The day of the Queen’s speech has told us much about the 2020 terrain on the national question, economy and Brexit
THE UK Government has officially launched its agenda for the next 5 years through the Queen’s Speech and accompanying Commons address by the Prime Minister.
Though lacking the traditional trappings of a ceremony that last took place just nine weeks ago, it was none the less a dramatic event unveiling more than 30 policy proposals. Some of these will have major implications for the Scottish independence movement in the coming year and beyond.
Below, CommonSpace looks at just three.
“to be a year of opportunity, growth and unity for Scotland, not of further division.”
These were the words apparently removed from the Queen’s Speech this year, after being fed to the press in the hours before.
The very fact that the new government first proposed a stonewall response and then simply omitted the matter from the speech altogether indicates the danger they perceive in the Scottish national question. In the end, the word ‘Scotland’ was not even used in the speech.
In the Commons to, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and the new bumper-contingent of 48 pro-independence MPs, were treated to the cold-shoulder. Tory MPs left the chamber as Blackford began to speak and the PM spent the address on his phone.
The slight was also a response to the publication of the Scottish Government’s ‘Scotland’s right to choose’ document, detailing the case for the right of the Scottish people to a second independence referendum.
There’s no doubt this was an opening shot from both sides in a tense battle over the national question in 2020.
A magic money tree
“My Government will embark on an ambitious programme of domestic reform that delivers on the people’s priorities.”
Arguments that Labour lost the election due to its rejection of austerity or its commitment to new rounds of public investment will have to contend with the new departure in Tory economics. The Queen’s Speech saw the re-commitment to new infrastructure spending, given special credence by the Conservatives’ desire to hold on to newly post-Labour northern seats.
Commitments to throw extra funding at the NHS and social care were highlighted, as were some infrastructure projects in and around the Commons after the speech. Government officials claim that increased public spending would mean an additional £1.2billion for Scotland through Barnett consequentials.
In his first Commons speech, and in response to a question from the DUP, Johnson even returned to the theme of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland. It remains to be seen whether this monster infrastructure project is simply a populist phantom project, like US President Trump’s forever-under-construction border wall.
“My Government’s priority is to deliver the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on 31 January. My Ministers will bring forward legislation to ensure the United Kingdom’s exit on that date…”
The game of chess over Brexit, which has spanned years and seen so many votes and so much parliamentary wrangling, is now closed. Or at least, it is closed to official channels. As many of its leading proponents have already conceded, there will be no second referendum on Brexit.
Under these circumstances, the Tories are sallying forth with a version of Brexit that will be tied to business interests as they understand them, and relatively untrammelled by parliamentary scrutiny. The newly published EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill has removed key clauses giving MPs a veto over extensions to the withdrawal date, and the right to a say over a future relationship with the EU and on workers rights.
The balance of parliamentary representation now means that the only way to successfully oppose particular items of the Brexit deal will be extra-parliamentary.
In addition, Brexit plans will continue to come under pressure from factions of big business, including those behind the collapsed People’s Vote campaign, which is expected to be transformed into a business lobbying enterprise early in the new year.
Picture: A. H.