Professor Michael Keating says “re-centralising” power likely during Brexit process
SCOTLAND’S FOREMOST academic researching constitutional matters has said that he believes the Scottish Conservatives will aid in a Westminster effort to “claw back” Scottish Parliament powers following the General Election.
Professor Michael Keating, who is the director of the respected Centre on Constitutional Change, told CommonSpace that he believed there were signs the UK would use the repatriation of some powers from the EU to the UK in the Brexit process to disenfranchise Scotland of some devolved responsibilities.
He said that the Scottish Conservatives – predicted by polls to increase their number of MPs in the General Election on 8 June – would aid in this process.
He said: “If the Scottish Conservatives, as they seem to do, simply follow London’s line, and say whatever London tells them to say, then they will end up defending a claw back of powers by Westminster.”
The Scottish Government has made clear it believe that the UK Government plans the transfer of powers post-Brexit, which could include control over areas such as fisheries, agriculture and renewable energy, all vital to the future Scottish economic planning.
“If the Scottish Conservatives, as they seem to do, simply follow London’s line, and say whatever London tells them to say, then they will end up defending a claw back of powers by Westminster.” Professor Michael Keating
Keating, who is the author of several standard university texts on constitutional issues from the EU to Scottish independence, told CommonSpace that a “common framework” centralising devolved areas would come with Brexit, but was in danger of remaining an obscure issue until after the General Election on 8 June.
He said: “It seems to me that London will insist on common framework UK policies across areas like agriculture and fisheries and the environment.
“That will mean a change in the devolution settlement, it will mean effectively a centralisation. The Tories will say ‘oh no we are not re-centralising, we are just taking powers back from Brussels, it doesn’t affect the Scottish Parliament’ – but it does.
“That’s an argument that at the moment doesn’t have a lot of purchase with people it seems at bit abstract. But the SNP will make a big thing out of it.”
The current Scottish Parliament opened in 1999 and deals with devolved issues like health, education and transport. There are key differences in these areas north and south of the border as a result – in England, for example, people still pay prescription charges, something that has been abolished in Scotland. Likewise, students in Scotland do not pay tuition fees for their education, but students in England do.
Professor Keating added that the Scottish Conservatives would get “in trouble” with the Scottish public for any collusion in this operation, just as Scottish Labour had over the accusation it lacked autonomy from its London-based parent party.
The devolution project received a blow in January when the Supreme Court judged that devolved assemblies could not block Brexit approaches even when they encroached on devolved competencies.
“The Tories have refused to commit to returning powers over areas such as fisheries and agriculture to Scotland – it is increasingly clear they want to strip powers from Holyrood in a Brexit power grab.” SNP
Responding to Keating’s comments, an SNP spokesperson said: “Now more than ever, it is vital to have strong SNP voices standing up for Scotland – only then can we protect Scotland from the dangers of an unopposed Tory government at Westminster.
“The Tories have refused to commit to returning powers over areas such as fisheries and agriculture to Scotland – it is increasingly clear they want to strip powers from Holyrood in a Brexit power grab. Only the SNP can stop them.”
A Scottish Conservatives spokesperson said: “These remarks are baseless, utterly inaccurate and don’t deserve to be taken seriously.”
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