Labour''s Keir Starmer and Tories' Rishi Sunak are both out to deny democracy in Scotland – Angus Robertson

With each passing week, more and more democracy denial is evident from the UK Tory and Labour parties.

Despite the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly passing the gender recognition bill, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has indicated he will invoke never-before-used powers to overrule and quash this democratic decision. It’s the latest in a long line of anti-democratic actions by the UK Government. This has included challenges to Holyrood legislation on Brexit, incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the denial of a democratic vote on Scotland’s future which a majority of MSPs were elected to deliver.

When interviewed by Colin Mackay, Sunak refused time and time again to even acknowledge the fact a pro-independence majority had been elected to Holyrood and a clear mandate for a referendum, de-facto or otherwise, has been established.

Hide Ad

The UK Government’s bid to overturn the gender bill would be a complete affront to the devolution settlement, and a worsening of UK-Scotland relationships. It seems, now we have established the Union is not voluntary, the UK Government has begun a strategy to claw back power from the devolved nations of the UK. It cannot stand.

Democracy denial is not confined to the Tories. Labour leader Keir Starmer indicated he could work with the Tory UK Government to overrule the democratic decision of the Scottish Parliament in its passing of the gender bill. But, as former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said, the law was passed by two-thirds of MSPs from all five parties in the Scottish Parliament, including two Tory frontbenchers, and “blocking it will anger nationalists and devolutionists”.

She’s right. Scottish Labour played a part in the construction of the gender bill, with Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP a leading examiner of the bill on the Scottish Parliament’s equalities committee, and brought forward amendments which address the issues which Starmer said he had a problem with.

Hide Ad

The Scottish Labour party whipped their MSPs to vote for the bill. Yet Starmer has decided his views regarding Scottish politics should take precedence over those of the Scottish Labour party. What’s more, Welsh Labour has also declared its support for the Scottish gender recognition legislation and defended Scotland’s right to make decisions without Westminster interference.

Putting the issue of the importance of equality legislation to one side, Starmer’s willingness to explore options of the UK Government to overturn the legislation is particularly hypocritical. Only weeks ago, Starmer and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched their paper in which they outlined devolutionist proposals to reform the Union.

Hide Ad
Keir Starmer has decided his views on Scottish politics should take precedence over Scottish Labour's (Picture: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

In a few short weeks, the Labour leader has shown his principles come second to cold, hard political expediency. Ultimately it shows that, if Starmer isn’t even willing to respect decisions made by his own party in Scotland on devolved issues, we can’t take seriously the notion that he respects the democratic decisions of the Scottish Government and Parliament.

Hide Ad

The Tories and Labour are singing from the same hymn sheet. To them, political success relies on winning over the votes of the majority of people elsewhere in the UK. The plain fact of the matter is that they do not respect the democratic rights and decisions made by Scottish voters, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. Even worse, they are prepared to block and deny democracy in Scotland.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary