Our Man In Westminster Article

Politics is at its best when politicians set aside what divides them. As Councillor, then as Leader of the Council and now as your Member of Parliament, I’ve worked across many political divides for this very reason. I believe it’s what people rightly expect from those in the privileged position of public life.

Yet, three years at Westminster has taught me that best intentions aren’t enough to prevail. Working in collaboration requires the willing, who will listen and can demonstrate trust.

I was elected in 2015, fresh after the Independence Referendum and the ‘Vow’. One of the architects of the vow, Gordon Brown, said it would see the UK become “a federal state within 2 years with Holyrood and other regions of the UK handed equal status to Westminster”

That has not been delivered and has never been attempted

In 2015, despite all attempts to work positively with the promise, every single amendment to the Scotland Bill was voted down – silencing 58 out of the 59 of Scottish MPs’. 

It was supposed to be that Crown Estate assets would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Except when the proposal came forward there were big omissions – including Crown Estate owned Edinburgh Retail Park “Fort Kinnaird”. Ignoring our protests, they ploughed on, cherry picking Scottish assets.

Last month, the Tories sold this share of Fort Kinnaird for £137 million. Some sign of the attitude to “partnership”

Also last month, the Minister for Rural Affairs, Michael Gove admitted that £160 million of Scottish farmer’s support, in EU funding paid to the UK Treasury had not been passed to Scottish farmers. It is now gone forever.

How many times could you put your trust in a ‘partner’ like this?

As you may have noticed, the UK Government has just forced through legislation to retain powers coming back from Europe that, according to the devolution settlement, should pass directly to the Scottish Parliament. 

They would have you believe this is about the SNP and Independence. Ignoring that a majority of the Scottish Parliament voted to refuse its consent – including the Green’s, Liberal Democrats, Labour and the SNP. Scotland’s politicians working across the political divide to deliver what’s right for Scotland.

Even more recently, the UK Government announced its decision to cancel the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon renewables project in Wales. Another bold Tory promise broken.

It is almost a carbon copy of their 2017 decision to pull the plug on the “Carbon Capture and Storage” project at Peterhead, blowing Scotland’s opportunity to lead the world in this technology. These are just a few examples, there are many more. Some vow.

So why does it matter?

In refusing sensible amendments to the Scotland Bill, the UK Government retained many of the fiscal levers that shape people’s lives here in Scotland. Even with welcome but limited powers around Social Security, we can only mitigate some suffering – we cannot halt or fix Universal Credit. 

Unfulfilled projects like Carbon Capture mean that our growth potential cannot be realised and puts at risk our carbon reduction capabilities.

And with the Tories holding the reins over budgets, people here continue to suffer their failed austerity agenda. They do this in full knowledge of the pain and suffering it inflicts on low income families, the disabled, the working, single parents and those seeking work.

A constructive relationship needs trust and a partner that is willing to listen. 

Former Daily Record editor Murray Foote, another architect of the ‘Vow’ said his motivation for publishing the pledge was to ensure politicians kept to their word. In light of what has happened since, it really is little wonder he has recently added his support to the Independence movement.

Like Mr Foote, I’ve had it with the promises of this Tory Government.

As Scotland’s “Claim of Right” states, it is the people of Scotland who are sovereign.

That is a promise that must never be abandoned.