John McLellan: SNP’s Brexit stance exposed by ‘Dexy’s Conundrum’

The SNP have reacted just as Dexy's fans did to Van Morrison's original
The SNP have reacted just as Dexy's fans did to Van Morrison's original
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This week’s Brexit vote in Holyrood reminded me of the time many years ago when I working in a Glasgow bar. Tired of what I thought was the rubbish music we had to endure night after night I made up a music tape and one of the songs was Van Morrison’s famous Jackie Wilson Says.

One night after closing time during a post-shift drink with the other staff, on it came. “Oh, I love Dexy’s Midnight Runners,” said an appreciative colleague, to which I replied, “No, this is the original by Van

Morrison”, no doubt somewhat smugly. “That’s sh**e,” she immediately snapped back.

Those readers who know both versions will appreciate the Dexy’s remake is a pretty faithful tribute to Van’s original, but she was having none of it. It wasn’t played by the band she liked so it was by definition garbage.

And so we come to the EU Withdrawal Bill, rejected by Holyrood this week after Labour, Lib Dems and Greens backed the SNP to withhold consent for the legislation going through Westminster.

In summary, the bill dictates which powers currently held in Brussels by the EU will go straight to the devolved Parliaments and which will stay in Westminster. Although an agreement has been reached between the UK Government and the Labour-run Welsh administration, the SNP withdrew co-operation at the last minute over the UK Government’s insistence that overall controls over some devolved areas, in particular agriculture and fisheries, should first go to Whitehall so proper arrangements can be made to preserve the UK single markets.

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So here is what I now call the Dexy’s Conundrum: the SNP was perfectly happy for those powers to reside in Brussels but not, it seems, in London. Similarly, Nicola Sturgeon’s position on the EU single market and

customs union is that nothing should be done to harm Scotland’s position within it, but that seemingly doesn’t apply to the UK single market despite it being worth four times more to Scotland than the EU. “No it’s not the EU single market, but the original UK version,” I might say. “Oh ... that’s sh**e,” seems to be the answer.

It is also fair to assume that if the First Minister got her way and Scotland became independent and re-joined the EU then those powers would be sent straight back to Brussels. The conclusion therefore is not that what is being proposed is unfair or unreasonable, but by whom and to where.

The Conservative Government is being accused of trying to wreck devolution, when all the recent evidence is that it has enhanced Holyrood’s powers – on income tax, property stamp duty, borrowing, and social security, which the SNP’s social security minister Jeanne Freeman described last month as the “single biggest handover of power” since 1999. It’s also the biggest headache to face the Scottish Government in that time, asking Westminster for an extra year to make the necessary arrangements for the welfare transfers.

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The preservation of the UK single market in agriculture and fishing is precisely to avoid the kind of arguments about border tariffs now raging about customs arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Irish

Republic, but that depends on whether both sides want to reach an agreement.

It is, in short, a political game to create division within the UK which is not being played by Welsh Labour because it is not a separatist party. So the question for Richard Leonard is why his team has pulled on

Nationalist strips to destabilise the devolution principles that Scottish Labour fought so long and hard to establish.

Post 2014, Labour became the biggest obstacle to strengthening devolution, fearing its MPs would be de-powered and ironically ended up with only one to de-power. The SNP wallowing in grievance we understand, but what Richard Leonard is seeking to achieve is anyone’s guess.

Blending in with a Walnut Whip
The last time I was in 39 St Andrew Square it was a rather dog-eared bank, but the magnificence of its main hall was undoubted. Now it is to be transformed into a club as part of the brand extension of Gleneagles

Hotel and, apart from an extension to the rear, the exterior will be relatively unaltered.

The council’s advice to the developers is for the new section to be distinctive from the original, but Historic Environment Scotland reckons it should blend in. But with a backdrop of the Pill Box concert hall and the new St James Walnut Whip, will it make much difference?

Bookshop civilisation

Waterstones’ arrival in Raeburn Place as part of the Edinburgh Accies’ development is good news for the rugby club and for Stockbridge. Book stores are bridging the gap between shopping and leisure and should give more people a reason to browse. Whiling away an hour in the Raeburn House Hotel next door with a good book from the Stockbridge Bookshop after a morning in the Botanic Garden sounds a civilised way to spend a day.