I WAS puzzled by the article (The National, December 24) headed “UK blocking gender bill would betray the devolution settlement – Sheppard brands threats outrageous.”.

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard states “this is another bid from the UK Government to undermine the devolution settlement”. He goes on to claim the Tories are “trying to roll back history”.

Mr Sheppard was a member of the Labour Party in the 1990s when the Scotland Act was debated and eventually passed. In 1994 he was appointed assistant general secretary of “Scottish” Labour under John Smith. Perhaps he was then looking at the legislation from the other end of the political microscope.

I am of an age to remember the debates of the time. It was very clear to most members of the SNP that this Labour legislation basically created a halfway house Parliament and that, in the end, power devolved is power retained.

READ MORE: Michael Fabricant warns UK Tories against blocking gender reform

Section 35 of the Scotland Act clearly states:

35 Power to intervene in certain cases.

(1) If a Bill contains provisions -

(a) which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would be incompatible with any international obligations or the interests of defence or national security, or

(b) which make modifications of the law as it applies to reserved matters and which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters, he may make an order prohibiting the Presiding Officer from submitting the Bill for Royal Assent.

A late SNP councillor friend of mine often dismissed the Scottish Parliament formed by the Scotland Act as a pocket-money parliament which would always be put back in its political box when it threatened the so called mother of parliaments.

The National: Tommy Sheppard should not have been surprised that the Tories are looking at blocking Scotland’s new gender recognition legislationTommy Sheppard should not have been surprised that the Tories are looking at blocking Scotland’s new gender recognition legislation

The recent Gender Recognition Reform Bill clearly has some implications beyond the borders of Scotland and the UK Parliament

is probably about to flex that political muscle. This should come as no real surprise to Mr Sheppard. It does not “betray the devolution settlement” – the Scotland Act was always designed with that possibility in mind.

Brian Lawson


FOLLOWING the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that no matter what may be in the Scotland Acts, Holyrood is subject to the supremacy of the Westminster Parliament, the UK Government has decided that it can now end the divergence of the other three nations in the Union from the policies of Westminster governments.

To put Lord Foulkes’s comment in today’s terms, the devolved governments are not only doing the day job better than the London government, they are doing it deliberately.

The situation was brought to a head last week when recalcitrant Holyrood became the Scottish Parliament for three days –personal feelings overrode party policies, debates became real live events, whips were ignored, cross party alliances were formed and Westminster’s reluctance to tackle gender recognition was forgotten.

The recent surges in support for the SNP and independence may have been worrying Westminster but the breaking of ranks by the Unionist parties in support of The Gender Recognition Reform Bill was the final straw. There will be other issues that will unite MSPs in future so devolution is over.

Scotland is an English colony. The UK Government has no need to send settlers to physically occupy our country to meet the accepted definition of a colony. it has gone much farther by integrating Scottish institutions such as the Scottish mint and stock exchange into their English counterparts.

The Westminster government and Parliament have taken responsibility for all decisions on Scotland’s economy, international relations, employment, its many natural assets, the armed forces, and more – all major Scottish Government functions are now reserved matters with decisions and often administration carried out in Whitehall.

The latest intervention from Alister Jack shows that the UK Government, now confident of the legality of its parliamentary supremacy, has relegated dealing with the Holyrood Government and Parliament to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

No matter what Holyrood decides, it will be the Scottish Secretary who decides if and when a bill is put forward for Royal Assent.

If the Scottish Secretary doesn’t agree with any part of a bill, he will simply delay Royal Assent until Westminster has put a clause into an Act to ensure the Holyrood Bill encroaches on a reserved matter and will never become law.

The principle of retrospective blocking legislation has already been upheld in another Supreme Court’s ruling on the meaning of “not normally” regarding the Sewel Convention in the Scotland Act.

READ MORE: Scottish Tory attack on SNP 'secrecy' more than goes for Westminster

The devolved governments now have enough support from their electorates to challenge Westminster Government policies, an unforeseen consequence of the devolution that was supposed to halt the independence movement in its tracks. The devolved parliaments have continued to evolve in the last few years while the Westminster parties have been engaging in their own power struggles.

The Westminster parties are now in a panic similar to the one that produced devolution, that now faces its greatest threat as they unite to assert Westminster’s supremacy over the other members of the Union.

John Jamieson

South Queensferry

ONE of the main news stories has been the freezing, snowy weather in the US and Canada. Conspicuous by its absence is the phrase “climate change”. Instead we have “once in a generation”. Is that a bit like Scottish independence referendums?

Geoff Moore

Alness, Highland