It’s now clear Brexit is a real threat to devolution

When the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1998, it was established on the basis of a clear principle: that powers which were not specifically reserved to Westminster would automatically be devolved to Edinburgh. 

So when new issues appeared on the agenda, like climate change, Holyrood was able to take the lead and follow its own distinct approach. 

No one would argue that MSPs have got everything right or that the performance of the Scottish Government has been perfect. 

But I do think that there’s an overwhelming majority across our nation and region that wants most of the key decisions about our future taken here in Scotland. 

After Theresa May’s speech to the Tory Party conference, we now know that Brexit will fundamentally change the UK constitution. 

The Prime Minister said, “The UK devolution settlements were designed in 1998 without any thought of a potential Brexit.” 

Her message was clear: that Brexit takes precedence over devolution. 

So Scotland not only has to accept an outcome that it didn’t vote for, but also the entire basis of devolution being sacrificed in order to justify the Tory’s hard Brexit plan. 

We have to consider the full implications of the UK Government hoarding powers that will come back from Brussels. 

There is no guarantee that farm payments will continue after 2020. Given the government’s clear intent to strike new trade deals with countries like the US that do not have similar schemes in place, the likelihood of this funding coming to a halt is only increased if left to UK ministers. 

Scottish fishing vessels land around two-thirds of the total fish caught in the United Kingdom. But according to the Prime Minister’s logic, decisions that will shape the long term viability of Scottish fishing must be taken in London by a governing party with only one MP north of the border. 

We also need to consider the fact that DEFRA is one of the smallest Whitehall departments. Its budget, remit and size will need a massive increase if all of these powers are to be centralised in London. 

There are many people concerned about the economics of independence and I can understand that anxiety at a time when global markets and big changes like Brexit are adding increasing uncertainty for businesses of all sizes.

But at times like these we need to rely on our underlying principles and strengths. As the Prime Minister herself said at the Tory Party Conference we have industries like Scotch whisky, which she described as:

“a truly great Scottish and British industry, adding £5 billion to the UK economy annually and now the largest net contributor to the UK’s trade balance in goods.” 

Given that Scotland has 8 per cent of the UK’s population that’s quite a remarkable figure. 
So the Scottish rural economy is capable of producing enormously valuable exports, but it needs to be protected. 

But with this centralising, hard-Brexit agenda from the Prime Minister, Scotland is fast running out of options for doing so.