Brexit and parliamentary power

Flags outside Holyrood Image copyright PA
Image caption Holyrood's ability to speak up over devolved matters has been questioned over the court ruling

As mischievous politicians occasionally note, I have been covering Scottish politics for a wee while now. For example, I well remember the agonised discourse over "entrenchment" in the cross-party Constitutional Convention which paved the way to devolution.

The debate then centred upon the question of whether the Scottish Parliament, once established, could be protected against the potential depredations of a future UK administration which might be inimical to devolved power. Could it be saved from abolition?

I freely confess that I always believed that debate was futile. Westminster remains sovereign. One Parliament cannot bind its successors. So "entrenchment" was never, seriously, a runner, at least not in statutory terms.

In practice, the Conventioneers ended up suggesting that there be a declaration from political leaders that they wouldn't scrap the Scottish Parliament. Even this device, as I recall, was quietly forgotten.

Which brings us to the Sewel Convention. Whereby it is agreed that Westminster will not customarily legislate or intervene in issues which are the devolved domain of Holyrood.

Read full article Brexit and parliamentary power

FMQs: The generic and the particular

  • 19 January 2017
  • From the section Scotland
Media captionKezia Dugdale said Elaine Hanby's condition affects the quality of her life

The political world is an uneasy amalgam of the generic and the particular. Frequently, the two overlap. Frequently, as at Holyrood today, they interact jarringly.

Almost by definition, political promises are generic. Last May, parties did not produce a manifesto for each individual in Scotland - although it would be hugely amusing had such an event occurred.

Read full article FMQs: The generic and the particular

PM assured over Brexit - but questions remain

Theresa May Image copyright PA
Image caption After much speculation, Mrs May finally confirmed the UK would be leaving the single market

It was, all in all, an assured performance by the prime minister. She looked and sounded confident as she delivered her Plan for Britain, as she stated her objectives for the Brexit negotiations.

From those who harbour potential worries - such as business or the unions - there has been a degree of grudging respect, allied to lingering anxieties.

Read full article PM assured over Brexit - but questions remain

FMQs: An occasion for cheerleaders and inquisitors

Nicola Sturgeon with Christine Grahame in the background
Image caption SNP MSP Christine Grahame always sits behind Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister;s Questions

Briefly bereft of Christmas entertainment, my family and I opted to dip into the televisual back catalogue. As fans of Still Game, we chose its progenitor, Chewin' the Fat.

Grand stuff, generally. I particularly enjoyed the skit known as Translating for the Neds in which an ineffably posh newsreader delivers the news, with a rather rougher figure over his shoulder rendering the announcements into demotic speech.

Read full article FMQs: An occasion for cheerleaders and inquisitors

Talking tax and budget bargaining at Holyrood

Bruce Crawford
Image caption Bruce Crawford said the meeting was a historic one

One should always pay heed to Bruce Crawford. As a self-confessed supporter of Dunfermline FC, he has known pain - and has thus developed a stoical weltanschauung which informs his outlook on football and more trivial matters like politics and life.

And so when Mr Crawford, convening Holyrood's finance committee, said that the evidence session about to get under way was a "historic" event, such a comment deserves respect.

Read full article Talking tax and budget bargaining at Holyrood

A Festive First Minister's Questions

Sturgeon tree Image copyright Nicola Sturgeon / Twitter
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon revealed she and her husband Peter Murrell always fall out while decorating their tree

Nicola Sturgeon, you will be astonished to learn, has opted for home-grown when it comes to Yuletide greenery. She has installed two Christmas trees in Bute House - well, it's a big place - and both of them are Scottish.

However, it emerged earlier that all is not entirely oojah-cum-spiff in the First Ministerial domestic household on the topic of Festive forestry.

Read full article A Festive First Minister's Questions

Scotland's Brexit paper and its focus on strategy

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on her Brexit paper

Policy and strategy. The proposals from the Scottish Government on the topic of Brexit are intriguing on both counts. Perhaps, however, it is the strategic element which will prove the most significant in the longer term.

To recap very briefly, Nicola Sturgeon makes three broad points.

Read full article Scotland's Brexit paper and its focus on strategy

Scotland's budget: cash or cuts for councils?

Derek Mackay
Image caption All eyes were on Derek Mackay as he set out his draft budget

And so to the budget. It depends, as ever, upon definitions. Should we talk about money for local government? Or money for local services?

If we consider cash for councils, then opposition parties can point to figures which indicate that the budget is down.

Read full article Scotland's budget: cash or cuts for councils?

All eyes on the Scottish budget

Derek Mackay, Finance Secretary of Scotland
Image caption Scotland's Finance Secretary Derek Mackay presents his budget to parliament on Thursday

Much delayed - owing to circumstances beyond Holyrood's control - but today sees the beginning of an intense programme of Scottish budgetary scrutiny.

Actually, belay that. Holyrood's committees - rash, impetuous brutes that they are - have already begun the process of examining the underlying state of Scottish public spending, prior to looking at the details when they emerge.

Read full article All eyes on the Scottish budget

Tricky questions for Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon faced some tricky questions at her weekly question session

It was, for the first minister, a particularly tricky question. Her policy position meant that she was not minded to say Yes. However, it was difficult in the circumstances to say No.

Then again, the issue itself placed governmental quandaries decidedly in context. We are talking about historical allegations of abuse suffered by young football players at the hands of coaches whom they had trusted.

Read full article Tricky questions for Nicola Sturgeon