change that position, agriculture and fisheries will automatically go to the Scottish government.”

The spat will be unlikely to go down well with Nicola Sturgeon as she prepares to visit London next week to make her case for extra powers for Holyrood.

Conservative MSP, Alex Johnstone has attacked the SNP, which, he said had “form for saying one thing before a referendum, only for the truth afterwards to turn out completely differently.”

A spokesperson for Scotland’s Brexit Minister, Mike Russell, has said:

“We warned during the referendum campaign that Tory and Leave campaign promises of new powers after Brexit – such as Michael Gove’s suggestion Holyrood would gain control of immigration – were highly unlikely to be matched by the reality.

And while we would expect all matters not expressly reserved by the Scotland Act to be devolved, the UK government should provide clarity on that point.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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2 Responses to “SNP senior figures contradict each other on Brexit and devolution”

  1. David Lindsay

    The preposterously enormous constituency boundaries proposed for Scotland illustrate why I have never quite come round to Proportional Representation for the House of Commons. It could only be made to work in very urban areas. But Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn ought to take this opportunity to give the SNP what it claimed to want. By declaring that, since Scotland was so different and special, then it could indeed have its very own different and special way of electing its MPs.

    Each of the eight regions that were used for top-up purposes at Holyrood could elect seven MPs, with each elector voting for one candidate, and with the seven highest scorers being elected. Giving 54 MPs in total. Of whom, barring the odd by-election gain, no more than eight could ever be members of any one party. Including the SNP. This piece of legislation would be passed gleefully by the whole of the rest of the House.

  2. Alasdair Macdonald

    This is an example of the Labour Party seeking to try to make some capital over small differences in what was stated and giving no account of the context. Mr Swinney was responding to Mr Harris’s assertion regarding powers ‘returned’ from Brussels during the referendum debate. Mr Swinney’s point is that it is possible, as was seen during the debate of the recent Scotland Act that Westminster has the power to blunt, render nugatory and indeed refuse powers. MR Salmond was, in a different context, claiming that these powers and, in my opinion, all powers should be for the Scottish government to exert. There is no contradiction. Labour would be better engaging constructively to deal with the governance of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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